Numbers sometimes mean much more than the data they represent. People often have lucky numbers that carry emotional significance to them.
And, culturally, there are lucky and unlucky numbers as well — with proof in the simple fact that most skyscrapers in the United States (and around the world) have no floor number 13. In most of the Western world, the number 13 is considered unlucky.
But lucky and unlucky numbers can vary by culture. When selling into Greater China, Japan, and Korea, retailers need to be aware of these numbers and use them to their advantage when possible.
Lucky Number Eight
In most of Asia, the number 8 is considered an auspicious number because, when pronounced, it sounds similar to the word for “wealth” or “prosperity.” To have multiple eights in an address or phone number is considered a status symbol — and bidding wars have broken out for license plates with multiple 8s. It’s no coincidence that the Beijing Olympics officially kicked off on August 8, 2008 (8/8/08).
So what does this mean for pricing?
In the US and most Western countries, an iPad price ends in either a 9 or 90. Here is what a US customer will see on the Apple website:
Now let’s see how Apple prices the iPad mini on its Chinese website:
While in the US, a retailer may end a price with the 9, in China, Japan, or Korea, it’s not unusual to see that number rounded down to an 8. And the more 8s, the better. To demonstrate that this strategy is not unique to Apple, here is the price for the Microsoft Surface on the Chinese website:
And this pricing strategy is not unique to electronics.
Here is how the Chinese automaker Chery prices one of its cars:
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with using the number 9 in price. In fact, the numbers 9 and 6 are also considered lucky numbers in China. But the number 8 stands above the rest in the good fortune department.
And when it comes to pricing high-ticket items, it’s never a bad idea to make that high number as “lucky” as possible.
Unlucky Number Four
If there is one number to avoid throughout Asia, it’s the number four. When pronounced, it sounds similar to the word for “death.” Many buildings in Asia don’t have a fourth floor, and some don’t have a 14th floor (the four and the ten are considered a particularly ominous combination).
Numbers and Branding
While prices can often be quickly tweaked as needed, brand names (and any numbers they include) cannot. If, for example, you’re launching a fourth-generation product, you might avoid using the number 4 in the brand name. Years ago, Palm avoided calling the successor to the Palm 3 the Palm 4 in large part because of the negativity this number carries throughout Asia.
Lucky and Unlucky Letters
According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing (link: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=856257&show=abstract) not only is 8 considered lucky, so too are the letters A and S. Conversely, the number 4 is joined by the letters F and Z in the unlucky category. While the numbers have significance based on how they sound when pronounced, the letters are significant based on their position in the alphabet as well as association with educational grade. But the key findings of the study are that products with lucky alpha-numeric brand names were thought to be “luckier, and have better quality and greater success than those with unlucky brand names.”
Of course, the luckiest prices are often the lowest prices. Consumers will often see a different form of luck in a price that’s well below the competition’s.
How Does This Affect Online Retailers?
As part of an entry strategy to an Asian market, online retailers should consider adjusting their pricing to include fortuitous numbers and avoid unlucky ones. The final cost to the consumer — after shipping, taxes, and other variable international fees — might include unlucky numbers, but the initial advertised price is what will matter most.