Penetration pricing is one of the many pricing strategies employed by companies in an attempt to increase their revenue and/or profit.
Penetration pricing is the strategy of offering extremely low prices when entering a market to entice customers to try a product or service. It best works in very crowded markets where it is hard to attract customers away from more established brands.
When it is difficult to show a client your higher quality or special value without them trying your service, penetration pricing is a particularly effective option. This is especially the case when demand is elastic (i.e., it is very sensitive to the price) and economies of scale are very apparent (i.e., the marginal cost decreases as the size of the firm increases).
If that is confusing or too theoretical, don’t fret as we will go through what that means with some graphs and an example below. We’ll also walk you through the pros and cons of using a penetration price strategy as well as compare it to its mirror strategy, price skimming.
Whatever pricing strategy you choose, use Baremetrics to monitor your sales data.
Baremetrics makes it easy to collect and visualize all of your sales data, including your MRR, ARR, LTV, and so much more.
Integrating this innovative tool can make evaluating your pricing strategy seamless for your SaaS company, and you can start a free trial today.
Understanding penetration pricing
Penetration pricing is used to quickly gain market share, especially in a crowded market. It is often combined with certain psychological pricing strategies to give the impression that the prices will go up soon, thus prompting potential customers to hastily make a purchase for fear of missing out.
While the system is an effective way to get customers to sign up initially, if your service doesn’t meet the standards of the market, don’t expect customers to stick around as the price goes up.
The major objectives of penetration pricing can be summarized as follows:
- Introduce consumers to a new product or service
- Hook new users on your service
- Challenge the current market leaders
- Quickly establish a market share
- Establish brand loyalty with a new customer base
- Get customers to abandon competitors in exchange for your service
- Drive up the sales volume to benefit from economies of scale
- Push competitors out of a market
All of these goals are achieved through offering extremely low prices for some introductory period. The hope is to both hurt competitors and personally gain a large market share quickly and then raise prices before facing potential financial consequences from the too low price.
Indeed, the margins can be slim, zero, or even negative during a penetration pricing campaign, which means that you could be burning profit during the campaign or experiencing a negative cash flow. This is an unsustainable position in the long run, which is why penetration pricing, as well as the price skimming discussed next, is always a short-term strategy.
Penetration pricing vs. price skimming
Price skimming and penetration pricing are essentially the opposite strategies. Whereas price skimming uses initial high prices to earn revenue, penetration pricing uses initial low prices to get more sales.
While price skimming is best used with unique or new products, penetration is best used when the market is highly competitive and customers are usually quite loyal to their brand of choice.
Both price skimming and penetration pricing are best used for a short time. While penetration pricing will leave you earning less revenue per client when used for too long, price skimming will start to attract competitors that feel they can beat your prices if given the chance.
Situations where penetration pricing is effective
Penetration pricing is best used under very specific market conditions.
First, when there is very little distinction between competitors’ products and your own, it is difficult to differentiate in any way other than price. Since customers usually exhibit some level of brand loyalty, unless you (temporarily) have lower prices than the competition, it will be difficult to gain a market share.
Second, when demand is price elastic, which means that the level of demand heavily depends on the price, it is easier to entice consumers away from their current brand of choice, and it is more likely that a penetration pricing strategy will succeed.
Finally, when the total cost structure of your company signals that you’ll have positive economies of scale, i.e., the marginal cost of your product will decrease as the level of production increases, then as your company gains more customers the price you can offer sustainably will decrease. Moreover, a large market share will be a fundamental requirement of long-term success.
Entice Potential Clients into Longer Contracts
Get deep insights into MRR, churn, LTV and more to grow your business
Example of penetration pricing
You’ve just built a great SaaS platform in a competitive market. The R&D costs were very high, but the cost to maintain and host the service per client is very low. Because of this your marginal cost decreases rapidly from $15 to $10 if you can increase the number of subscribers from Q1 to Q2.
The competitor currently prices their product at $30, and you think it will take a price of $12 initially to get customers to try your service. Let’s look at this graphically:
You know that, so long as you can work your way to a market share that garners you a sales volume of Q2 that you will be profitable in the long run.
Once you reach Q2, your plan is to slowly raise prices until they are in line with the competition.
If you’re looking for a smarter way to measure the effect of a new pricing strategy, get in touch or sign up for the Baremetrics free trial today.
Have a look at the demo to see how Baremetrics can show you the results of your marketing decisions.
The pros and cons of penetration pricing
Penetration pricing is a great way to gain market share quickly, but if you do not have a lot of cash on hand you might find yourself insolvent before you become established in the market. While you may be able to garner a big market share, there is no guarantee that market share will want to remain loyal as you bring your prices in line with the market norms.
Let’s look at some of the other advantages and disadvantages of penetration pricing.
1. The advantages of penetration pricing
The following are some of the advantages of penetration pricing.
- High adoption and diffusion: A good penetration pricing campaign will both get your company used by many customers quickly and make it well known by the whole market.
- Market dominance: If you have the cash reserves for a long, deep penetration pricing campaign, it can catch the competition off-guard. While they are trying to react to your low prices, you can focus on building market share. In the best cases, you drive the competition out of the market and create a monopoly.
- Economies of scale: When you have a cost structure amenable to economies of scale, then penetration pricing is a great way to increase your volume to reduce the unit cost.
- Increased goodwill: Even if the low price is only temporary, the perceived value can make customers happy enough to be brand ambassadors to their friends and colleagues. This can generate great word of mouth.
2. The disadvantages of penetration pricing
The following are some of the disadvantages of penetration pricing.
- Pricing expectation: The temporary low prices can become a long-term expectation of the market. The customers may permanently view your company as a “bargain brand” and be unwilling to stick with you when your prices go up.
- Low customer loyalty: The types of customers willing to switch brands for a discount are not that loyal and will probably abandon you for the next discount campaign brought by your competitors.
- Price war: If your competitors also have deep pockets and are willing to fight for the market, then you might find yourself in a price war where nobody wins.
- Inefficient long-term strategy: Penetration pricing is always going to be a short-term strategy, and you will still need to come up with a long-term one eventually.
- Potential race to the bottom: If your penetration prices lead to retaliatory low prices, then the whole market might reorient towards cheap prices but low quality, and it is the clients who will suffer.
While penetration pricing can get you some quick market share, there is no guarantee that you can keep that share once your prices go up. In addition, if your marketing strategy isn’t successful, then your low prices may need to stick around longer than you can afford to offer them.
Ultimately, penetration pricing is a great short-term strategy, but it might be better to entice potential clients into longer contracts with these low prices so that you have a longer time to convince them of the value your services bring to their companies before they decide to renew at the market rate.
Baremetrics is the obvious choice for SaaS businesses seeking to better track their revenue while making major pricing strategy changes.
If you’re looking for a smarter way to approach your SaaS business’s revenue performance, get in touch or sign up for the Baremetrics free trial today.
Marketing channels are only as good as their results. Have a look at the demo to see which marketing and business insights Baremetrics can unlock for you.
All the data your startup needs
Get deep insights into your company's MRR, churn and other vital metrics for your SaaS business.