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Price Discrimination vs Dynamic Pricing: Know the Difference

December 21st, 2023 | 11 min. read

By John Gilbo

Pricing is an essential aspect of any business, and determining the right pricing strategy can be particularly challenging. In today’s highly competitive market, businesses must find a way to maximize revenue while ensuring customer satisfaction. Two pricing strategies that organizations commonly use to achieve their overarching business goals are price discrimination and dynamic pricing. The two strategies have similarities that can lead to confusion, making it difficult to determine which approach to take. Although they may seem similar, there are important distinctions that businesses need to understand to make informed pricing decisions.

Price discrimination involves charging different prices for the same product or service based on customer groups’ characteristics. For example, a manufacturer might offer lower prices to long-standing customers or charge higher prices to customers located in remote areas. Dynamic pricing, on the other hand, involves adjusting prices in real-time based on market demand, supply, and other external factors. An example of dynamic pricing in the manufacturing industry would be a supplier increasing the price of raw materials during times of scarcity or high demand.

At Pricefx, we have spent more than a decade assisting our clients to make informed pricing strategy decisions based on using smart data analysis to provide profit outcomes and insights that may not have previously been thought possible. Our aim is to assist businesses to protect their profits and margins whilst making the best possible price strategy decisions that align with each company’s individual business objectives.

In this article, we will explore the differences between price discrimination and dynamic pricing and why it is crucial for companies to know the difference in order to make the best pricing strategy choice. We will provide real-world examples to illustrate the impact of each pricing strategy on businesses and emphasize that understanding the pros and cons of each approach can help companies optimize their chosen pricing strategy, improve profitability, and enhance customer satisfaction.

What is Price Discrimination?

Price discrimination is the practice of charging different prices for the same product or service to different customers.

Price discrimination is a pricing strategy that leverages the customer’s willingness to pay a fair market price for their product or service.

 

In other words, price discrimination is a value-based pricing approach to set prices that reflect the perceived value of their products or services to the customer.

Price discrimination is a common pricing strategy in industries such as air travel, hotels, and entertainment, where customers have various levels of price sensitivity. However, this pricing strategy is not limited to these consumer-facing industries.

In recent years, price discrimination has become increasingly prevalent in B2B industries such as manufacturing, distribution, and chemicals. Companies in these industries are also recognizing the benefits of charging different prices to different customers based on factors such as volume, location, and purchasing history.

For example, in the manufacturing industry, companies may offer volume discounts to customers who purchase large quantities of goods. These volume discounts are a form of price discrimination and are designed to incentivize customers to purchase more products while still maintaining profitability.

 

Similarly, in the chemical industry, companies may charge different prices to customers based on their location or the type of chemical being sold. This allows companies to optimize revenue and profitability while still meeting the unique needs of their customers.

Clearly then, price discrimination is not limited to a few select industries, but rather it can be an effective pricing strategy across several industries.

By understanding the pros and cons of price discrimination companies can choose the best pricing strategy based on their unique circumstances and ultimately optimize revenue, improve profitability, and enhance customer satisfaction.

The Pros of Price Discrimination

Price discrimination offers several benefits for businesses. These include:

  • Maximizing revenue and profits: For example, a software company may charge different prices to different types of customers based on their size and usage of the software. Small businesses may be offered a lower price point, while larger enterprises may be charged a premium price for additional features. This allows the software company to capture the maximum value from each customer segment and optimize their revenue streams.
  • Reducing price sensitivity: For example, a clothing retailer may charge different prices for different products based on the quality, style, or brand. By offering higher prices for premium items, the retailer can differentiate themselves from lower-priced competitors and reduce price sensitivity among their customers.
  • Tailoring pricing to specific customer segments: For example, a B2B distributor of office supplies may offer different pricing options to different types of customers based on their purchasing history, volume, and location. By tailoring their pricing to specific customer segments, the distributor can offer personalized pricing options that meet their unique needs and increase customer loyalty.
  • Increasing customer loyalty: For example, a B2C online retailer may offer personalized pricing options and promotions to customers based on their browsing and purchasing history. This approach can increase customer loyalty and satisfaction by providing a more personalized shopping experience.
  • Optimizing inventory management: For example, a B2B manufacturer of industrial equipment may offer discounts or promotions on slow-moving products to reduce inventory costs and increase turnover rates. This approach can help businesses optimize their inventory management and increase profitability.

The Cons of Price Discrimination

Price discrimination also presents some challenges for businesses. These include:

  • Negative customer experience: If customers perceive that they are being unfairly charged, price discrimination can create a negative customer experience. For example, a hotel that charges different prices for the same room based on the customer’s currency of payment or payment type may be seen as discriminatory and result in customer dissatisfaction and loss of customer loyalty.
  • Difficulty in identifying appropriate customer segments: Companies need to have access to sufficient data on customer behavior and preferences to determine which pricing strategies will be most effective for different customer segments. For example, a B2B manufacturer may struggle to identify the appropriate customer segments for volume discounts, resulting in lost revenue or missed opportunities to optimize pricing strategies.
  • Complexity in implementing pricing strategies: Implementing price discrimination requires companies to have sophisticated pricing systems and strategies in place. This can be challenging for businesses with limited resources or expertise in pricing strategies.
  • Potential legal and ethical issues: Price discrimination may be subject to legal and ethical considerations, particularly when it is based on factors such as race, gender, or other protected characteristics. Businesses need to ensure that their pricing strategies are compliant with relevant regulations and ethical standards.

What is Dynamic Pricing?

Dynamic pricing is a pricing strategy that involves adjusting prices in real-time based on factors such as demand, supply, and competition. This approach is used in various industries, including retail, transportation, and hospitality, and aims to maximize revenue by offering the right price at the right time to different customer segments.

Dynamic pricing differs from price discrimination in that it does not involve charging different prices to different customers for the same product or service. Instead, it involves changing the price of a product or service based on the current market conditions and customer demand.

For example, a ride-hailing company like Uber or Lyft may use dynamic pricing during peak hours to charge customers more when demand is high, and supply is low. Similarly, an online retailer may use dynamic pricing to adjust prices based on the customer’s location, time of day, or browsing history.

 

The Pros of Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic pricing offers several benefits for businesses. These include:

  • Maximizing revenue and profits: By adjusting prices based on market conditions and customer demand, businesses can capture the maximum value from each customer and optimize their revenue streams.
  • Improving inventory management: Dynamic pricing can help businesses manage their inventory levels more effectively by reducing stockouts and overstocking.
  • Increasing customer satisfaction: By offering the right price at the right time, businesses can provide customers with a more personalized shopping experience and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Gaining a competitive advantage: Dynamic pricing can help businesses stay competitive by responding to changes in the market and offering more competitive prices.

 

The Cons of Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic pricing also presents some challenges for businesses. These include:

  • Negative customer experience: If customers perceive that they are being unfairly charged, dynamic pricing can create a negative customer experience. For example, if prices are increased too much during peak hours, customers may feel taken advantage of and become dissatisfied.
  • Difficulty in predicting demand: Dynamic pricing requires businesses to accurately predict customer demand, which can be challenging in certain industries.
  • Complexity in implementing pricing strategies: Implementing dynamic pricing requires businesses to have sophisticated pricing systems and strategies in place, which can be challenging for businesses with limited resources to the right tools like automated pricing software that allow for strategic pricing insights, or internal expertise in pricing strategies.
  • Potential legal and ethical issues: Dynamic pricing may be subject to legal and ethical considerations (depending on the regulations in the jurisdiction of business operations), and/or if businesses use pricing strategies that are discriminatory or violate antitrust laws.

Price Discrimination vs Dynamic Pricing

While price discrimination and dynamic pricing share some similarities, they are fundamentally different pricing strategies. Price discrimination is focused on charging different prices for the same product or service to different customers, while dynamic pricing is focused on adjusting prices based on real-time changes in demand, supply, and other factors.

The key difference between these two strategies is the timing of the price adjustment.

Price discrimination is typically based on historical data and is used to charge different prices to different customer segments, while dynamic pricing is based on real-time data and is used to adjust prices based on changes in demand and supply.

Which Pricing Strategy is Best? – Price Discrimination or Dynamic Pricing?

The choice between price discrimination and dynamic pricing depends on a variety of factors, including the industry, the product or service being sold, and the target customer segments. In some cases, price discrimination may be the most effective pricing strategy, while in other cases, dynamic pricing may be more appropriate.

For instance, price discrimination may be effective in industries where customers have diverse levels of price sensitivity, such as airlines or hotels.

 

On the other hand, dynamic pricing may be more effective in industries where demand is highly variable and can change rapidly, such as e-commerce or ride-hailing.

In the manufacturing, distribution, chemical and other industries, the choice between price discrimination and dynamic pricing will also depend on similar factors such as product differentiation, market competition, and customer segments.

For example, in the manufacturing industry, where product differentiation may not be significant, and demand can be relatively stable, dynamic pricing may not be as effective. On the other hand, in the chemical industry, where the product may have different grades and specifications, price discrimination could be more effective. Similarly, in the distribution industry, where customers may have different purchasing patterns and price sensitivities, price discrimination may be a better strategy.

The best pricing strategy for your business will depend on its unique circumstances and the prevailing market conditions.

 

I Now Know the Difference Between Price Discrimination & Dynamic Pricing – What’s Next?

Great, now you know the difference between price discrimination and dynamic pricing and how to assess which might be the best pricing model for your business. The next step is to implement the most appropriate pricing strategy for your business.

One way to achieve this is by leveraging pricing software solutions, which can automate and streamline the pricing process, saving you time and money in the long run, not to mention being able to adapt and switch pricing strategies on the fly if or when your circumstances or market conditions change.

Pricing software solutions can help you to analyze your data and make more informed pricing decisions. They can also assist in optimizing your pricing strategy and even provide real-time dynamic pricing capabilities. With the help of a pricing software expert, you can evaluate the available solutions and determine which one will best meet the specific needs of your business.

By implementing the right pricing strategy with the help of pricing software, you can stay competitive in a constantly evolving market, increase revenue, and improve customer satisfaction.

Contact one of the Pricefx pricing software experts today to learn more about how you can get started on your pricing software implementation journey.

Happy Pricing!

John Gilbo

Account Executive , Pricefx

John Gilbo is an enterprise account executive at Pricefx, where he puts into practice his deep experience in pricing strategy, client account management, software procurement & implementation and financial analysis. He formerly led pricing strategy at Kirkland’s, Academy Sports + Outdoors, and Safeway, where he was hands on with AI-based analytical tools, retail strategy and change management. John is also an avid marathon runner and triathlete.