Skimming vs. Penetration Pricing: Differences, Definitions & Examples

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on October 26, 2023
In the complex realm of pricing, businesses constantly seek the best strategy to optimize their profit margins and market share. Among the myriad of tactics available, skimming pricing and penetration pricing stand out, each with its distinct advantages, disadvantages, and use cases. Let's delve deeper into the intricate nuances of these two pricing strategies.

What is Penetration Pricing?

Penetration pricing is a tactical approach that hinges on setting a low initial price to swiftly attract customers and capitalize on market demand. By appealing to price-sensitive segments of the target market, a business can quickly gain a significant market share. With lower price, the brand not only maximizes sales volume but also creates a foothold in competitive markets. This strategy capitalizes on price elasticity, where a minor drop in price can lead to a considerable increase in demand. Over time, as customer loyalty strengthens, a company can incrementally raise prices. The objective behind penetration pricing is not just to enhance market penetration but also to deter competitors from entering the space. However, businesses must conduct thorough market research to ensure the price doesn't detrimentally affect their profit margin.

What is Skimming Pricing?

Skimming pricing, also known as price skimming, revolves around an initial high price set for an innovative product or service. This high price attracts a specific cohort: early adopters, who discern a high customer value in the novel offering and are thus willing to shell out more. Such a price skimming strategy is often employed when the product has unique features or when there's minimal competition. By maximizing profits through higher prices, companies can recoup R&D costs. But, as customer demand broadens and the market matures, the product's price is lowered to cater to a more expansive audience. With the passage of time and as market skimming pricing sees more competitors emerge, lowering prices becomes inevitable. Businesses adopting this strategy should be wary of price elasticity, as fewer sales at high prices might lead to thinner profit margins, depending on production costs. Monitoring customer demand through market research is pivotal to ascertain when a price drop would be most advantageous.

Differences between Skimming and Penetration Pricing

In the vast arena of pricing strategies, skimming and penetration pricing play pivotal roles in shaping a brand's market presence and profitability. These strategies are influenced by market research, customer demand, and the ever-evolving dynamics of the target market. Here's a deeper exploration of their differences:

Initial Price Setting: At the heart of the skimming approach lies the strategy of setting a high initial price, often supported by the innovative product's exclusivity or limited competition. On the other hand, penetration pricing strategy hinges on a low initial price, leveraging price elasticity to attract customers quickly.

Target Audience: Skimming, by design, seeks to allure early adopters or a niche segment willing to pay a premium for novelty or unique features. Penetration pricing, in contrast, casts a wider net, targeting the general public with an eye on maximizing sales volume from the outset.

Market Entry Strategy: Skimming strives to capitalize on fewer sales at high prices to maximize profits early on. In contrast, penetration pricing strategies focus on gaining a significant market share swiftly, offering customer value through affordability.

Price Adjustments: The trajectory of price in the skimming model sees a gradual decline as market demand broadens and competition intensifies. With penetration, however, the opposite often occurs. As brand loyalty solidifies and market penetration deepens, companies might raise prices.

Customer Perception & Brand Image: Skimming often conjures perceptions of premium quality and exclusivity, fostering a high-end brand image. Penetration pricing, by virtue of its low prices and broader appeal, is frequently associated with value-driven offerings, solidifying a more accessible brand reputation.

Sales Volume & Duration: Skimming pricing strategy initial phase might witness lower sales volumes due to its high prices, but this can shift as prices drop and the product or service becomes more mainstream. Penetration pricing is rooted in the philosophy of capturing high sales volume from the get-go, banking on the product's price-point to drive market demand. Furthermore, while skimming is often a short-lived strategy until market saturation, penetration pricing is envisioned as a sustained, longer-term approach.

Main Differences in Tabular Form

Understanding the nuances of these pricing strategies allows businesses to tailor their approach based on product positioning, market dynamics, and overarching organizational goals.

Similarities between Skimming and Penetration Pricing

While skimming and penetration pricing strategies might appear to be polar opposites, they intersect in various ways. Central to both is the overarching aim of maximizing profits through an understanding of market research and customer demand. Each strategy is fluid, relying on adaptability. For instance, based on customer response and evolving market conditions, adjustments in the product's price become imperative. They both lean heavily on understanding price elasticity and gauging how consumers value the product or service. Furthermore, both strategies hinge on the premise that the initial pricing isn't set in stone. Depending on market feedback, there's room for modifications—be it an upward tweak in the case of penetration pricing strategy after establishing customer loyalty or a gradual decrease with skimming as competition grows.

Advantages of Penetration Pricing

At its core, penetration pricing is a calculated gambit to conquer a significant share of the market swiftly. One of its standout advantages is its ability to attract customers en masse, especially those who base purchasing decisions largely on price. This not only boosts sales volume but deters competitors from stepping into a market where low prices dominate. Over time, as customer loyalty builds, this strategy offers the flexibility to raise prices, bolstering the profit margin. Moreover, by fostering early brand allegiance, businesses can safeguard themselves against competitive threats. Another understated benefit is the wealth of consumer data amassed during this phase. This invaluable information aids in refining marketing tactics and further tailoring offerings to maximize sales. Lastly, the economies of scale achieved can lead to substantial cost savings in production, adding to the overall profitability.

Disadvantages of Penetration Pricing

However, the journey with penetration pricing isn't devoid of hurdles. Starting with low prices can squeeze profit margins, placing immense pressure on sales volume. If the expected volume isn't achieved, the financial repercussions can be severe. Moreover, there's always the lurking danger of the brand being pigeonholed as low-quality or inexpensive. As market penetration deepens and prices are adjusted upwards, businesses might face backlash from customers accustomed to low prices. Competitors, with a keen eye on market dynamics, might emulate the pricing model, effectively diluting the primary advantage of this strategy. Long-term profitability can sometimes take a backseat, as the focus remains predominantly on immediate market capture.

Advantages of Skimming Pricing

The allure of skimming pricing lies in its promise of hefty profit margins right out of the gate. For groundbreaking products that necessitated considerable R&D investments, skimming pricing strategy aids in recovering these costs promptly. Setting a high initial price reinforces the product's exclusivity and premium stature in the market. This focused approach allows for a targeted marketing strategy, homing in on a segment that perceives higher value in the product or service and is willing to pay the premium. As the product matures and the market landscape evolves, prices can be systematically slashed, attracting a broader audience. This strategy also assures an improved cash flow, a boon for businesses in the early phases of a product launch.

Disadvantages of Skimming Pricing

Despite its merits, skimming pricing comes with its set of challenges. By nature, the high prices cap the initial market share, making it vulnerable to price sensitive customers offering similar products at a more palatable price point. The success of skimming is inextricably linked to maintaining a strong brand image. That is why it is necessary to understand the potential risk with price sensitive customers. Any erosion in this can diminish the effectiveness of the strategy. It's predominantly a short-term play; as competitors jump into the fray, the room to maneuver diminishes. Another potential pitfall is the sentiment of early adopters. As prices are reduced over time, these initial customers might feel shortchanged. For skimming to truly shine, an in-depth understanding of both the target market and the prevailing market trends is non-negotiable.

When to Use Price Skimming

Skimming pricing strategy finds its true essence in markets that are ripe for innovation. When a product boasts features, functionalities, or advantages that have minimal to no competition, skimming becomes a potent tool. Especially when these products are anticipated by a niche audience who value novelty and are ready to pay a premium, the high initial price becomes justifiable. Consider products that are the culmination of intensive R&D endeavors or involve high production investments—price skimming ensures a swift return on these expenditures. Another critical aspect to factor in is the product lifecycle. If a product's novelty is fleeting or if there's a looming threat of competitors replicating the innovation, skimming can maximize profits before the market becomes crowded. By leveraging the customer demand and the limited availability, businesses can extract maximum value in the early stages.

When to Use Penetration Pricing

In the battlefields of highly competitive markets, where multiple players vie for consumer attention, penetration pricing strategy is the spearhead strategy. When the core strategy revolves around quickly gaining share of market and establishing a strong foothold, this pricing method stands out. Products that are crafted with mass-market appeal, where the focus is more on volume rather than margin, benefit immensely. Moreover, when economies of scale play a significant role—meaning that production costs per unit decrease with increasing production—the low initial price can be offset by the sheer sales volume. Furthermore, businesses with a vision for long-term market dominance might opt for penetration pricing, as it lays the foundation for customer loyalty, eventually allowing some wiggle room to adjust prices upwards without alienating the customer base.

Examples of Skimming Strategy

Apple's iPhone journey offers a masterclass in the skimming strategy. When the iPhone first burst onto the scene, it was nothing short of revolutionary. With its touch interface and a suite of features previously unseen in the mobile domain, it quickly became a must-have for tech aficionados. Apple astutely priced it at a premium, understanding the value proposition it offered. This high price not only helped them achieve stellar profit margins but also positioned the iPhone as a premium, aspirational product or service. However, as the mobile landscape evolved and competitors began introducing comparable smartphones, Apple judiciously adjusted the prices of its older models, ensuring they remained attractive to a larger, more price-sensitive audience.

Examples of Penetration Strategy

Netflix's ascent in the streaming world offers insights into effective penetration pricing strategy. In its nascent stage, Netflix was a disruptor, challenging traditional cable TV with a vast library of content accessible at a fraction of the cost. Their low-price strategy was designed to attract customers in droves, and it worked. As their user base swelled, so did their content offerings, cementing their position in the market. Recognizing their enhanced value proposition, Netflix incrementally raised its subscription prices, banking on the brand loyalty they'd cultivated over the years.


The intricacies of pricing aren't just about numbers—it's an art that intertwines with the science of market research, customer demand, and business objectives. Skimming or penetration, each has its unique strengths and ideal scenarios. What's paramount is a deep understanding of the product's value proposition, the market dynamics, and the long-term vision for the brand. If you find yourself at a crossroads, unsure of which path to tread, our seasoned experts at Priceva are equipped to guide you, ensuring your pricing strategy is not just apt, but transformative.


How do skimming and penetration pricing differ?

Skimming starts with high prices targeting early adopters, then reduces over time. Penetration pricing begins low, targeting a broader audience, and may increase as market share grows.

Can you provide a skimming pricing example?

Apple’s iPhone, when initially launched, adopted a skimming strategy, setting high prices for early tech enthusiasts.

Do skimming and penetration pricing contradict each other?

Yes, they're contrasting strategies. Skimming focuses on high initial prices, while penetration aims for low introductory prices to capture share of market.

Why might a company choose penetration pricing over skimming?

A primary advantage is the rapid market capture due to affordable prices, which can deter competitors and build early brand loyalty.

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