A quantity discount, or volume discount, is a strategy retailers use to encourage customers to purchase larger amounts of goods (and, less often, services). The idea is to foster customer loyalty by rewarding bulk purchases with a lower price. This discount offers a reduced price per unit when a buyer purchases many items.

It’s an approach that benefits both buyers and sellers: buyers can save money on bulk purchases, and sellers can increase sales volumes, move inventory more efficiently, and improve cash flows.

Key Takeaways

  • Quantity discounts are a pricing strategy that encourages buyers (both customers & businesses) to purchase larger quantities of goods. Services can also benefit from such discounts, although they are less common.
  • The lower price per unit for bulk purchases incentivizes the purchase of more merchandise.
  • The key idea is simple: the more customers buy, the less they pay for each unit of the product or service.
  • “Volume” and “quantity” are the same concept. The terms are used interchangeably in retail for this discount.
  • Common discount types include cumulative discounts (based on total volume purchased over a set period), non-cumulative discounts (applied to individual orders), and tiered discounts (more savings at every tier of purchase volume).
  • These discounts contrast with linear pricing, where the price per unit remains constant, regardless of the quantity purchased.

Volume Discount Definition


Note: The key to a quantity discount is in the name. It is a discount based on the “quantity” or “volume” of items that a customer buys.

The central principle behind this discounting technique is simple – the more customers buy, the less they pay for each unit of the product or service. By offering discounts on bulk purchases, businesses aim to increase their sales volume without significantly affecting their profits.

At the end of the day, they succeed in moving more products and incentivizing customers to become repeat buyers thanks to the advantageous price. Long-term, this raises customer lifetime value and the business’s overall profit.

Volume Discount vs Quantity Discount


Note: These are just two terms for the same concept.

Both terms are used interchangeably in the world of business and retail. They indicate a pricing strategy where the price per unit of a product or service decreases as the quantity of the purchased item increases. The principle remains the same: buy more, save more.

How Do Quantity Discounts Work?

While customers can enjoy savings via bulk purchases, this discount is also very popular with businesses. Retailers can enjoy better deals if they increase their purchase amount for the same item. 

For example, a retailer could purchase a single loaf of bread for $2. However, if they bought over 50 loaves of bread, the price might be $1.95. Or, if they bought over 100 loaves, the price might be $1.90.


Tip: Even though the seller seems to be just losing money, offering discounts for larger quantities of products means that the revenue per transaction is higher.

How Does Bulk Payment Work?

The payment agreement can vary depending on how much of an item is ordered. For example, the retailer (or customer) might have to pay everything upfront, or the payment could be spread out in specific terms. Item prices can also be scaled in steps.

For example, one pencil might be sold for $1, 5 pieces for $4, and 20 pieces for $15. Similarly, Hiring a cleaning service once might cost $225, but booking a month’s worth (once a week) could be $800.

Most Common Quantity Discount Types

In a competitive marketplace, volume discounts are a strategic tool for businesses aiming to boost sales volume and manage inventory efficiently. Discounts can take several forms, depending on the seller’s pricing strategy. Here are a few typical examples:

1. Cumulative Quantity Discounts

This type of discount is calculated over a specific period, rewarding customers who regularly purchase from the same vendor. The total volume purchased over this period determines the discount rate. The customer’s total purchases over the period are added up, and a discount rate applies.

For example, a customer may receive a 5% discount on all orders made within six months if their total purchases exceed 500 units. Following this offer, customers could enjoy the following discounts:

Purchase VolumeDiscount
1 – 100 units0%
101 – 500 units3%
501+ units5%

2. Non-Cumulative Quantity Discounts

This discount model applies to individual orders rather than a series of purchases. The price per unit decreases as the quantity of the single order increases. This means the discount is based on the quantity bought in a single order, not the total over time.

For example, a customer buying 100 units of a product at once could receive a lower price per unit than if they purchased ten units on ten separate occasions. Here’s a potential scenario:

Purchase VolumeDiscount
1 – 50 units0%
51 – 100 units2%
101+ units4%

3. Tiered Quantity Discount

Tiered discounts provide increasing discounts based on the quantity purchased. The volume discount level increases after the purchase quantity reaches certain thresholds. The more a customer buys, the larger the discount they receive. 

The discount increases at different thresholds, or “tiers,” For example, a customer might receive a 3% discount when buying 50 units, an 8% discount for 100 units, and so on. A tiered discount offered by a retailer could look like this:

Purchase VolumeDiscount
50 units3%
51 – 100 units8%
101+ units10%

Quantity Discount vs Linear Pricing

As discussed, quantity discounts are a pricing strategy where the price per unit decreases when the quantity of the purchased product increases. The discounts can be tiered, cumulative, or non-cumulative, encouraging customers to buy more products at a time.


Tip: Volume discounts are particularly effective for businesses looking to move large volumes of stock and stimulate increased sales.

On the other hand, linear pricing refers to a pricing strategy where the price per unit remains constant, regardless of the quantity purchased. This means the total cost is directly proportional to the number of units purchased, resulting in a straight line if plotted on a graph.


Tip: Linear pricing is simple to understand and offers predictable profit margins per unit for businesses. However, it lacks flexibility and doesn’t incentivize bulk purchasing. As such, the strategy might not be competitive in markets where bulk purchasing is important.

Pros and Cons of Quantity Discounts

For Buyers


  • Cost savings: the most obvious advantage of volume discounts is saving money. Buying in bulk usually results in a lower cost per unit.
  • Convenience: purchases can be made less frequently when goods are bought in higher quantities, saving time and effort.
  • Stocking up: a quantity discount provides the opportunity to stock up on non-perishable goods or items that are used regularly.


  • Initial cost: a higher upfront cost will be needed to purchase goods in bulk to avail of the discount.
  • Storage: buying in bulk requires adequate storage space, which might only be available for some customers and businesses.
  • Waste: if the items purchased are perishable, or the customer overestimates the number of items they need, the products may go to waste.

For Sellers


  • Increased sales: quantity discounts encourage customers to buy more products, increasing overall sales.
  • Inventory management: discounts can help move products faster, which can be particularly useful for managing inventory, reducing storage costs, or removing outdated stock.
  • Customer loyalty: such discounts can build customer loyalty. Customers may prefer to continually purchase from the same business to avail of the discount.


  • Lower profit margins: offering a quantity discount reduces profit margins per unit sold. However, the revenue per transaction is also higher. An analysis must be done to ensure that discounted prices still cover costs and contribute to profits when sold at higher volumes.
  • Demand forecasting: discounts may lead to irregular purchasing patterns, making demand forecasting more challenging. Businesses must maintain optimal inventory levels that are neither too low, risking stockouts, nor too high, leading to excess inventory.
  • Customer conditioning: buyers may get conditioned to buy only when discounts are provided, affecting sales when products are at regular prices. Regularly monitoring competitor pricing strategies is necessary to stay relevant.

Volume Discounts FAQs

What Is a Quantity Discount?

It’s a pricing strategy used by businesses where the price per unit of a product or service decreases as the quantity of the purchase increases. This approach incentivizes customers to buy in larger volumes, as the unit cost decreases with more significant purchases.

How Does a Quantity Discount Work?

It reduces the price per unit of a product or service when a customer buys in larger volumes. The discounts can be tiered, cumulative, or non-cumulative, each offering a different incentive level for bulk purchases.

What Are the Quantity Discount Types?

Quantity discounts can come in different forms. For example: 

  • Cumulative discounts reward long-term purchase relationships.
  • Non-cumulative discounts apply to individual orders. 
  • Tiered quantity discounts increase the discount level with the volume purchased.

Why Do Retailers Have Volume Discounts?

Businesses use this pricing strategy to boost sales, manage inventory effectively, and foster customer loyalty. This discount can help businesses achieve revenue goals without significantly impacting profit margins. Despite the lower profit per unit, the average revenue per transaction is higher. 

In other words, businesses sell more than they would without offering a discount, which counterbalances the lower price per unit.

How Big Are Quantity Discounts?

Industries vary in the optimization of discount levels. For example, the retail sector commonly uses a smaller incremental discount model to encourage consumer bulk purchases. In contrast, the wholesale sector has more aggressive pricing strategies for large-volume purchases.

How to Find Quantity Discounts?

You can generally find such discounts via:

  • Retailers’ marketing materials, such as flyers and emails.
  • Sales conversations with sellers.
  • Seller customer service channels.
  • Seller website updates, including prominent display on product pages.
  • Subscription or membership programs.
  • Researching wholesale suppliers, which often cater to bulk purchasing.
  • Looking for seasonal or clearance sales.
  • Using coupon code websites.