Learn 17 Top Scarcity Tactics That Won’t Leave Your Readers Annoyed

Scarcity tactics have become popular concepts in the marketing world. Scarcity is one of the six principles of persuasion found in Robert Cialdini’s book titled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” The scarcity principle is based on the fact that people are afraid of missing out. It typically involves threatening the availability of a product with a deadline or limited quantity. Scarcity tactics are highly useful for marketing a wide variety of products and services.

As a principle, scarcity can be effectively used for improving conversions. However, it can backfire if it’s not used correctly or applied too excessively. For scarcity tactics to be successful, you need to influence your customers in a subtle way so that they don’t feel you’re playing a role in their decision. The key is to avoid forcing them. Let’s take a look at 17 scarcity tactics that can be successful without annoying your audience.

17 Scarcity Tactics to follow

  1. Display stock limitations – One of the most popular methods of using scarcity is to display the stock meter on product pages. It speeds up the purchase process significantly because it convinces users to buy the item right away. In the case of non-physical products, you could offer discounts or free gifts for a limited number of customers. In the image below, see how Amazon displays a message about only one product left in stock.Display stock limitation idea by Amazon
  1. Be exclusive – Scarcity tactics also work when you offer exclusive products in limited quantity. In this case, you’ll drive conversion by launching a limited line of products. Chanel applies this tactic effectively with its seasonal Limited Edition Nail Color, which will be removed from the line once supplies run out. It is a subtle, yet effective way to create scarcity and improve conversions.Limited edition scarcity tactics
  1. Use colors to create urgency – By picking the right colors, you can influence the subconscious mind of site visitors and get them to take immediate action. According to color psychology, colors like red and orange are aggressive and energetic. Red helps create urgency; thus, it’s often used in clearance sales. Orange also prompts actions like subscribing or buying.Color urgency tacticSource: Bufferapp

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    In a popularly-cited study by Hubspot, a simple switch in the CTA button color helped in improving conversions. After running an A/B test, they found a 21% increase in conversion rate by changing the button from green to blue. In another study conducted by SAP Business Objects, switching from a blue text link to a large orange button helped increase conversions by 32.5%.Color in button urgency tactic
  1. Set deadlines for deals – Many businesses have limited time offers on their products or services to build scarcity. You can do the same by creating deals that last for a short period. People will be more likely to make a purchase decision right then and there. Scarcity is the primary concept that fuels the success of Groupon. Every deal found on the website lasts for a limited time and has a limited quantity.Limited time scarcity tactics
  1. Create special discount hours – A sale lasting for a couple of days is a great way to drive sales. But, you can build even more excitement by making the sale last for just a few hours. In the following image, you can see how Pet Pro Supply Co. offers a flash sale to produce urgency.special discount hours scarcity tactics
  1. Size scarcity – You can even implement scarcity tactics by indicating which sizes of a particular item are currently out of stock. In doing so, your customers can see that this particular design is highly popular. People will then feel more compelled to make a purchase immediately if it’s available in their size. Ministry of Supply cleverly displays the out-of-stock sizes on their product pages.Size scarcity tactics
  1. Send out last chance emails – Send out emails to your subscribers and let them know about the last day of a sale. It is an excellent way to grab customers’ attention about an existing sale and subtly hint at them to take action now.Scarcity tactics by last chance email marketing campaign
  1. Use words to create urgency – Saying the right words could help you in implementing scarcity tactics. For instance, words like “hurry,” “now,” “immediately,” and “instant” are some great ways to create urgency. See how Neil Patel has used the word “now” in his call-to-action button.create urgency button
    In a case study found on Conversionxl.com, merely adding some special words helped improve the click-through rate for an article. Below you can see that the control headline had a 0.77% CTR. After adding “today” to the headline, the CTR improved to 3.94% which shows how users are curious to catch a deal that may not be available tomorrow.A-B testing with titles
  1. Offer next-day delivery for a limited time – Instead of giving discounts, you can also use scarcity by providing next-day delivery only for a limited time. You could also provide this service only if customers make the purchase within a specified period. Amazon uses these scarcity tactics in the image below.Scarcity tactic example of next-day delivery for a limited time
  1. Offer free delivery for a limited time – Along the same lines, you could provide free shipping for a particular period. This tactic can speed up the purchase process by fueling customers’ desire to get free delivery.

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  1. Include a countdown timer – When you have items on sale, you can create more urgency by adding a countdown timer to the product page. This often is more effective than simply showing the end date for your sale. Check out the following image showing how MakersKit has included a countdown timer to the product page.Scarcity tactic example of countdown timer
    In a test run by WhichTestWon, the simple addition of a countdown timer to a product page improved conversions by 9%. Version A ended up trumping Version B thanks to its bigger emphasis on scarcity.Scarcity tactic example 2 of countdown timer
  1. Give limited-time offers on items abandoned in cart – According to Baymard, the average shopping cart abandonment rate for eCommerce websites is at 68.55%. You could provide limited-time discounts on items users have abandoned in their shopping cart. Kate Spade sends out emails for abandoned cart items and offers discounts that last for a limited time.limited-time discount offers on items abandoned in cart
  1. Give away stuff – Everyone loves getting freebies. Another of the effective scarcity tactics is giving away bonus items for free. Consider offering free products with certain purchases for a limited time or until supplies last.
  1. Deliver daily deals – Daily deals are also a great way to use the scarcity principle in your marketing strategy. Since the offer lasts for just one day, customers feel the urgency make a purchase before time runs out.scarcity tactics of daily deals
  1. Have seasonal sales or holiday specials for limited periods – On special occasions and during holiday seasons, you could give discounts or deals that are only available for a specific time. In the image below, you can see how Starbucks offered a free holiday drink with the purchase of one. The offer was available for only one week between 2 pm and 5 pm.holiday specials urgency tactics
    Holiday specials are also effective ways to implement scarcity within your business’s marketing plan. Modcloth creates special holiday designs that are sold only during the festive season, making them exclusive and limited.holiday specials urgency tactics 2
  1. Offer limited-period additional discounts – If you’re already having a sale and want to speed up the purchase process even further, this is one of the scarcity tactics to consider. Give your customers an additional discount for a very limited period on already discounted items like the Gap did below.additional discounts for limited time - scarcity idea
  1. Host stock clearance sales – Last but not least, implement scarcity tactics by having a stock clearance sale. During these sales, customers know that they need to buy quickly because there’s a chance that certain items have limited availability. They’ll act immediately to prevent their chosen item from running out of stock.stock clearance sales - scarcity idea

Bottom Line

When using scarcity tactics to market your products or services, it’s very easy to overdo it. It can annoy potential customers and make your business appear pushy or manipulative. Every feeling of urgency you create should be real and honest. Don’t fake scarcity because it’ll be tough to maintain trust and credibility once customers realize it. Apply some of these 17 scarcity tactics that won’t drive away customers in annoyance and generate high conversion. If you have any further questions or comments, let me know below.
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Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.

2 Comments

  1. Deanna 17-02-2016 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Really great insights here in utilizing scarcity to get people to take action. It’s basic human nature that we are to move away from pain and also that we don’t want to miss out! I personally love the countdown timer. Very simple but now recalling when I have seen it I can say that it does work in my experience!

    • Shane Barker 17-02-2016 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      Hey, Deanna!
      I have fallen victim to the countdown timer a number of times! 😉

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