Utility Maximization Model: Definition and How To Create One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Calculating utility, or the fulfillment that a consumer feels after purchasing a product, is one way to monitor consumer spending and preference in relation to a company's products or services. The utility maximization model is a tool that businesses can use to ensure they optimize their price and offerings to increase customer satisfaction. Learning about this model for consumer behavior can help you decide if your company might calculate its own. In this article, we discuss what a utility maximization model is, why it's important and discuss how to calculate it, with tips and an example.

Related: What Is Utility in Marketing? Definition, Types and Examples

What is a utility maximization model?

A utility maximization model is a representation of consumer behavior that makes assumptions about how customers spend their money and how much utility a company might spend on the product or service. With utility maximization, companies assume their customers make rational purchases based on the value a product might bring. Other factors that influence this include:

  • Budget: Using this model, businesses assume that consumers have a limited amount of income they can spend.

  • Preference: A customer determines their preference by evaluating the value of each product they might purchase.

  • Price: Consumers might consider price when purchasing, evaluating if higher-priced items might bring higher value to them.

Understanding these consumer behaviors helps businesses make decisions on where they might spend or invest money to maximize consumer satisfaction.

Related: Understanding Consumer Demand (With Examples and FAQs)

Why is a utility maximization model important?

There are several key benefits to creating a utility maximization model:

  • Understanding consumer behavior: By evaluating the utility for each unit purchased, you can better understand consumer behavior, like their purchasing patterns.

  • Managing inventory: As you can see the maximum amount of units a customer might buy when calculating utility, you can order inventory accordingly and reduce waste or overstocking.

  • Pricing accurately: Calculating utility can help you understand how much a consumer might spend on specific products.

How to calculate utility maximization

There are several steps you can take to calculate utility maximization:

1. Calculate marginal unity

To calculate utility maximization, you can first calculate marginal utility. Marginal utility is the satisfaction a consumer gains by purchasing one additional unit of a product. The formula for calculating marginal utility is:

Marginal utility = change in total utility / change in units

Total utility is the overall satisfaction a customer has with a specific product. For example, if you purchase one T-shirt, the total utility might be 10. Once you purchase a second one, the total utility might decrease slightly. In this example, the total utility for two T-shirts could be 18. Divide eight, or the change in total utility, by one, or the change in units, to get the mean marginal utility of eight.

Read more: How To Calculate Marginal Utility (With Example)

2. Review the utility maximization rule

The utility maximization rule is that consumers might buy products that offer a higher marginal utility to spend less. The algebraic expression to this rule is:

Marginal utility of product A / the price of A = marginal utility of product B / the price of product B

This helps adjust the price of products or to increase the total utility so that you ensure that the marginal utility is consistent across all products. You might analyze customers' behavior to notice that a consumer purchases items with a higher total utility and lower price.

3. Calculate total utility maximization

To calculate utility maximization, you can use the formula:

Total utility = utility of one unit + marginal utility of two units + marginal utility of three units

As companies often expect the marginal utility of units to decrease with additional purchases, each number might decrease in this formula. You can calculate this for the maximum units someone might purchase.

Related: What Is Marginal Utility and How Does It Work? Definition, Types and Example

4. Create a utility maximization model

To visualize this data, create a table with the utility data. This can include columns for quantity, marginal utility, marginal utility per price and total utility. For each quantity, calculate the marginal utility per price by dividing the price by the marginal utility. Once you do this for one product, repeat it for other goods. This can show you how much a consumer may purchase. For example, if the marginal utility per price for one product is six and the marginal utility per price for another is eight, they might purchase more of the second product for higher satisfaction.

Tips for creating a utility maximization model

Here are some tips to consider when creating a utility maximization model:

  • Review frequently: As consumer behavior can change with different market factors and income levels, reviewing your utility frequently can help you adjust spending and pricing as needed.

  • Calculate carefully: As there are many calculations you might perform when maximizing utility, review your data and formulas carefully to ensure they're error-free.

  • Evaluate similar goods: This model can be most effective if you compare similar goods, as it can be more realistic to adjust prices and evaluate utility for products with similar qualities.

  • Graph your results: You might use visual elements like graphs to see where two products' marginal utilities are similar or where they differ. This can help you predict the effects of any changes you might make to products or prices.

Example of a utility maximization model

Here's an example of utility maximization:

ComfyClothes Retailers wants to evaluate the utility of some of their products. Starting with their activewear sweatbands, they note the price is $10 per unit. The marginal utility for this purchase is 10. When a consumer buys two, the marginal utility is eight and when they buy three, the marginal utility is six. The marginal utility per price is one, 0.80 and 0.60 for each, respectively.

Their socks sell at $2 per unit. The marginal utility for this price is 12 with one purchase, 10 for two and eight for three. This makes the marginal utility six for one pair, five for two and four for three. They decide if they decrease the price of the sweatbands to $8, the utilities for one sweatband and two pairs of socks will both be one, maximizing their utility.

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