Inelastic vs Elastic Demand: Main Differences & Examples

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on September 18, 2023
Understanding the elasticity of demand and inelastic demand is vital for businesses looking to optimize their pricing strategies. With the fluctuating nature of consumer behavior, it's essential to grasp how price changes affect demand. This comprehensive article aims to explore key aspects, formulas, and examples that encompass these critical economic concepts.

Definition of Price Elasticity of Demand

Elasticity of demand is a critical measure in economics, indicating how the quantity demanded of a good or service responds to a change in its price. Essentially, it quantifies the impact of price shifts on consumer demand. This measure helps businesses adjust their pricing strategies effectively, enabling them to respond to market conditions in real-time and maximize profitability.

Understanding the elasticity of demand is not just theoretical; it has practical applications in various industries, from retail to energy sectors. Companies that can accurately gauge demand elasticity can adjust their production schedules, marketing efforts, and pricing models to better align with consumer behavior, thereby optimizing both revenue and customer satisfaction.

Elasticity of Demand Formula

The formula for calculating the elasticity of demand is straightforward: it's the percentage change in quantity demanded divided by the percentage change in price. This calculation provides a numerical value that reveals how sensitive or insensitive demand is to changes in price.

The higher the elasticity, the more responsive consumers are to price changes, and vice versa. This information is invaluable for businesses, as it informs critical decisions about pricing strategies. For instance, products with higher elasticity may require careful pricing adjustments, especially during promotional or seasonal changes, to avoid significant revenue losses.

Four Main Types of Price Elasticity of Demand

There are four main types of elasticity that economists consider: price elasticity, income elasticity, cross elasticity, and advertisement elasticity. Each type focuses on different influencing factors such as price, income, the substitute availability of goods, and the effectiveness of advertising strategies.

Price elasticity is what most people think of when discussing elasticity—it measures how a change in price affects demand. Income elasticity considers how shifts in consumer income influence demand, while cross elasticity looks at how the demand for one product changes in response to the price change of another product. Advertisement elasticity gauges the impact of advertising spend on demand. Understanding these types helps businesses craft more nuanced and effective pricing and marketing strategies.

Examples of Products with Elastic Demand

Products with elastic demand are those for which consumer demand significantly shifts due to changes in price. Typical examples include luxury cars, dining at high-end restaurants, and first-class airline tickets. When the price for these goods or services increases, the demand often decreases substantially. Conversely, when prices drop, demand generally surges.

This high sensitivity to price changes makes such products a prime target for promotional and seasonal pricing strategies. Businesses must tread carefully, however, as drastic price reductions might lead to diminished perceived value, while sharp price increases could deter potential customers.

Definition of Inelasticity of Demand

Inelastic demand means a scenario where the quantity demanded of a product or service is relatively insensitive to changes in its price. Such cases usually apply to necessities—goods or services that consumers will purchase regardless of price fluctuations. These include items like basic food supplies, water, and medicine.

Because these are considered essential products, even significant price hikes will not deter most consumers from buying them. This makes inelastic type demand particularly relevant for policy-makers and businesses involved in providing basic services or essential goods. While they might have more leeway in setting prices, they also have a societal obligation to keep these goods accessible.

Examples of Products with Inelastic Demand

After we define what inelastic demand means, let's explore its examples.
Common examples of products characterized by this type of demand are prescription medications, basic food items like bread and milk, and utility services such as electricity and water. Despite changes in their prices, these products generally see only minor shifts in demand.

For instance, regardless of the price of insulin, diabetics will still need to purchase it, making it an inelastic product. Similarly, price hikes in utility services may not deter usage substantially since they are considered essential. Businesses in these sectors have different considerations for pricing strategies, as their products are often less subject to the whims of consumer preference and more by necessity.

Key Divergences Between Elastic Demand and Inelastic Demand

Both the demands are different in several key aspects. Firstly, they vary in their sensitivity to price changes. Elastic demand is highly sensitive, with significant fluctuations in demand when prices alter. In contrast, an inelastic one is far less responsive to pricing changes.

Another major difference is the level of consumer necessity. Products with the elasticity of demand are often considered luxury items or services that people can live without, whereas products with inelastic demand are usually necessities that consumers cannot easily forgo.

These factors significantly impact business pricing strategies. For products with elastic demand, businesses must be far more cautious in how they adjust prices as it could substantially affect demand and ultimately, profitability. On the other hand, inelastic products give companies more pricing power, though this comes with increased scrutiny and potential regulatory oversight.

Contrasts Between Elastic and Inelastic Demand

In order to better understand the nuances between price elasticity of demand and its opposite, it's helpful to look at a side-by-side comparison. This can provide quick insights into how they differ in multiple aspects, not just in their sensitivity to price changes.

When considering elastic demand, businesses often engage in promotional or seasonal pricing strategies. These are products for which consumers are likely to shop around, comparing prices before making a purchase. Revenue from these products is sensitive to changes in price, and they often have multiple substitutes. Elastic demand is also often affected by consumer income levels and is susceptible to economic downturns.

On the other hand, products with inelastic demand often have a steady or regulated pricing strategy. These are essential items that consumers need, regardless of the price. There are usually few or no alternative options, making them less sensitive to income levels and more stable during economic downturns. Businesses have more leeway in setting prices for these items but must be wary of the ethical and sometimes regulatory implications of doing so.

Factors that Impact Elasticity of Demand

Understanding the factors that influence elasticity is crucial for businesses aiming to craft effective pricing strategies.

1. Price Changes: The very essence of elasticity revolves around how demand reacts to price fluctuations. For elastic products, even a slight price change can have a significant impact on demand. In contrast, inelastic goods can withstand larger price adjustments without losing customers.

2. Income Levels: The overall wealth and income of a consumer play a role, particularly for luxury or non-essential goods. A change in income levels often leads to adjustments in consumption patterns for elastic goods.

3. Substitute Availability: The availability of alternative products affects the elasticity of demand. When multiple substitutes are available, demand tends to be more elastic because consumers can easily switch to another product.

4. Consumer Preferences: Brand loyalty or emotional attachment can make a product's demand more inelastic. When consumers are committed to a particular brand, they are less likely to switch, even if prices increase.

5. Market Competition: A competitive market often leads to more elastic demand as consumers have more options to consider, thus increasing sensitivity to changing of price. On the other hand, monopoly or less competitive markets often result in more inelastic demand.

How it Impacts on Pricing and Profit?

The concepts of elasticity and inelasticity of demand have direct implications on a company's pricing strategies and its bottom line.

For products with inelastic demand, businesses have the leeway to increase prices without seeing a substantial loss in sales volume. This is often seen in the pharmaceutical industry, where essential medications are both price inelastic and indispensable.

Conversely, if a product has elastic demand, companies need to be very strategic about pricing. Small price increases can lead to substantial drops in quantity, which could result in loss of market share or revenue. Hence, businesses dealing with such products often opt for promotional or seasonal pricing to lure customers.


Understanding the nuances of elasticity and inelasticity of demand is more than an academic exercise; it's a business imperative. It forms the backbone of effective pricing, which ultimately impacts profitability. Whether you're dealing with elastic or inelastic goods, getting the pricing right is key. If this sounds daunting, you don’t have to go it alone. Priceva’s team of pricing strategy experts are here to guide you every step of the way. Reach out today and let's take your business to the next level.


What's the distinction between elastic and inelastic demand?

Elastic demand is highly responsive to price fluctuations. Even small changes in price can significantly affect the quantity demanded. On the other hand, inelastic demand is largely unresponsive to changes of price, and consumers will generally continue to purchase these goods or services regardless of price adjustments.

Is the number '1' indicative of elastic or inelastic demand?

A value of 1 is a unique case known as unitary elasticity. In this scenario, the percentage change in quantity is exactly equal to the percentage change in price. This means that revenue remains constant despite changes, and neither elastic nor inelastic classifications apply.

Can you name five inelastic goods?

Certainly. Examples of inelastic goods are water, electricity, prescription medications, bread, and salt. These are essential goods that people continue to purchase regardless of price fluctuations, often because there are few or no substitutes.

Could you provide an example of inelastic demand?

The demand for insulin serves as a stark example of inelastic demand. People who are insulin-dependent will generally buy it regardless of its cost. Even significant price increases are unlikely to deter consumption because the product is life-sustaining, and there are no substitutes.

By understanding the mechanics of elastic and inelastic demand, businesses can tailor their pricing strategies more effectively. And if you're looking to get into the nitty-gritty of demand elasticity for your specific products, Priceva’s team of experts can provide valuable insights.

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