Using Scarcity to Create Shopper Urgency

Using Scarcity to Create Shopper Urgency

The psychological impact of scarcity upon shoppers is well-known. Whether it’s the number of seats available on a flight, or the latest iGizmo, the knowledge that there will be limited access to a product or service naturally increases our urgency to buy now. Savvy retailers have been leveraging this phenomenon for decades, but are you? Here are a few simple ways you can create a feeling of scarcity in your online store and encourage shoppers to buy more, faster.

1. Units available

E-commerce vendors will indicate a limited availability of a product or service to create this sense of urgency.  Amazon does this buy indicating that they have limited stock available, and that a consumer should “order soon”.  Of course we all know that Amazon will almost certainly get more stock of that product but if we don’t buy now “who knows how long I’ll have to wait??!!” In reality, you won’t be waiting long, but this method is effective nonetheless. Airlines are also starting to employ this on their sales pages in order to increase urgency to buy a seat as inventory on a flight starts to reach capacity.  Take a look at this example from WestJet.


2. Invitation Only/Flash Sale

A popular new approach to e-commerce is the “flash sale” website. The concept is pretty simple: in order to get access to their great prices you have to register as a member on there website.  By registering, they have a way of marketing their sales to you on an ongoing basis, and you get this feeling of belonging to a club.  As a member, you get access to their sales, but these sales are generally only a couple of days long, and have limited inventory.  The site constantly has a countdown timer telling you how long you have left to purchase, and warn you that certain items from that sale are selling out fast.


3. Early adopter angst

This is unlikely to apply to you unless you are distributing Apple products, and if you are you probably don’t need any advice from us.  However, if you are dealing with some unique product where consumers have to be the first to own whatever new product you’re releasing, you can take advantage of this to create a feeding frenzy when you release it.  This can be incredibly powerful, but can only be done so often.  Products of this nature tend to be very cyclical, and if you try to take advantage of this type of scarcity too often you’ll end up burning out your customer base.


4. Sale Price Time Limit

This is also a pretty basic concept, basically if your customers know that your “25% Off Back to School Sale” ends on Friday, they’re going to feel the need to act before that sale ends.  The result is that you’ll notice a significant lift in your sales the day you start a sale, and the day that you close a sale assuming that you do a good job communicating this to your customers.


Creating a sense of urgency through scarcity is a powerful motivator for your customers, but it’s also important to make sure that you communicate this scarcity effectively.  You can’t rely on random visitors to your website to know ahead of time that you are running a sale, or that you are running low on a particular product.  By creating calls to action that remind your customers of scarcity you might just be able to create enough urgency to push them over the edge and make a purchase they might not have made otherwise.

3 Responses

  1. [...] uses limited availability to hurry customers along with their purchase (thanks to Granify for this [...]

  2. Junaid says:

    Positioning the urgency message with the right color and font can be critical, I would also suggest to A/B test to get the successful message. Thank you for the post!

  3. [...] a countdown timer/banner on your home page counting down the days to the holidays. This adds a sense of urgency, which can help increase sales as customers see the time slipping [...]

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