Introducing Simplified Pricing

Posted on March 19, 2019 by Scott

I started Purelymail with the idea of making email cheaper, simpler, and more useful for everyone. Part of achieving that is having a different pricing model than other email providers, and really most other Internet services: Pay for the resources you actually use.

Don’t worry, that isn’t going anywhere. What is changing is that Purelymail now offers a much less complicated alternative for people who don’t trust the pay-per-use model, and value the consistency of a predictable bill.

Simplified pricing is just a $10 per year charge, applied continuously. Details are on our pricing page, so I’d like to use this space to talk about why I think this makes sense, both as something people might want to use and as something for us to provide.

First off, notice that a flat charge is basically identical to the pricing plans of other email providers. Those plans implicitly act like insurance policies. Most users will use fewer resources than the charge covers, some will go over, and a few will go massively over. All will pay the same price.

However, those who go massively over risk compromising the profitability of the plan, and either get rate limited or bumped up to higher plans. Often those higher plans are practically price gouging: if you use a lot of email resources, it must be very valuable to you, and companies price accordingly.

We don’t price gouge, but our simple plan may require moving to the advanced plan if you use enough resources. How much you’re using is tracked, exactly the same as the advanced plan, and you can view your use at any time.

Most users will clearly see that the simple plan costs them more than the advanced plan, probably by $3 to $4. They can switch at any time, and even switch back if they change their minds. We make money either way, although a problem arises: if only people who use more than $10 of resources use the simple plan, it’s just a way for us to lose money.

I don’t expect that to happen; what the simple plan sells is simplicity and peace of mind, and I think people will value that accordingly over savings of a few dollars.

I’m a little bit more worried about the incentives for Purelymail as a company. Pay-per-use is an elegant model for aligning people actually using the product with the company making money, while flat fees encourage companies to nudge users towards minimal usage to keep profits high. Not that pay per use has perfect incentives either: it discourages efficiency in resource use.

For the moment, it’s not a problem. But I’ll be keeping an eye on incentives as Purelymail matures. We have to remain committed to providing you- the user- with value. It sounds trite, but it’s true.

Some implementation notes:

  • Current users remain on the advanced plan unless they choose to switch. New users will be on the simple plan by default, but can switch at any time.
    • I realize there’s an immediate conflict of interest there, since the advanced plan would on average save new users a few dollars. But the friction of needing to read and understand all the various charges is a huge turnoff for many people. Beware trivial inconveniences.

Other changes for the week:

  • We’ve added some safeguards against inadvertent email loops. None have occurred yet in production, but testing revealed their possibility.
  • Email messages with large attachments should perform much better in your inbox now! There’s still work to be done, however.
  • You no longer need to have a credit card on file with us. You can clear it from the billing page.