Elasticity is an economic term that assesses the change in demand of a good or service relative to changes in other factors, such as price, consumer income, or supply. Goods and services are said to be elastic when they are more sensitive to changes in other factors. Examples of elastic products and/or services would be new home construction, extended vacations abroad, and (sadly) savings accounts. Inelastic goods and services have very little change in demand when other factors, such as price, are changing. Examples are gasoline, utilities (natural gas, electricity, water) or an ambulance ride (no one dials 911 for an ambulance, but then shops around for the best price…)
When considering what your business provides, whether it be products or services (or both), what types of elasticity affect the demand for your offerings?
The most common type of elasticity is price. How does a change in the price of your product or service affect demand?
Another type is supply. How does a change in supply affect demand for your product or service?
Another type is customer income. How does change to your customers’ income affect demand for your product or service?
One factor that contributes to elasticity of your product or service is the availability of a substitute product or service. Who are your competitors? What makes you different from them? Are they local? Do they operate online? Etc.
A business that had exclusive distribution rights on a high quality brand name product felt that its business was immune from price elasticity. While not over-charging, they did become complacent in their marketplace because they believed that their competition provided inferior products. When competition arrived in their marketplace which their customers felt was better value (price vs quality), the business suffered. At this point, they were forced to react to their market’s pressures. Reactive is never as good in business as proactive.
(How many specific examples can you think of that are aptly described by this generic story?)
If you have experience recent changes in the demand for your product or service, one of the many factors to consider is elasticity (customer service and product/service quality are the foremost factors to understand in this realm.) However, this will be very difficult to quantify without sufficient business record keeping and information.
Plan for Prosperity
There are many factors that affect your marketplace and your position in it. This becomes even more complicated in the current age of technology. How are you planning to stay relevant? Or better yet, how are you planning to innovate, to lead the market and not just keep up with it?
Understanding the elasticity of your product or service is an important piece of knowledge that accentuates your ability to position your business in your marketplace. It will give you more power to prepare for how those multiple factors (such as price, supply, and customer income) will affect your business.
Elasticity is not a perfect function, nor is it the only measurement you should employ. There are anomalies: I think it is sad, and a little dangerous, that new electronic devices (like smart phones) and consumer debt appear to be inelastic, yet should be highly elastic.