Empathy in pricing

I don’t know much about pricing products as a developer. While I’m a programmer, I don’t have apps of my own yet. So take this with a grain of salt, go ahead and flame me, etc. These are just my feelings.

But nevertheless, I wanted to share how I feel about pricing as a user of software.

I’m going to start with something bold, then work my way back to it: Never let me perceive your product’s pricing is unstable and currently at a high.

Introductory pricing

Catching introductory pricing is always interesting. I fight a feeling that your product is not worth its full price yet, whether due to bugs or missing features.

I need to make a decision: Is your product’s value enough to justify its current price? Are you really going to make it more valuable to match its price later? Do I want the current features at the current price, or trust that you’ll make it worth its final price later?

Missing introductory pricing doesn’t necessarily raise my hackles. I am annoyed, however, if I was considering your product and you arbitrarily ended the offer without any notice.

Overall, I think introductory pricing is reasonable. Give me a little warning before you end it, though!


  • Tell me when (or why) the offer ends.
  • Tell me what the new price will be.
  • After the increase, eliminate any trace of the old price and update your site to make the product freshly exciting.
  • Sticking with your price is better.


Sales can feel arbitrary, or they can feel generous and deliberate.

It’s perfectly fine to have sales that coincide with a time period that’s knowable but you don’t define. This limits my feeling of arbitrariness on your pricing.

For instance, a Black Friday, Boxing Day or WWDC week sale? I’ll shrug it off when I discover your product a week later as something I missed. Oops.

Likewise, a sale before a new version? Go ahead.

On the other hand, arbitrarily sales give me a feeling of instability. A 50% price drop for the month of March? I’m going to be annoyed when I discover your product in April.

But better yet: Don’t do sales. Putting on my developer hat for a moment, is what you made worth it or not? If it is, it is.


  • Stick to time periods with meaning.
  • Don’t teach me that sales could happen at any time.
  • Sticking with your price is better.


This doesn’t apply if you’re doing App Store sales, but if you’re doing direct sales you need to be more careful with discounts than some of you are being.

Make sure a discount makes sense to me. If you offer a lower price to someone who purchased something in the past, that’s totally reasonable. If you offer a lower price to everyone who does something and I can still do it, that’s reasonable too. If you offer a lower price to someone for completely arbitrary reasons and I can’t qualify, it’s going to annoy me.

There’s a few exceptions to this. Go ahead and offer discounts to students and teachers, for instance. “We all know” that students are poor, even though most of them probably have more discretionary income than I do. And a good teacher deserves to go through life while being fanned by their admirers. Go ahead and offer to discuss discounts for other groups. Just don’t show me what the discount is and that I don’t qualify for it.


  • Go ahead and offer bundles or discount cross grades.
  • It’s better to tell me discounts may apply in special circumstances than to show me them.
  • Education is an exception. Go ahead, I won’t feel slighted.
  • Sticking with your price is better.

Price increases

Is your product already under-priced? Go ahead and announce you’re increasing the price at a specific time or event. Then stick to it.

If I’m interested in your product at its old price, I will probably nod and agree with you that you were or are undercharging. And if I catch the price before it goes up, so much the better.


  • Tell me what your new price is.
  • Optionally, give me a reason you’re increasing it. (I mean features; I don’t need to know the details of your business or life.)
  • Follow through with your plan.


What do I think you should do?

  • Set a fair price. Stick with it.
  • If your product is released at an introductory price, say when it’s ending and what the new price will be.
  • If your product is under-priced, go ahead and announce and raise the price.
  • Don’t have arbitrary sales or offer discounts, especially those that hint that your product is unfairly priced the rest of the time.
  • Most importantly, do not make me perceive your product’s pricing as unstable and currently at a high.

A price of $15 is more likely to make me a happy buyer than a price of $10 I think will be $5 next month, or was $5 last month.

Maybe the numbers make enough sense that you want to do it anyway. That’s fine, I’m only expressing how I feel about it.