Pricing strategy considerations for SaaS businesses

With the changing economic landscape, companies offering Software as a Service (SaaS) are finding themselves at a crossroads, needing to adapt their pricing strategy to remain competitive in the market while appealing to their increasingly discerning customer base. This article explores some of the challenges SaaS companies face and offers insights into how to navigate these changes to use pricing as a strategic business lever.

What is SaaS?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a cloud-based service model where software applications are delivered over the internet, allowing users to access and use software from any device with an internet connection and a web browser. In this model, the software provider hosts and maintains the servers, databases, and the code that constitutes the application which can lower the total cost of ownership for customers.

From a pricing strategy perspective, SaaS companies most commonly use a subscription-based pricing model where customers pay a recurring fee to access the service. This model can significantly reduce the upfront costs associated with purchasing, installing, and maintaining software on individual computers; gives users access to automatic updates; and can easily accommodate ‘freemium” try-it-before-you-buy-it pricing strategies.

6 strategic pricing challenges SaaS companies face

SaaS businesses face several unique challenges when developing their pricing strategy. These challenges stem from the nature of the service delivery model, customer expectations, and the rapidly evolving competitive landscape. Understanding and addressing these challenges are crucial for sustaining growth, customer satisfaction, and profitability. Here are some of the key pricing strategy challenges unique to SaaS businesses:

1. Pricing Model Selection

The pricing model forms the core of the pricing strategy. Choosing the right pricing model (e.g., flat-rate, usage-based, tiered, freemium) that aligns with customer usage patterns, expectations, and the value derived from the service can be complex. Each model has its own set of challenges in terms of customer acquisition, retention, and lifetime value optimization.
See 5 things to consider when designing your pricing.

2. Subscription Fatigue

With the proliferation of subscription-based services, consumers and businesses alike are becoming more discerning about where they allocate their monthly or annual subscription budgets. SaaS companies must navigate this “subscription fatigue” by ensuring their offerings are closely tied to user needs and strategically priced in a way that aligns with the value they deliver.

3. Demonstrating Ongoing Value

SaaS companies must continually demonstrate the value their software provides to justify the subscription cost, especially in markets with free alternatives or significantly cheaper competitors. A pricing strategy must dovetail closely with the product strategy and outline a clear pathway for delivering ongoing value to customers.

4. Customization and Scalability

SaaS products often cater to a wide range of customers, from small businesses to large enterprises, each with its own set of requirements and willingness to pay. Developing a pricing strategy that is both scalable and customizable, yet simple and transparent, requires a delicate balance.
Learn about 10 common pricing strategy mistakes here.

5. Churn and Customer Retention

High churn rates can significantly impact SaaS revenue and growth. Pricing strategies need to be designed not only to attract new customers but also to retain existing ones, such as offering incentives for loyalty and working with the product team to make “sticky features” that reduces the likelihood of switching to competitors.

6. Global Market Considerations

SaaS companies often serve a global customer base, requiring them to consider regional purchasing power, currency fluctuations, and local competitive pricing, which can complicate pricing strategies and potentially affect margins. A pricing strategy should consider both the local and global context.

Navigating these challenges requires a deep understanding of both the market and the unique value proposition of the SaaS offering. Successful SaaS companies employ a mix of data-driven decision-making, customer feedback, and competitive analysis to refine their pricing strategies over time, ensuring alignment with customer expectations and business objectives. Learn more about how businesses can navigate today’s economic landscape here.

Trends in SaaS pricing to shape your pricing strategy

Trend 1: Customer-Centric Pricing Models

Traditional flat-rate subscription models are gradually making way for more dynamic, usage-based, or value-based pricing strategies. This transition reflects a deeper understanding of customer needs and a desire to align price with the perceived value of the service provided.

For example, Zapier recently moved to a “pay-per-task” model. Like a traditional subscription, users can choose from 5 different tiers to unlock a range of features; higher use unlocks access to more complex plans. The cost of each tier then varies based on the anticipated number of tasks. This move reflects a bold pricing strategy that relies on a more flexible and transparent pricing model and, according to Zapier, is a direct response to customer feedback.

Screenshot of 5 tiers of pricing used on Zapier's pricing page.

Trend 2: Value-Based Pricing

Value-based pricing is particularly intriguing to consider as part of an overall pricing strategy as it places the emphasis on the outcomes or value delivered to the customer, rather than the cost of the service itself. This approach requires a deep understanding of what drives value for your target audience and how they perceive the worth of your features. Companies like OpenAI and Drift have implemented value-based pricing, tailoring their offerings to meet diverse customer needs while ensuring that prices reflect the value delivered.

For example, Open AI offers four different packages, two for individuals and two for businesses. These tiered packages provide increasing access to value-added functionality. The highly-accessible free tier is getting people hooked on using ChatGPT for every-day tasks at home and at work–building visibility and reliance in a previously nascent market. Meanwhile, more advanced tools like DALL.E image generation and Advanced Data Analysis are boosting value for more advanced users while garnering a higher price point.

Screenshot of the 4 pricing tiers on the ChatGPT pricing page

Trend 3: Usage-Based Pricing

Usage-based pricing models offer another avenue for SaaS companies to align their offerings more closely with customer usage patterns and preferences. This model, exemplified by companies like Stripe and Mailchimp, charges customers based on their actual usage and fosters a sense of fairness and transparency. Including a usage-based model in your pricing strategy works particularly well where increased use/volume provides a tangible benefit to the user. For example with Stripe, an increase in volume of card charges is likely to be directly correlated to an increase in sales volume.

Screenshot of the pricing model displayed on Stripe's pricing page.

A word of warning if incorporating usage-based model into your overall pricing strategy: it’s crucial to consider the potential impact on customer behavior. Usage-based pricing might actually discourage use in some contexts, particularly where an increase in usage is more intangible and price-sensitive users may be inadvertently incentivised to “reduce use and save”.

How to know when it’s time for a new SaaS pricing strategy

Your current pricing could be working harder if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Low conversion rate – difficulty converting free or trial users to paid customers
  • Poor customer sentiment – direct feedback from customers about pricing being too high or not aligned with the value provided
  • Pushback during the sales process – regular price objections
  • Lack of upselling – customers aren’t doing more with you over time
  • Customers congregate in one package – you aren’t attracting different audiences or appeal to different budgets
  • High churn rate – customers don’t perceive enough value in the product relative to its cost (especially when you see high churn soon after purchase)
  • Slow revenue growth
  • Losing market share
  • Sluggish Profit Margins

SaaS Pricing Strategies: Best Practice

Designing a SaaS pricing strategy to maintaining competitiveness and optimising revenue growth requires regularly reviewing and adjusting pricing based on market trends, customer feedback, and performance metrics. Key performance indicators such as Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV), and churn rate provide valuable insights that can inform strategic pricing decisions.

In addition, consider these best practices to guide your approach when crafting a SaaS pricing strategy:

  • Emphasise the value delivered – Focus on the outcomes your service enables for customers, rather than just the features it offers.
  • Offer pricing tiers – Cater to different customer segments with varied pricing options, allowing customers to choose the plan that best fits their needs.
    See these 8 reasons to give your customers options to choose from at different pricepoints
  • Keep pricing simple and transparent – Avoid overcomplicating your pricing structure, which can confuse and deter potential customers.
  • Listen to customer feedback – Use customer insights to continuously refine your pricing model, ensuring it aligns with market expectations and customer perceptions of value.
    See these 6 ways customers can help you with pricing.
  • Regularly test and optimize – Conduct A/B testing on your pricing pages and strategies to see what converts best, which tiers are most popular, which features are being used and how are different audiences are engaging with your product and pricing model.
    Learn more about Price Testing

Looking Ahead: The Future of SaaS Pricing

As SaaS companies continue to navigate the complexities of the market, we can expect to see further innovations in SaaS pricing strategies. The focus will likely remain on creating value for customers and aligning pricing models with that value. Companies that can remain flexible, responsive to customer feedback, and willing to experiment with new pricing models will be well-positioned for success in the competitive SaaS landscape.

Need help with your pricing strategy? Let’s work together!

For those looking to dive deeper into SaaS pricing strategies, working with pricing consultants like Untapped Pricing can offer a wealth of information, tools, and guidance to optimize your pricing strategies and drive sustainable growth.

If you’re looking to get some expert advice on your approach to pricing or are looking to redesign your pricing strategy, make sure to get in touch with us! Take a look at our services or send an email to: hello@untappedpricing.co.uk. We can’t wait to hear more about your business and help you unlock new growth.