Scarcity marketing is a type of marketing that intentionally creates fear in customers by making them insecure about potentially missing out on something. Scarcity is based on the psychological principle that people want what is difficult to acquire. 

What is scarcity marketing?

The law of supply and demand states that a low supply and high demand for a product will typically increase its price. “The theory defines the relationship between the price of a given good or product and the willingness of people to either buy or sell it”.

Scarcity marketing is using this theory to simultaneously make people want a product more and get more money for it or sell a lot of products on time-limited sales.

little shopping cart

Increasing use of social networking for online communications leads to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), which gives them a sense of dread and frustration.

Since the increased popularity of FOMO, the number of mentions is up more than 11 million yearly from the same period last year and has since grown. This is what scarcity marketing does – it makes you afraid of missing out on an offer.

Types of Scarcity

Below you can find the most popular types of scarcity in marketing

Rarity Scarcity

The brand Supreme skate boasts of having creative collaborations with various other businesses as well as making their own “unusual” products.

Their collaborative projects have limited supply because partnerships between labels are often only done once and usually with products that are extremely different from their own.

The Wu-Tang Clan imposed an initial limit on the production of products, and this edition was very rare.

People buy rare items in an effort to increase social status, reduce feelings of powerlessness, and cause envy. Rare items can be sought in many circumstances because many are seeking higher status or a distinct aspect because of their uniqueness.

Exclusivity Scarcity

Exclusivity scarcity is especially effective for people that feel powerless and want to reduce that feeling and rather to be envied. Eliciting this feeling is better for those searching for status.

fancy man

After having reached an exclusivity rating, a company wants to equate its products to others who own them. For them, all that matters is to obtain the same level of implied status by acquiring a specific product.

Urgency Scarcity

A great example of urgency scarcity is Black Friday when retailers sell goods for the lowest possible price. The temporary nature of these deals enables people to act quickly.

The motivating effect is more than spending money to save – it’s being able to benefit from a deadline-tied deal that creates a sense of being “smart shoppers” among buyers. 

The purchase of any product at discounts is the same as winning a bargain in that it has both functional but fun functionality. Add a deadline on a transaction or product available to increase urgency.

Excess demand scarcity

Product prices are reduced because demand exceeds supply. Extreme demand implies popularity and shows that nothing of this popular item has remained.

Extreme demand scarcity creates the logic that if people buy anything, this is probably the right thing to do. That creates stress that instills trepidation in the consumer.

Scarcity Marketing Tactics

There are several scarcity marketing tactics that marketers frequently use. 

#1 Show exact product availability 

The first effective scarcity marketing tactic is the “few items left” tactic. When opportunities become less available, we lose the freedom of choice.

In this case, you can remind your email subscribers that their favorite items are selling out quickly and direct them to buy before it’s too late.

#2 Create limited edition products

The scarcity of products can be shown by simply limiting the total number of products produced. But limited editions can be something that customers desire.

shop with bags

For example, a brand may create special-edition or rare items that are available in limited quantities.

#3 Make limited bonuses and special offers

In these offers, customers must purchase a product before they can get a free or additional product. This scarcity tactic encourages customers to buy quickly to avoid missing out on a great deal.

This scarcity tactic is often used for Black Friday sales or clearance promotions where retailers limit the amount of discounted items.

#4 Use real-time data

A similar and also effective tactic is using real-time data when displaying your product. Messages like “X products sold” or “X people are now looking at this product now” make people think there is high demand for a product, showing the product scarcity.

That message triggers scarcity for your site visitor, who then decides to make a purchase. This tactic is using social proof, which states that we are likely to act like others and be a part of a group.

If you want to learn more about other psychological principles in marketing, check out our article.

#5 Use countdown

Sending a newsletter to your subscribers about special offers and their favorite products, don’t forget about the countdown.

hourglass

It is another scarcity marketing tactic that makes the customer decide on buying quickly.

#6 Create limited introductory price

Another scarcity marketing tactic is to advertise a product for an extremely low price for a limited time period. This enables retailers to create scarcity so that customers are likely to buy quickly.

Limits of scarcity marketing

While scarcity marketing increases sales, it has corresponding limitations. Here are some of the possible ones:

  • customer doesn’t believe the scarcity claim – if customers have seen a similar message with the same products, they will be desensitized to this kind of persuasion
  • there is too much pressure on customers – if you use scarcity marketing excessively, your customer may feel overwhelmed.
  • Your product isn’t expressive enough – it is less likely you buy limited edition toilet paper or toothbrush than a product you want to express yourself with.
  • Product is meant to be a gift – when buying a gift for someone special, you would rather buy something popular, with great reviews.
  • Product has underperforming sales – when you don’t have a loyal customer base, it can take time to see the results of the scarcity marketing strategy.

Conclusion

In closing, scarcity marketing tactics are effective because people see scarcity as a threat and because they are motivated to do what other people are doing. Keep in mind that scarcity marketing is not without its limitations and that it may not be the best fit for your business model.

Author

Experienced psychologist and T-shaped marketer with a deep love for content marketing and conversion copywriting. Privately a big fan of travel, coffee, and jazz!

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