Pricing Models

What are Pricing Models?

Determining the right price for a product or service can be a delicate balancing act. Companies strive to find a sweet spot that attracts customers while ensuring profitability. This is where pricing models come in.

A pricing model is how businesses determine the financial structure by which customers will pay for the value they receive. Understanding the various pricing models available allows businesses to strategically choose the approach that best aligns with their target market, product or service offering, and overall business goals.


  • Pricing structure
  • Subscription pricing model
  • Tiered pricing model
  • Usage-based pricing
  • Variable pricing

Simple vs. Complex Pricing Models

Not all pricing models are created equal. Businesses can choose from a spectrum of simplicity to complexity, each offering distinct advantages and considerations. On one end of the spectrum lie simple pricing models. These models are characterized by a flat fee or fixed price for a product or service. For instance, a bakery might sell cupcakes for $2.50 each, regardless of flavor or quantity purchased. Simple pricing models are easy for customers to understand and promote quick purchasing decisions. However, they may not capture the full value proposition for complex products or services, potentially leaving money on the table for the business.

At the other end of the spectrum are complex pricing models. These models incorporate multiple variables to determine the final price a customer pays. For example, a cloud storage service might offer tiered pricing based on the amount of storage used, with higher storage limits commanding a higher monthly fee. Complex pricing models can be more adaptable and capture the varying needs of different customer segments. However, they can also confuse customers and require additional sales and marketing effort to explain the value proposition. Ultimately, the choice between a simple or complex pricing model depends on the specific business context and the nature of the product or service being offered.

Simple Pricing Model vs. Complex Pricing Model

The most widely used pricing models today can be broadly categorized into three main approaches: value-based, cost-based, and competition-based pricing.

Value-Based Pricing: This pricing approach focuses on the perceived value a product or service delivers to the customer. Businesses set prices based on the customer’s willingness to pay and the problem their offering solves. For example, a company selling a revolutionary fitness tracker with personalized health coaching might command a premium price due to the perceived value it offers for overall well-being.

Cost-Based Pricing: Here, the focus shifts to the internal costs of producing or delivering the product or service. Businesses add a markup to their production costs to arrive at a profitable selling price. This approach offers a baseline for ensuring profitability but may not fully capture the value proposition.

Competition-Based Pricing: This strategy uses competitors’ pricing as a benchmark. Businesses may undercut competitor prices to gain market share (penetration pricing) or set a premium price to position themselves as a high-quality offering. Competition-based pricing requires careful competitor analysis and a clear understanding of your product’s unique value proposition.

Beyond these core categories, there exists a rich tapestry of specific pricing models tailored for different business scenarios, such as freemium, subscription, pay-per-use, and bundled pricing. By understanding each model, businesses can make informed decisions to optimize their pricing strategy and achieve their financial goals.

Freemium Pricing

Freemium pricing is a specific value-based pricing model in which a business offers a basic set of features or functionalities for free alongside premium features that require a paid subscription or purchase. It’s essentially a tiered approach in which the free tier acts as a gateway to showcase the product’s value and entice users to upgrade for a richer experience. This model is popular with software applications, online services, and media platforms, where the base functionality provides a taste of the product’s potential.

Variable Pricing

Variable pricing is a model in which prices vary based on factors such as time of day, day of the week, or location. This pricing strategy can encourage customers to purchase during off-peak times and can be used to account for differences in demand or cost between different locations.

Tiered Pricing

Tiered pricing is a pricing strategy in which companies charge different prices for their products or services based on quality or features. For example, a company may charge a higher fee for its premium product and a lower price for its basic product. Pricing tiers can differentiate products and encourage potential customers to purchase the more expensive, higher-quality product. Tiered pricing is standard in enterprise software, where customers pay for access to specific modules within a larger package.

Subscription Pricing

Subscription pricing is a model in which customers pay a recurring fee to access a product or service. This model is common in subscription-based businesses, such as those in the software as a service (SaaS) industry, where customers typically pay a monthly or annual fee to use a software application. Subscription pricing can also be used for physical products, such as when customers pay a monthly fee to receive a subscription box of products.

Examples of subscription pricing models are:

  • Usage-Based Model: Usage-based pricing is a model in which customers are charged based on their level of use of a product or service. This type of pricing is common for utilities like electricity or water and can help to align costs with consumption.
  • Per-Added-Module Model: The Per-Added-Module Model is a billing model used by some software companies. Under this model, the customer pays a fee for each additional module they add to the software. This can be an attractive option for customers who only need a few extra features and don’t want to pay for an entirely new software package.
  • Per-User Model: Per-user pricing model is a type of pricing in which the price of a product or service is based on the number of users using it. This type of pricing is common among SaaS products. Under this pricing model, companies typically charge a certain amount for each user who signs up for their service. This pricing model is beneficial for companies because it allows them to scale their prices according to the number of users they have. It also benefits customers because they only have to pay for a set number of users.

Bundled Pricing

Bundling products together into a package allows companies to offer their products at a lower price than they would if they sold each product separately. Bundling is ubiquitous across multiple industries, increasing sales by providing a lower price for customers who purchase multiple products.

Services Pricing

There are many ways to price services. The most common is the hourly rate model, where the client is charged based on the number of hours worked by the service provider. Other popular models include project-based pricing, where the client pays a set fee for the entire project, and value-based pricing, where the client is charged based on the perceived value of the service.

Volume Pricing

Volume pricing is a strategy in which businesses offer discounts to customers who purchase large quantities of goods or services. This type of pricing can encourage customers to buy more products, which can help companies increase their sales and profits. Volume pricing can also help businesses clear out inventory, as customers may be more likely to purchase discounted products.

Businesses can offer volume discounts in several ways. One is to offer a tiered discount, where customers receive a greater discount when they purchase more products. Another is to offer a bulk discount, where customers receive a set percentage off their purchase if they buy a specific product quantity. Businesses can also offer a mix-and-match discount, where customers receive discounts if they purchase a certain combination of products.

Economy Pricing

In an economy pricing model, businesses charge a price based on what they believe the customer is willing and able to pay. This can be determined by analyzing the customer’s income, spending habits, and other factors. Businesses often use an economy pricing model to maximize profits, but it can also encourage customers to purchase more products or services.

Penetration Pricing

Penetration pricing is a strategy where a company offers a low price for its product or service to gain market share. The hope is that once the company has gained a significant market share, it can raise prices. Penetration pricing is common in technology because new products are introduced frequently.

Penetration pricing is risky, as it can often lead to price wars with competitors. If a company cannot gain market share quickly, it may find itself in a position where it is losing money on each sale. Nevertheless, penetration pricing can be an effective way to enter a new market.

Price Skimming

Price skimming is a strategy in which a company charges a high price for a new product during its initial release and gradually lowers the price as demand decreases. It can effectively maximize profits and recoup investments quickly, but it can also lead to intense competition from lower-priced products.

Price skimming is often used for products that are new to the market and have few substitutes. For example, when a new video game console is released, there may be a time during which only a few companies sell the console at a high price. As more companies enter the market and competition increases, the console price will gradually decrease.

Premium Pricing

Premium pricing is a strategy where a company charges a higher price for a product or service than what is considered to be the norm. The goal of premium pricing is to create a perception of value and quality and to increase profits.

There are several ways to implement premium pricing. For example, companies can charge more for a product perceived as being of higher quality or offer premium features or services for an additional fee (i.e. tiered pricing). Premium pricing can also be used to target a specific market segment, such as luxury consumers.

When done correctly, premium pricing can be a successful way to increase profits and build brand equity. However, it is essential to consider all aspects of the strategy before implementing it, as risks can be involved. For example, if a company overcharges for a product, it can lower customer satisfaction with the brand. Thus, it is essential to conduct market research and understand consumer behavior before implementing a premium pricing strategy.

Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic pricing stands out among other pricing models for its adaptability. Unlike static models with fixed prices, dynamic pricing adjusts prices in real time based on various market factors. Imagine a taxi service that increases fares during peak hours or bad weather. This exemplifies dynamic pricing in action.

Businesses leverage sophisticated algorithms and data analytics to constantly monitor factors that influence price. These factors include supply and demand, which means prices typically rise when demand outstrips supply (concert tickets nearing the event date). Conversely, prices might drop to clear excess inventory (airline seats during off-peak seasons). Customer behavior can also be factored in, with dynamic pricing models considering past purchases and browsing habits to personalize pricing offers. Additionally, businesses might dynamically adjust prices to stay competitive within the market.

Many complex pricing models are used today, and new models are constantly being developed. The key for businesses is to select the model (or combination of models) that best meets their needs and objectives.

Streamlining Quotes with Diverse Pricing Models

Organizations with complex pricing models, such as usage-based or tiered pricing, find that using a CPQ (configure, price, quote) tool can be extremely helpful in generating quotes. CPQ acts as a central hub, streamlining the quote creation process and ensuring accuracy regardless of the pricing model employed.

Here’s how CPQ simplifies quote generation with diverse pricing models:

Automated Calculations: CPQ eliminates manual calculations and errors by automatically applying pricing rules based on the chosen model. This speeds up the sales cycle and accelerates revenue growth. Whether it’s a simple fixed price, a tiered structure based on quantity (block pricing), or a complex formula incorporating discounts and markups (cost-based pricing), CPQ handles the calculations seamlessly.

Configurable Products: CPQ excels at handling product configurations with various features and add-ons. For instance, a computer manufacturer using value-based pricing can configure quotes with different processor options, each priced according to its perceived value. CPQ ensures the final quote is accurate, and reflects the chosen configuration and its corresponding price.

Discount Management: CPQ simplifies the application of discounts based on pre-defined rules. For example, a business offering volume discounts can configure CPQ to automatically adjust pricing based on the quantity a customer orders in a single quote.

Competitive Pricing Integration: Some CPQ solutions allow integration with market data sources, enabling businesses to consider competitor pricing when formulating quotes.

Billing Integration: CPQ can integrate with billing systems to create a streamlined sales cycle. Data synchronization ensures that the pricing configurations and calculations reflected in the quote seamlessly transition into accurate invoices once the deal is closed. Eliminating manual data entry between quote and invoice minimizes errors and expedites the billing process.By leveraging these functionalities, businesses using CPQ can quickly generate accurate and professional quotes, regardless of the pricing model. Pricing automation in CPQ saves time, reduces errors, and empowers sales teams to present tailored pricing options that align with customer needs and maximize deal value.

People Also Ask

What are pricing models used for?

Pricing strategies or models determine the best product or service prices. It helps you decide which products to sell at which price points to maximize revenue and shareholder value while considering customer and market demand.

How is a price model determined?

A price model considers factors such as the costs involved in making an item, the customer’s perception of its value, and the type of product — for example, retail goods versus services.

They are usually visually represented on a chart like a demand curve.

What pricing models are most common in SaaS?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, several pricing models reign supreme among SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) companies:

Tiered Pricing: This is the most popular model for SaaS, offering multiple subscription plans with varying feature sets and price points. It caters to different customer needs and budgets, allowing users to choose the plan that best aligns with their requirements.

Per-User Pricing: This model charges a fixed fee per user who accesses the software. It’s straightforward for customers to understand and scales well as a business acquires more users.

Freemium Pricing: This model offers a basic version of the software for free, with premium features requiring a paid subscription. It’s a great way to attract users, showcase product value, and convert them to paying customers.

Usage-Based Pricing: Here, customers are charged based on their actual usage of the software, such as storage space consumed, API calls made, or transactions processed. This model is ideal for situations where usage varies significantly between customers.

These four models offer a strong foundation for SaaS pricing. The optimal choice depends on factors like the product’s complexity, target market, and business goals. Many SaaS companies even combine these models to create hybrid pricing structures that cater to a wider range of customers.