How to Price Products to Account for Inflation
July 11, 2022 | Last Updated on: July 27, 2022
July 11, 2022 | Last Updated on: July 27, 2022
In this article, youâ€™ll learn all about pricing products to account for inflation, including:
In April 2021, the consumer price index (CPI) â€“ perhaps the most popular measure of the inflation rate â€“ increased by 4.2% year-over-year (yoy), marking the highest increase since 2008.
The rate of inflation continued climbing into the summer of 2021, but Federal Reserve officials believed high inflation would be short-lived. There was good reason for this belief, as pent-up demand, supply chain lags, and the previous yearâ€™s weak levels were pushing the inflation rate higherâ€¦ but things were expected to normalize in 2022.
It didnâ€™t turn out like that.
The inflation rate has continued moving higher and higher between April 2021 and May 2022; the CPI increased 8.6% year-over-year (yoy) in May 2022, the biggest jump since December 1981.
The Federal Reserve is aggressively raising interest rates to fight inflation, but itâ€™s unclear when the inflation rate is going to head back towards Fed policymakersâ€™ 2% inflation target.
So, as a small business owner, you have to price your products to account for inflation.
Your expenses have a big impact on those decisions.
In a low-inflation environment, you may be able to get away with pricing your products based on your previous yearâ€™s expenses. This strategy wouldnâ€™t be ideal, but if price inflation is between 1-3% yoy, you may not face any serious issues.
The above strategy is not a viable option in 2022, however. The headline inflation rate is approaching 10%, which is already very high â€“ and thatâ€™s the weighted average. For some small business owners, overall expenses have increased by 15-20% vs. a year ago.
In any case, you have to do expense projections for the next year. You should consider the following:
You have to not only consider the percentage increases, but also the dollar increases. Letâ€™s look at an example:
In this example, your expenses increase by 12% overall, even though all of your expenses besides labor increase by 10% or less, as the 60% weighting of labor heavily impacts your small business.
Itâ€™s a good idea to consider projected expenses by product, as well. For example, the raw materials for one product may increase by 10% and the raw materials for another may increase by 20%. Or you may need specialists to create certain productsâ€¦ and that specialist labor may increase by more or less than your overall labor costs.
If this all sounds a little too complicated or time-consuming, you might want to get help from a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to reach accurate expense projections â€“ they can help your small business beyond tax season.
So, you determined your expenses are going to increase a lot over the previous year. You could just say to your customers, â€śHey, prices are increasing by 10% across the board. Have a nice day.â€ť This could work out for your small business, but thereâ€™s a decent chance a lot of customers are going to be dissatisfied and consider other options.
Ideally, you would increase the value provided by your product at the same time as prices rise.
You may be thinking: it costs money to add value, and prices are going to be increased to simply maintain margins.
Thatâ€™s valid feedback, but itâ€™s possible to add value for a low price and increase prices by a little more to account for the rising costs. The key is figuring out what is valued by your customers.
For example, you sell a product for $50 that cost $30 to produce last year. You expect the product to cost $33 over the next year if you keep it the same, and you want to maintain your 40% margins. You identify an improvement that would cost $3 more for each unit sold, and research indicates your customers would happily pay $60 for each unit after making the improvement. The $60 product would cost $36 a piece, and you would maintain your 40% margins.
The improvement combined with the potential messaging is much better in the above situation. You could say, â€śWe are raising prices to offer you a better product,â€ť and your customers are unlikely to know or care that they are paying $10 more for something that cost $3 for your small business.
You may or may not be able to pull this off â€“ it depends on your small business. But itâ€™s worth considering, as it has a good chance of success when done right.
While maximizing value and communicating that value is an excellent strategy for raising prices, itâ€™s not applicable in every situation. Here are some questions to ask that can guide the pricing of any product for any small business owner:
Can your customers afford higher prices?
Are your customers living paycheck-to-paycheck, possibly unable to afford your product if you increase prices at all? Or do they have the ability to pay higher prices?
You donâ€™t want to sacrifice margins, but you may not have a choice if your customers are very price-sensitive. In this case, the better of the two bad options could be to maintain the same prices.
Itâ€™s important to not only consider the price of your product, but also the price paid by your customers. For many small business owners, these two numbers are very similar. But if a large number of your customers finance their purchases â€“ perhaps with a term loan â€“ they could already be paying higher prices due to rising interest rates.
Do you have a diverse customer base?
You may have certain products that appeal to value-oriented consumersâ€¦ and others that attract people with a lot of discretionary income. With this in mind, your pricing decisions may need to be different for each product. You might get a lot of pushback if you raise prices on your value items by a small amount, but itâ€™s possible you wonâ€™t notice any dip in sales if you push prices on your luxury items a lot higher.
Itâ€™s important to know your customers, as you donâ€™t want to be forced to revert back to old prices.
What are your competitors doing?
You could have an amazing product that enriches the lives of your customers, but if you have competitors that offer a similar product at a slightly lower price, your small business may see declining sales.
So, itâ€™s important to look at the pricing actions of your competitors. Are they raising prices? How much are they raising prices? Are they improving their product to justify higher prices?
The answers to the above questions should heavily impact your pricing strategy.
As touched on earlier, thereâ€™s a right and a wrong way to increase the prices of your products. You donâ€™t want to increase prices â€“ effective immediately â€“ with no improved value proposition and no explanation.
Hereâ€™s how to execute price changes in an inflationary environment:
Give Advanced Notice
Itâ€™s not possible to give advanced notice in every situation, but in many cases, small business owners know they are raising prices ahead of time. Letâ€™s say you plan to raise prices in three months. If you inform customers right away, they have time to process and adapt to the new pricing and may have a better reaction.
Contact Customers Directly
As with advanced notice, you may or may not be able to directly contact customers ahead of a change in prices. But if you sell big-ticket products and have a small customer base, you may want to consider this option. A phone call or an email is an opportunity to let a customer know that they matter to your business and directly address any questions or concerns.
Again, you donâ€™t want to inform customers of higher prices with no explanation. Itâ€™s better to tell them why prices are moving higher and be completely honest. In our inflationary environment, thereâ€™s a high chance that you are raising prices because of your costs. Your customers likely know a lot about inflation, and if you tell them whatâ€™s happening, they are more likely to understand and stay with your small business.
Be Careful with Promises
As weâ€™ve seen, economists donâ€™t know exactly when the inflation rate is going to come back to healthy levels. With that in mind, you shouldnâ€™t promise customers that price increases are going to be a one-time thing, as itâ€™s possible the inflation rate is going to remain elevated in 2023 â€“ potentially forcing you to increase prices again.
As a small business owner, itâ€™s important to control what you can control. The inflation rate is currently very high by historical standards, and thereâ€™s no way of knowing when itâ€™s going to return to healthy levels, but there are actions you can take to mitigate the effects on your small business.
The right actions vary depending on your small business, but by asking yourself a few questions, you can figure out the best way forward.
In our inflationary times, itâ€™s essential to secure the right type of financing without a long wait. With Biz2Credit, this is possibleâ€¦ and you donâ€™t have to take our word for it. Tejas Gandhi needed funding to acquire a pharmacy and went to Biz2Credit. He said, â€śThe process to apply and get approved for the funding was simple, and thatâ€™s because Biz2Credit made it that way. They asked for the necessary application documents, and after that we were approved for the financing very quickly.â€ť
Learn how Biz2Credit connects you to straightforward funding made for your business.