21 Ways to Boost Conversions with a Scarcity Mindset

21 Ways to Boost Conversions with a Scarcity Mindset Paul Gilmore

The fewer products you have, the more people want them. The more products you have, no one’s really interested.

This is more than just a bold statement.

The feeling of wanting something that you can’t have isn’t just a common human feeling, it’s a psychological phenomenon triggered by the scarcity mindset.

Ever felt bad that the lady in front of you bought the last of your favorite cupcake?

The scarcity mindset affects how we feel and act, far more than just being a physical limitation.

It’s no secret that understanding consumer psychology is critical for generating traffic and how to improve your ecommerce conversion rate. The best scarcity marketing moves dig deep into human psychology, and go far beyond the size of your CTA buttons or finding the best color combination for your landing pages.

Here we’ll show you the tactics of using scarcity marketing and how to improve your ecommerce conversion rate (and how to do it correctly).

By knowing this, you’ll be able to persuade your customers that the time to act is now though a one time offer.

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Breaking down scarcity

In Economics 101, scarcity is a basic principle in which a product or service in limited supply is higher in demand.

In the law of demand, the lower the price, the higher the demand of the quantity of the good. This allows consumers to compete, thus resulting in the increase of the price of the product in demand.

Demand and Supply

Scarcity compels action. It triggers a sense of urgency.

Imagine you’re looking for a new TV, and the TVs at your local electronics store are 30% off only today. You wouldn’t want to miss out on this opportunity. After all, they’ll only be this cheap today.

But if they’re 30% off every week or month (even though they mentioned before that they’re on total liquidation), that only makes you feel deceived.

Many businesses fail to use scarcity marketing effectively, and it usually backfires on them when they try to scam people.

But you can still use it correctly.

When Scarcity Works

A recent study found that consumers with a low knowledge of persuasion techniques interpreted scarcity claims positively, developing a sense that a limited time product is of higher value.

However, consumers with a good knowledge of persuasion techniques interpreted the scarcity claims as a sales tactic.

Now, in order to do this correctly without it completely backfiring, you need to:

Provide value and then limit it.

You need to prove that what you’re selling has value by providing a unique selling proposition.

A unique selling proposition (USP) states why people should do business with you and not with your competitors.

Meaningless slogans and flashy buzzwords can confuse people, which causes them to ask themselves if they can even consider buying your products.

Here’s an example of a unique selling proposition that’s not only good, it’s unforgettable:

Macbook

The folks at Apple created a clever statement that emphasizes how lightweight their product is while still highlighting its advanced technology, teaching us all a lesson in marketing.

While setting a selling proposition is important from a marketing standpoint, creating a limit (barrier) awakens the fear of missing out (FOMO).

FOMO is explained as a “pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, [FOMO] is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”

One study suggests that 69% of millennials experience FOMO. Marketers can influence these young consumers to make purchases by triggering that FOMO, especially on social media.

Survey of 2,000+ U.S. Consumers. July 2014

The key takeaway is you can boost conversions by setting limits on urgency (time) and conveying scarcity (quantity).

Here’s an example of how email marketers use the sense of urgency and fear aversion in customers to update them on things they’ll miss out on.

Daily Deals Promotion

They let their customers know that if they don’t sign up with their email, they’ll risk missing out on being notified about future deals.

Time is linear. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Because of this, behavioral psychologists say we act quickly and irrationally in urgent situations.

Many issues that occur when trying to convert people on a landing page are of a cognitive friction nature. They’re thinking about the call to action, contemplating if they should react or not, for way too long. Many issues that occur when trying to convert people on a landing page are of a cognitive friction nature.

“Cognitive friction” is a phrase coined by Alan Cooper. He explains that software processes that guide people easily on where to click next or take any other action are cognitively easy. Confusing processes cause a cognitive difficulty in people – known as cognitive friction.

Offering too much information, using colors badly, or slow page loading times are just some of the factors that contribute to cognitive friction. These issues can paralyze the user from taking the appropriate action and can even force them to abandon your ecommerce store.

In order to use urgency effectively, you should never push people into purchasing. You need to give them persuasive reasons why they shouldn’t stall.

Having a reason is important to people, as the famous Copy Machine Study proved.

Copy Machine Study

In the study, Ellen Langer of Harvard University tried to jump ahead in line to use the copy machine. When she used the word “because” to explain why she needed to cut in line, 94% let her pass. But when she didn’t use “because” or give a reason, only 60% allowed it. Try using “because” in your copy to see the powerful effect it has on buyers.

21 Ways to Use Scarcity

You are in total control of production or the acceptance quantities of your products or services. Remember, scarcity is all about perception.

This doesn’t mean that you are deceiving your customers (lying about products running out of stock). It just means that you’re modifying their perception.

A study by the University of Nebraska found that retail stores that used limited-time sales and limited-quantity scarcity techniques saw an increase in consumer competitiveness, buying urgency, in-store hoarding, and more.

There are two ways that you can convey a scarcity mindset:

  • By limiting time (flash sale, time left to buy, only in the next hour, etc.)
  • And by limiting quantity (only 1 seat left, 2 more in stock, etc.)

Here are some actionable tips for using both limited-time sales and quantitative techniques to understand how to improve your ecommerce conversion rate.

Limiting Time with a One Time Offer

  1. Use Flash Sales

    Flash sales are a great way to increase urgency among customers and evoke a scarcity mindset. Online retailer Choies has dedicated a separate section on their website for flash sales that feature select items for low prices.

    Choies

    They also add a countdown timer for each item so you can see when the sale ends.

    Black Skirt Countdown

    This compels a person to act fast, or else they’ll miss out on buying a certain item for a low price.

  2. Use Countdown Timers on Your Product Pages

    Best of the Best ran an online competition offering visitors a chance to win their dream car.

    Three days before the competition ended, they added a countdown timer so visitors would know when it was officially over.

    Range Rover Countdown

    By adding the countdown timer, Best of the Best increased their conversions by 5%.

    The key takeaway is that when the deadline is approaching, visitors act on impulse and feel encouraged to try their luck.

    But if the end date of the competition is more than three days, visitors don’t feel as encouraged because they feel that they have plenty of time to enter.

  3. Is Your Product High in Demand? Show It

    If there’s one website that can teach us about using scarcity marketing right, it’s Booking.com.

    The search results in Miami showed me this:

    Kimpton EPIC Hotel in High Demand

    When I’m looking at a certain hotel, Booking.com lets me know that it’s in high demand or, in other words, you better book it now or you might not have a chance later.

    They also show how many people are looking at the property at the moment, which adds a very high sense of urgency for the people viewing it.

    Interestingly, it also shows how many times a hotel was booked in the last 24 hours, which gives you a sense of how desirable the place is.

    This also causes urgency due to the fear of missing out if you don’t book now.

    Booking.com also lets you know when a certain hotel is booked for the dates you’ve been searching for. This shows people that their alerts aren’t some sales gimmick, but the real deal.

    You Missed It
  4. Use Daily Deals

    Businesses like Groupon have incorporated the scarcity mindset into the core of their business model, which has proven to be very successful.

    Their discounts are always accompanied with timers to show when each deal expires. What’s even more interesting it that they have daily deals that offer an extra discount.

    Gotham Steel Daily Deal

    Here they offer an extra 2% off, taking the price down from $21.99 to $19.99 for the day as a one time offer.

    Below you can see the time when the sale ends. Groupon also wants you to know that it’s selling fast.

    This triggers the visitor to act fast and not miss out on this daily deal — every dollar matters!

  5. Online Auctions

    When we think about online auctions, Ebay immediately pops up in our mind. They play up the scarcity factor by using both time and quantity limitations.

    They use a countdown timer and the more people bid, the higher the price is at the end. There can only be one winner.

    Recently, Ebay added live auctions where each item is on sale for only two minutes.

    Ebay Live Auctions

    You can follow the bid as it gets more energetic, which is presented on a graph.

    This gives bidders a feeling like they’re physically present at a live auction.

  6. Pick a Deadline

    Deadlines are directly connected with time, and are a perfect way to encourage people to act fast.

    When you add time to a marketing message, it automatically creates a sense of importance.

    Here are some deadline examples:

    • Sign up in the next 3 hours
    • Currently accepting new clients till August 15th
    • Order in the next 24 hours
    • Free shipping for orders in the next 24 hours

    Amazon uses deadlines on their product pages all the time.

    Amazon Deadline

    This is a great way to encourage people to buy now for faster shipping.

  7. Provide a Unique Discount for Abandoned Shopping Cart Items

    Shopping cart abandonment is one of the greatest issues an online business can face. The average shopping cart abandonment rate is around 69%!

    But by using scarcity marketing, you can encourage your visitor to finish their order.

    Simply email them and offer a one time limited discount to complete the checkout process.

    Discount for the Items Left in the Shopping Cart

    Not only is this a friendly and welcoming way to encourage your client back to your store, but the team at Talking Friends Shop also ensures that the items will be reserved in the next three days.

  8. “Now,” “Today,” “Immediately”

    Action words encourage visitors to respond quickly because of the urgency they add.

    What’s important is that you use words that will let your visitors know that your offer won’t last forever.

    Simply convey a message that, if they don’t act fast, they’ll miss out on a great opportunity.

    Creating a sense of urgency with words like “now,” “today,” and “immediately” lets customers know that the offer is limited, and they should act while they still can.

    Here’s an example of Wordstream using “today” to encourage visitors to act quickly:

    Wordstream Today CTA
  9. Holiday Offers

    Even though there are many holidays throughout the entire year, Retail Insight Center found that the highest consumer spending is during the winter season.

    Holiday Spending Total

    Does this mean that we should only have holiday offers during the winter season?

    Absolutely not.

    In fact, holiday spending data from 2013-2014 shows a growth in consumer spending when compared with data from years before. A growth by 31% in consumer spending was seen for Back to School/College from 2004-2014.

    Holiday Spending Total

    One of Starbucks’s most famous holiday offers is their Christmas frappuccino, served in limited-time red cups with unique flavors.

    Starbucks Christmas Offer

    Or how about Black Friday deals?

    AliExpress combined two holidays, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, offering deals that lasted for four days.

    Aliexpress Holiday Deal
  10. Collaboration

    When Kylie Cosmetics collaborated with Kim Kardashian, customers hurried to buy the limited-edition lip kits, which sold out within hours.

    This collaboration caused fans to rush and buy the product, because they didn’t know if the company would collaborate with this celebrity again.

    Collaboration
    Tweet
  11. Preorders

    Preorders are a great way to provide a special offer before the launch of your product. Many project creators on crowdfunding sites use this tactic to help them achieve their funding goal.

    Here Memobottle offered a unique green cap for their water bottles with every purchase:

    Memobottle Preorder

    Other forms of incentives for preorders can be customized colors, special discounts, freebies, or different materials.

  12. Use Big Numbers

    When you introduce data to your service or product, you encourage a greater sense of urgency and evoke a scarcity mindset.

    Use big numbers to elevate the importance of your services, because if so many people are also customers, they can’t be wrong, right? NeilPatel.com uses this tactic, too:

    NeiPatel.com Big Numbers

Limiting Quantity

Another way you can incorporate scarcity marketing is by offering a limited quantity of a certain item. Think of stock shortages as a way to show increased value of your product rather than limited sales.

13. “Three Rooms Left!”

Booking.com also shows you how many rooms they have left to encourage you to act fast.

Three Rooms Left
14. Limited Edition Items

Limited editions items are perceived of high value simply because of their rarity.

Many limited edition items can be found on Amazon, like this G.I. Joe action figure which is the last in stock.

Limited Edition Items
15. Size Scarcity

Ministry of Supply shows when they’re out of stock for a certain item and asks for your email address to notify you when they stock up.

Size Scarcity
16. “1 left!”

You will see more examples of how Modcloth uses scarcity marketing in their product descriptions to keep their customers up-to-date at all times.

This is the last item left. Who’ll be the lucky customer to purchase it?

1 Left
17. “New today!”

They just stocked up today and immediately let everyone know.

New Today
18. “Out of Stock.”

Modcloth also lets you know when they’re out of stock, showing customers on what they missed out on.

Out of Stock
19. “Back Today!”

If an item is proven to be popular and in high demand, Modcloth lets their customers know when it’s back in stock.

Back Today
20. “Almost Gone!”

Retro City Sunglasses takes a step further and dedicates a page for items that are almost gone.

Almost Gone
21. “Act Now! 2 Tickets Left.”

Orbitz.com uses scarcity to let customers know how many tickets are left at a certain price along with the alerting “Act now” message to add urgency.

Act Now

Conclusion

I cannot argue enough how much scarcity marketing is essential for ecommerce stores. The best way to execute scarcity without it backfiring is to not fake it. Don’t lie to your customers. Prove it to them that you’re different than some gimmicky scammers.

An easy, small way you can begin to try this out is through notifying customers if you’re running out stock or close to it. Then try to awaken a sense of urgency in your customer by using power words, big numbers to back your claims, and offer special promotions they wouldn’t want to miss out on.

At the end of the day, the scarcity mindset is all about how you communicate with your visitors. And much of the time, changing the way you communicate can be enough to change their perception of the value of your product or service – allowing you to reap the rewards.

You can also incorporate live chat into your scarcity marketing strategy to boost conversions. Take a look at our in-depth white paper to learn The Top Ten Ways Live Chat Can Increase Sales. You can also download a pdf version for future reading.

How are you using scarcity in your communication to boost conversions?

The Top Ten Ways That Live Chat Can Increase Sales

[Free Download] The Top Ten Ways That Live Chat Can Increase Sales

Increasing sales with live chat is not just a concept. This white paper includes ten concrete and operational ways to help you discover potential buyers and improve sales.

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About 

Angela is an online marketing and e-commerce expert. She focuses on delivering simple yet data-driven content on Comm100 to help marketers at any level. When she's not working, you can find her cooking new healthy recipes, or watching Seinfeld re-runs. Connect with Angela on LinkedIn.

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