A successful launch of a new product depends on the right pricing strategy. Short term, you want to build a following and earn market share. Long term, you want to improve profitability and customer loyalty.
That’s where penetration pricing comes in. The idea is to offer a low upfront price to pull potential customers away from the competition, giving up short-term profits for long-term growth.
Launching a new product in a competitive market? In this guide, you will learn how to use penetration pricing to maximize market share and maintain long-term profitability.
What is penetration pricing?
A penetration strategy involves offering a new product or service at a low price to get customers’ attention. The goal is to gain market share by aggressively getting customers in the door.
Price penetration strategy vs. price skimming
Knowing the difference between them can help you choose a strategy that maximizes profits and reduces competition.
- With penetration pricing, new products are sold at low prices to build a customer base. In the short term, profit margins are lower, but heavy sales volumes compensate for the small margins. You can raise the price as demand increases.
- Price skimming is more effective when you already have customers interested in your products. Brands charge a high price first to maximize short-term profits, then slowly bring it down to attract more customers.
A skimming strategy opens you up to competition undercutting your prices. If you use penetration pricing, you’ll be the company selling similar products cheaper than your competitors.
How does penetration pricing work?
Penetration pricing works by offering a lower price when launching a product. The low price helps the business gain market share and build a foothold in the market.
Once the product is established, the business gradually increases the price. It’s a popular pricing strategy for highly competitive markets like streaming services and the food and beverage industry.
Online fashion brand StyleSavvy enters the market with a penetration pricing strategy, offering trendy clothing for 40% less than major competitors, starting at $15 for dresses and $5 for accessories. Using low prices, the brand attracts young, budget-conscious consumers and makes early sales.
Over six months, StyleSavvy establishes loyal customers, raising prices slowly until dresses start at $25 and accessories start at $8, matching market averages. With quality, style, and good brand perception, StyleSavvy maintains its customer base, despite its price hike.
Goals of penetration pricing
Capture market share
The theory behind market penetration pricing is that a low initial price secures market acceptance and forms customer habits. The method is effective for entering new markets with little difference between products, like kitchen appliances or internet service providers.
According to the Law of Demand, lowering prices will increase demand. When you offer more value for less, consumers are more likely to buy what you have to offer.
Say you sell refrigerators. They all do the same thing: keep food cold. There are some with HD touchscreens and smartphone connectivity. Some have specialty ice dispensers. For the average consumer, those features don’t matter much. They want a fridge that keeps their food cold and fresh.
A market penetration strategy would be a great way to introduce a new refrigerator to the market.
Build brand loyalty
As noted, the goal of penetration pricing is to attract new, loyal customers by offering a competitive price. For a brand to build loyalty, it must continue to delight customers after the first purchase. One way to do this is to reward customers for continuous purchases with a loyalty program.
Members can redeem rewards points for gift cards and discounts, offsetting product prices without devaluing them. Members also save more when they spend more; everyone gets a free birthday gift, but big spenders get exclusive rewards.
These perks are great for members. If you’re new to a brand with a good loyalty program, you’ll probably spend more with them over time.
📌 GET STARTED: Choose from hundreds of loyalty apps in the Shopify App Store and start rewarding shoppers for purchases they make both online and in-store.
Pull customers from competition
Businesses use penetration pricing to steal customers from their rivals. With low prices, the company hopes to capture customers’ attention and provide the best deal, then impress and delight customers so they stick with the brand and spend more over time.
Increase store foot traffic with Shopify
Shopify comes with built-in tools to bring more online shoppers to your store. Manage your Google Merchant Center listing without leaving your point of sale, show each product’s availability across all store locations, offer in-store pickup, and more.
Pros and cons of penetration pricing
There are both advantages and disadvantages to the penetration pricing strategy. Here are some of the pros and cons.
Advantages of penetration pricing
- More customers. If your product is high-quality and launched efficiently, you’ll attract customers away from your competitors.
- Market leadership. The more market share you own, the more of a market leader you become.
- Increased brand loyalty. You can build a loyal customer base through penetration. The low price gets them in, and if your product is good, they’ll keep buying even if the price goes up.
- Less competition. By selling products at a low price, you prevent competitors from entering the market, since they can’t afford to sell at that price.
- Lower costs. Low prices can lead to high sales. When you sell more items, you order more supplies, which you can get bulk discounts on from suppliers.
Disadvantages of penetration pricing
- Upfront costs. Penetration strategies require resources for production, distribution, and marketing strategy. Short-term profits are sacrificed for long-term benefits, such as a strong market position.
- Poor brand perception. A penetration strategy can hurt your brand image. If you want to be known as a premium brand, launching products at a low price can make consumers think you’re cheap.
- Possible price wars. A fierce competitor might cut their prices to get more market share. If your competitor lowers their price, you might want to do the same. If you do, they might lower theirs again—and the cycle continues.
Penetration pricing strategy tips
1. Build long-term loyalty
When you build a relationship with buyers after their first purchase, the penetration pricing model works. Once you’ve won them over with price, there are various ways to build brand loyalty:
- Offer stellar customer service by addressing questions, fixing problems, and genuinely trying to help customers.
- Cross-sell and upsell more profitable products based on purchase history.
- Let customers leave feedback. Whether it’s positive or negative, they’ll feel heard, valued, and respected, which can build long-term customer loyalty.
- Segment and personalize customer experiences.
- Promote shared values so customers get an idea of what your brand stands for.
- Build a community that allows customers to share their experiences, connect with like-minded people, and keeps your brand top of mind.
2. Avoid price wars
Price wars can happen if you match prices aggressively. It’s a lose-lose situation when multiple competitors start discounting their products. If you find competitors are challenging you to a price war, there are a few ways to avoid it:
- Compete on quality. Differentiate your products by adding new features or building awareness for lesser-known features. Emphasize the risks of choosing low-priced options.
- Reveal your intentions. Offer to match competitors’ prices or reveal your cost advantage.
- Deploy price actions. Offer bundled prices, price promotions, or loyalty programs for new products.
“Competitive pricing is often talked about as a way to undercut competitors and offer lower prices, but that isn’t always the smartest strategy, so don’t fall into that trap and end up undercutting your own growth,” says Stephen Light, CMO and co-owner of mattress brand Nolah.
3. Focus on volume sales
When you use penetration pricing, your profit margins are lower, so you’ll want high volume sales. Scalability is key to maximizing high-volume, low-margin opportunities. So make sure your supply chain, inventory management, and logistics are up to the task.
4. Ensure demand is high
Penetration pricing works when a lot of people are willing to switch brands because of price. Prices aren’t cheap, but they’re low compared to what the target market perceives as value. Make sure you’re only using penetration strategies in price-sensitive markets.
To stay competitive, you’ll have to sacrifice profitability. Costco, for example, can offer items at the lowest price because it has millions of customers. That’s why you have to make sure there’s a high demand for your products.
💡 PRO TIP: With Shopify, you can get your products found by more nearby shoppers looking for what you sell on Google. List your products on Google for free, show pickup availability to increase store visits, and measure how your listings impact store sales from Shopify.
Penetration pricing examples
Shopify merchant Lumin, a premium skin care brand, uses a form of penetration pricing for its subscription service. Shoppers only need to take a 90-second quiz, then they can receive a free personalized skin care bundle from Lumin.
Streaming service Netflix is a great example of penetration pricing done right. The late ’90s was the heyday of video rental services.
Netflix entered the market with a new promise: Waiting one or two days for a DVD to arrive will let you have access to a better movie library, without any fees. You could rent four movies at a time for $15.95 per month, and there was no return date.
That’s a big difference from Blockbuster, its main competitor at the time. For a single, three-day rental, Blockbuster charged $4.99. The price point for a Netflix rental was around $1 per DVD.
It’s history from there. By providing value to consumers, Netflix disrupted the rental market so much that Blockbuster went bankrupt.
TJ Maxx targets price-sensitive customers willing to search for bargains through limited and rapidly changing stock. Products at TJ Maxx are usually 20% to 60% off full-price retailers’ prices.
It’s not a special or discounted price. Targeting everyday low price (EDLP) shoppers, TJ Maxx uses a permanent penetration strategy to grow its customer base and market share. Some 28% of fashion store customers in the US use TJ Maxx.
Is penetration pricing right for your store?
Penetration pricing is a great way to get traction with a new product. You’ll gain market share and attract new customers, but remember—it’s temporary. The goal is to establish yourself as a main player in the market as prices gradually increase.
Brands that use penetration pricing need a long-term plan to build loyalty and keep customers happy. Otherwise, they might switch brands when the next deal comes along.
As long as you can prove your brand is worth the extra money, you’ll stay competitive using a penetration pricing strategy.
Grow store sales with Shopify POS
Shopify POS has all the tools to help you convert more store visits into sales and grow revenue. Make more relevant product recommendations, turn abandoned store sales into online sales, and track both store and staff performance from one easy-to-understand back office.
Penetration pricing FAQ
What does price penetration mean?
Price penetration involves offering a new product or service at a low price to gain customers’ attention. The goal is to get customers in the door with low prices, then raise prices later.
What is a penetration strategy?
A penetration strategy is a marketing tactic used to increase market share by entering a new market or sector. The strategy involves more aggressive pricing, increased promotion, and other tactics to drive sales and increase market share. It is often used to gain an edge over competitors and to increase customer loyalty.
Why is penetration pricing important?
Penetration pricing is an important pricing strategy because it allows businesses to gain a foothold in the market and establish their presence. By pricing their product or service at a lower price than the competition, businesses can gain an advantage by appealing to a larger portion of the market, increasing their market share and establishing their brand. Additionally, a lower price point can encourage customers to try the product or service, and then continue to buy it once the introductory offer ends. Penetration pricing also encourages competition, as other businesses may lower their prices in order to remain competitive.