Sympathetic Pricing Gives Your Customers the Feels

When was the last time you saw a brand Sale Sign in Shop Windowdo something financially altruistic for consumers and as a result thought that they were a company that truly cared for their customers? If you have witnessed anything halfway resembling this, the truth is that company was probably using a technique called sympathetic pricing. According to a recent report by, sympathetic pricing can be defined as:

“Flexible and imaginative discounts that help ease lifestyle pain points, lend a helping hand in difficult times, or support a shared value.”

The Bottom Line

Consumers have wised up to brands’ claims that they care about customers. They are tired of empty words and now want companies to put their money where their mouth is and display real change. Sympathetic pricing may seem like the fix-all solution, but it’s complex and actually has three different executions to it. Let’s take a look at the three categories in the report and the companies that have done them well:

Painkiller Pricing
London Tube TravelersWhen consumers are faced with a situation that seems like it could have no positive outcome, companies can offer something to ease their pain. Cue painkiller pricing. In April 2014, the city of London was faced with a 48-hour Tube strike that left city dwellers and tourists without a much-needed and cost-efficient form of transportation. Uber, a mobile cab app used the strike as an opportunity to step in and offer a discounted rate for passengers in London who agreed to split their fare with another passenger.  The act generated goodwill for the company, positive media coverage and greater awareness for the service.

Compassionate Pricing
Pressfolios, a company that helps journalists back up their articles and build online portfolios, demonstrated compassionate pricing in April 2014 when New Jersey’s largest newspaper, the Star-Ledger, had a large round of layoffs. They decided to make Pressfolios Pro subscriptions available to all those affected for free. Pressfolios also extended the same goodwill after they received word that a round of layoffs had taken place at Time Inc. I am not a journalist, but after hearing about this I have a soft spot in my heart for Pressfolios. I can only imagine how it felt for the journalists who lost their jobs.

Purposeful Pricing
Purposeful pricing benefits those who share values or beliefs. In March of 2014, dangerously high levels of pollution camped out over Paris. The transportation chiefs decided to make the city’s public transportation free for the weekend in hopes that the hazardous air would improve with fewer personal vehicles on the roads. In this example purposeful pricing worked and the heavy pollution levels decreased after Parisians had a greater incentive to use public transportation instead of their cars.

Extending Goodwill

What’s the moral of the story? Be nice to people, especially when they’re in a bind. Proactively seek out ways to help customers. As the report recommends, be mindful of upcoming events where consumers may need a company’s help. Use existing data to forecast how to offer personalized discounts to customers. Look inwardly and act as a trendsetter by treating staff as good as, if not better than, customers are treated.

It seems pretty simple but doing good for consumers makes companies seem more human and, in the long run, can function as a revenue strategy. Although it may appear like these acts will negatively impact the bottom line, we’d argue that you would make up for it by winning new customers while strengthening the bond with existing customers in the process. The next time your customers are in a bind, consider helping them. Extending compassion when people need it the most is notable and a tactic that we think should be encouraged.


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