Originally Posted: January 25, 2022
Last Updated: April 14, 2023
The price of a product or service is rarely set in stone. Take airfare, for example, where prices can vary widely even though the product itself doesn’t change at all. In this dynamic pricing landscape, businesses can use a variety of pricing strategies to maximize profits and meet customer needs. Keep reading to discover some of the most effective pricing segmentation techniques used by businesses today.
Pundits have tried to analyze pricing as far back (at least!) as Pliny the Elder in Roman times. Even then, it was clear that pricing was mainly dictated by the perceived value of the product being priced.
While companies will choose the pricing of the goods they’re looking to sell, it’s ultimately the customers who have the final say in what a product is really worth to them. In other words, what you’re selling is only worth as much as a customer is willing to pay for it.
For B2B brands, pricing differentiation may be more commonplace. End prices are often negotiated and changed based on a multitude of factors (industry, location, etc) – but this doesn’t make it any easier for pricing teams to maximize opportunities. Setting prices based on an estimated willingness to pay can’t be effective when each different customer has a different perception of value across all the products they buy.
What Is Price Segmentation?
Simply put, price segmentation, sometimes called price differentiation, is a strategy in which prices are differentiated based on willingness to pay. It is driven by the fact that price sensitivity can vary so much from customer to customer, from product to product, and in all the locations that they use your product.
For example, a building materials distributor sells timber to a wood shelving manufacturer. In this case, the timber makes up a large proportion of the manufacturer’s cost of goods – leading to higher price sensitivity. The same distributor may also sell to a construction company where the timber makes up a lower portion of the cost of goods, typically resulting in lower price sensitivity.
The perceived value of a product will also be influenced by other factors, too, such as timing and market conditions in the given geographic area. B2B sales teams may be more attuned to these dynamic conditions and can use their intuition and experience to maximize results. The challenge arises, however, when sales teams over-rely on this gut feeling to win deals that boost their sales rate more than the bottom line.
Introducing price segmentation should thus be done in a way that complements existing processes, working to fine-tune the sales team’s gut feelings rather than work against them. Technology is the way forward for this. Data-driven price optimizer software gives teams the edge with much more precise predictions for price setting for each segment. Leveraging this alongside the on-the-ground experience of a sales team allows companies to extract much more value from each deal.
Read A Case for Price Segmentation and Value over Volume
The Importance of Price Segmentation
Price segmentation is critical for businesses looking to optimize their revenue, satisfy their customers, and gain a competitive edge. By pricing products or services differently for different customer segments, companies can charge customers based on their willingness to pay and offer discounts to those who are more price-sensitive. This not only maximizes revenue but also increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.
With price segmentation, businesses can even capture a larger market share by targeting specific customer segments that competitors may be neglecting. It’s a win-win situation that can help avoid price wars and enhance brand image, while allowing companies to better understand their customers and allocate resources more efficiently.
Types of Segmented Pricing
In practice, the best strategy is one that combines the power of pricing optimization technology with sound business judgment and human expertise. Leveraging historical data helps with identifying segments based on past behaviors or attributes. Here are some common types of price segmentation to consider:
Volume-based pricing segmentation
Volume-based pricing segmentation involves pricing based on how much of a certain product or service is being sold. Typical deals tend to involve a customer purchasing a certain number of items to access a specified discount or a reward. This is widely used by subscription services looking to lock in customers for longer.
Time-based pricing segmentation
The price of a product can change significantly, depending on when that product was purchased. You may charge different prices for the same product or service based on the time of day, day of the week, or season of the purchase. For example, you may consider offering lower prices during off-peak hours to encourage more customers to visit and higher prices during peak hours or during the holiday season.
Channel-based pricing segmentation
Next, you may consider charging different prices for the same product or service based on the sales channel. There may be discrepancies in the perceived value of a product when viewed online, versus in-store.
Value-based pricing segmentation
Another type of pricing segmentation is value-based pricing. In this case you would price based on the perceived value of the product or service to the customer. For example, luxury brands may charge higher prices for their products because they are perceived as having a higher value to customers.
Geographic pricing segmentation
You may consider charging different prices for the same product or service based on the location of the customer. For example, a business may charge higher prices for customers in affluent areas or charge lower prices in areas with more price-sensitive customers.
Demographic-based pricing segmentation
Sometimes you may consider charging different prices for the same product or service based on demographic factors like age, income, or education level. For example, you may offer discounted prices to senior citizens or students.
There are a number of other types of segmented pricing including psychographic, behavioral, product bundling, product features, and more.
To put this into practice, consider which attributes already exist in your historic sales data, then infuse human insight to generate more nuanced views on customer behavior. This way, you can avoid the trap of over-segmentation (where too much granularity muddies the waters) or too little segmentation where prices are set too broadly as a result.
Real-Life Price Segmentation Examples
Segmented pricing is not a new concept, and you’ve probably encountered it more times than you realize. From software pricing to airline tickets, there are countless examples of price segmentation in our everyday lives. Here are a few real-life examples that you may have encountered:
- Software pricing – Small businesses may pay a lower price for the same software as a large corporation.
- Contract length – A software company may offer a lower monthly price for a longer contract commitment.
- Service pricing – A marketing agency may charge more for a large-scale marketing campaign compared to a smaller project.
- Wholesale pricing – The more a customer buys, the lower the price per unit.
- Customized pricing – A supplier of raw materials may offer different prices based on the specific grade or quality of material requested.
- Airline tickets – The same seat on a plane may have different prices depending on the time of day or year.
- Theme park tickets – Children and seniors may be offered discounted tickets compared to adult tickets.
- Car insurance – Young drivers or those with a history of accidents or tickets may be charged higher rates.
- Hotel rooms – A hotel may offer a discounted rate for a midweek stay compared to a weekend stay.
- Movie tickets – The same movie may be offered at a lower price during the daytime compared to the evening.
- Geographic location – A shipping company may offer different pricing for shipping to different regions or countries based on the cost of shipping to those locations.
Implementing a Price Segmentation Strategy
Price segmentation can be simple enough to implement, it’s just a case of understanding pricing mechanisms, and knowing how to segment the market you’re looking to sell to. The big point to understand is that price segmentation requires company-wide understanding. Guidance should come from the top in regards to establishing and communicating processes to the price-setters and sales teams.
Four primary conditions must be satisfied to implement segmented pricing:
- You must understand pricing mechanisms
- The market must be easily segmented with different degrees of demand in each segment
- The cost of segmentation must not be higher than the expected profitability in each segment
- You need to consider legal implications
Understand pricing mechanisms
Pricing mechanisms can be used to help match your products or services with customers, for the price they’re willing to pay. If your pricing is flexible, you’ll be able to entice a greater number of customers through deals and discounts that make your product more accessible to them. Dynamic market conditions require agility in how you use pricing to communicate value to your customers.
Price segmentation in the market
The first step in achieving effective price segmentation is understanding your prospective buyers. You’ll need to be able to separate potential buyers into groups, based on similarities in their perceived value of your product. With enterprise-level solutions, these customer groups and product families can serve as attributes for more granular segmentation – for prices that are dynamically appropriate for meaningful product-customer intersections to match willingness to pay.
Consider the cost of segmentation versus the expected profitability
While pricing segmentation can yield significant benefits in terms of increased sales and customer satisfaction, it is crucial to ensure that the costs associated with the segmentation do not outweigh the potential profits. This includes the costs of implementing and maintaining the price segmentation strategy, including marketing and sales expenses, as well as any additional operational costs. Failing to strike a balance between segmentation costs and profitability can lead to a negative impact on the bottom line.
Consider the legal implications
It is important to note that there are legal implications to price segmentation, and unlawful segmentation practices can result in significant fines and reputational damage. It is important to ensure that the price segmentation strategy is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations to avoid any legal or financial repercussions.
A Step-by-Step Process to Building Your Price Segmentation Strategy
Building a price segmentation strategy can be a challenging task, but with the right approach, it can deliver significant benefits for businesses. Here are some steps businesses can take to create an effective pricing segmentation strategy:
- Conduct market research – Begin by conducting thorough market research. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of your customers, their purchasing behaviors, and the market as a whole. You can gather data through customer surveys or by analyzing past purchase history.
- Identify customer segments – Next, identify your customer segments based on shared characteristics such as demographics, purchase history, or behavior. These segments will help you tailor your pricing strategy to better match the needs and expectations of each group.
- Determine value drivers – Once you have identified your customer segments, determine the key value drivers for each group. This includes identifying the factors that are most important to each segment, such as quality, convenience, or brand reputation.
- Determine willingness to pay – Next, determine the willingness to pay for each customer segment. This can be done through market research, customer surveys, or by analyzing past purchasing behavior. This information will help you set prices that are attractive to each segment and maximize profitability.
- Set prices – Based on the willingness to pay and value drivers, set prices for each customer segment. This may involve offering discounts or premium pricing for certain customer segments.
- Monitor and adjust pricing – Once the pricing strategy is in place, monitor and adjust pricing as needed based on market conditions, customer feedback, or changes in value drivers.
- Communicate your pricing strategy – Finally, communicate the pricing strategy to your customers to ensure transparency and build trust. Customers should understand why prices vary for different customer segments and how pricing decisions are made. By following these steps, businesses can create a price segmentation strategy that maximizes profits while delivering value to customers.
The Advantages of Segmented Pricing
Price segmentation has numerous advantages for businesses, here are some key benefits:
- Maximizes revenue – With segmented pricing, businesses can charge higher prices to customers who are willing to pay more while still attracting price-sensitive customers with lower prices. This helps businesses to maximize revenue and profitability.
- Improves customer satisfaction – By offering a range of price options, businesses can cater to the needs and preferences of different customer segments. This can lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Provides a competitive advantage – Price segmentation can help businesses differentiate themselves from competitors and attract customers who are looking for a better value proposition.
- Enables efficient resource allocation – By understanding the different customer segments, businesses can allocate their resources more efficiently, focusing their efforts on the segments that generate the most revenue and profit.
- Helps with inventory management – By offering different prices for different products, businesses can effectively manage their inventory and reduce the likelihood of overstocking or understocking.
- Encourages customer behavior – Price segmentation can also be used to encourage certain customer behaviors, such as upselling or cross-selling. For example, businesses can offer a higher-priced premium version of a product to encourage customers to upgrade.
Potential Disadvantages of Segmented Pricing
While price segmentation offers several advantages, businesses should also be aware of some potential disadvantages including:
- Complexity – Implementing price segmentation can be complex, requiring resources and expertise to analyze customer behavior and segment the market effectively. Without necessary infrastructure or tools, changing prices in one segment can have unintended consequences and be challenging to manage.
- Administrative costs – Managing multiple pricing structures can also be costly and time-consuming for businesses, especially without automation tools to streamline the process.
- Customer confusion – Price segmentation can lead to customer confusion and dissatisfaction if the pricing structures are not transparent or well-communicated. Customers may feel like they are being charged unfairly or that the pricing is arbitrary.
- Cannibalization – Offering different prices for different customer segments can result in cannibalization, where customers who would have paid a higher price instead opt for a lower-priced option.
- Brand image – If customers perceive that they are being charged different prices for the same product or service, it may harm the brand’s equity and reputation.
- Potential for discrimination – Price segmentation can be used to discriminate against certain customer segments based on factors such as age, gender, or socioeconomic status, leading to legal issues and damage to the business’s reputation.
- Limited applicability – Price segmentation may not be suitable for all businesses or industries, particularly if the product or service is highly standardized or if customers do not have significant variation in their willingness to pay.
Price Segmentation is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Process
Price segmentation may sound like a no-brainer, and for many companies it is. But that doesn’t mean that things can’t go wrong.
If pricing segmentation is implemented without pre-thought, businesses risk sub-optimal results. Price dilution and stagnation can occur when price segmentation strategies aren’t fully understood or regularly reviewed. Guidance should come from the top in regards to establishing and communicating processes to the price-setters and sales teams.
Thankfully, companies now have a wealth of information available to help inform their price segments. The key is understanding that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all process.
Companies need to find the right granularity, and that’s why data is so vital for providing unbiased context for pricing strategies. Without historical transaction data and analytics, businesses will inevitably fall back on guesswork to determine their pricing. Finding nuance to create highly accurate segments then relies on blending human expertise with enormously detailed data sets, allowing businesses to reap the rewards of a finely-tuned pricing strategy.
It’s a challenge a modern B2B enterprise can only address by using advanced technology. At Vendavo, our AI-embedded pricing solutions are designed to maximize sales potential, by optimizing pricing and sales to achieve reliable and enormously profitable outcomes.
Summary and Key Takeaways
Price segmentation is a powerful tool that you can use to maximize revenue, improve customer satisfaction, and gain a competitive edge. By understanding the different segments of your customer base and tailoring your pricing strategy accordingly, you can offer customers the right product at the right price, ultimately driving more sales and boosting your bottom line.
- Price segmentation involves offering different prices for the same product or service based on customer segments.
- To implement price segmentation effectively, businesses must conduct market research, identify customer segments, determine value drivers, and set prices accordingly.
- Price segmentation has numerous benefits but you should also be cautious about complexity, administrative costs, customer confusion, cannibalization, and the potential for discrimination.
- When implementing price segmentation, be sure to communicate the pricing strategy clearly to customers to build trust and ensure transparency.