Since the invention of the wheel, merchants have been creating new ways to entice people to buy their products and over the ages, businesses and marketers have refined their tactics. Presently, there are a number of different tools and messages that ecommerce businesses use to convert window shoppers into paying customers, and scarcity marketing and urgency marketing are two key tactics marketers use to grab customers’ attention in order to boost sales.
As opposed to simply having items available for sale, putting a quantity limit or time frame on the items helps get them sold. Not only that, but the sale tends to happen more quickly when using these types of scarcity marketing and urgency marketing messages.
In this article, we review scarcity marketing and urgency marketing tactics and offer 7 simple ways to use them to drive more sales. On top of that, we also give you real-world examples to help inspire you with ways to apply scarcity marketing and urgency marketing messages within your store.
Simply defined, “scarcity” means a lack of something. In the real world, scarcity is the state of not being able to get something you want or need. Interestingly, when products are scarce, people tend to want them more because, within their mind, a psychological trigger goes off which tells them to act now.
For example, when a California drought hurts almond crops, almond lovers stock up on their beloved nuts. And if a burst gasoline pipeline causes fuel shortages, all of a sudden everyone goes out to fill their gas tanks. In the same way, the classic “While Supplies Last,” scarcity marketing message triggers a psychological reaction.
When customers see scarcity marketing messages on your site (even though they might not identify it as such) they react—usually by making a purchase. More specific messages like, “Limited Edition,” “Low Inventory,” “Almost Gone,” and “Exclusive Product” further play on the idea of scarcity.
As a result, the more scarce or rare a product is, the more a person is compelled to buy it. By using a customer’s Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) response, you can move them one step closer to clicking the “Buy” button.
Closely related to scarcity marketing is urgency marketing. The various “While Supplies Last,” scarcity-related messages beg for a timely response. These messages insist that the shopper must complete their purchase on your site before time runs out. Common urgency marketing messages like “Deal Of The Day,” and “One-Day Sale,” act as a psychological trigger. Therefore, urgency compels them to take action now and not wait until a later time.
The time limit could be a three-day sale, single-day promotion, or even a deal that expires in a few hours. Regardless of time limits, urgency marketing is an ecommerce force. It literally urges the person to take advantage of the buying opportunity. Again, as is the case with scarcity marketing, FOMO plays a big role in urgency marketing because customers are forced to make quick decisions like: Wait too long, and they miss out on the product they’ve had their eye on. Think too much about a purchase, and the deal evaporates. Hesitate and they miss out.
Real-World Examples of Scarcity Marketing & Urgency Marketing
In the real world, you can use several tools to clearly and quickly communicate scarcity and urgency. Product badges are one great way to do this. These labels directly overlay on product images to create a sense of scarcity or urgency. For example, the badge could be simple text or an eye-catching banner. In addition, you can add well-placed messages and descriptive terms to highlight scarcity and urgency.
Below are some real-world examples of how you can add scarcity marketing and urgency marketing to your ecommerce site
Not every product is available all the time. Some are seasonal offerings that only appear at certain times of the year (like pumpkin spice). Other products are limited production runs that aren’t meant to last. Either way, the idea of a limited edition product can be extremely enticing and is an example of scarcity marketing.
Below, Fahrney’s Pens uses “Limited Edition,” in the product description to highlight this particular pen. The label shows that the “Year of the Pig” pen is only available for a certain length of time. Overall, the message is that the ecommerce store has a limited amount of inventory so once these pens are sold out, they are gone for good!
Rare, Hard to Find Items
Collectors are always searching for rare finds. They want the kinds of things that other people don’t have like rare coins and rare books. Similar to the “Limited Quantities,” marketing message, the “Rare,” message emphasizes the uniqueness of the item as if to say, “You can be one of the few who owns this item.”
Among serious LEGO collectors, there is a constant search for rare, limited run, or special edition sets. LEGO highlights these items with a “Hard to Find,” label so that the product badge causes the sets to immediately jump out at shoppers, drawing their eyes to the rare sets they desire.
This urgency marketing message communicates a limited-time sale on a certain product which is especially motivating to customers who have already considered the product, but who haven’t made a purchase yet. Show people something they already want to purchase, but show them they can save money on it. The product they want might still be available tomorrow or next week, however, the item won’t be available at the discounted sale price.
TigerDirect’s “Deal of the Week,” promotion advertises a computer monitor sale: For one week only, this monitor is on sale at almost half price. But, as the slide says, the offer is only good through to Sunday. Not only that but the bright red “Hurry!” textbox drives home the point: Get this deal by the end of the week, or miss out!
Countdowns & Timers
One of the best ways to communicate urgency marketing is with a countdown timer. Shoppers can only purchase these items at these sales prices before the countdown ends. As the numbers tick down towards zero, the timer reinforces the sense of urgency. With a limited amount of time to buy, many shoppers feel the urge to buy.
In the following example, Home Depot uses a countdown timer that displays an amount of time that decreases second by second. As the pressure mounts to purchase before time runs out, the shopper is forced to decide whether to make a purchase now or not. Meanwhile, as they decide, the time ticks away. Eventually, it will reach zero and the deal with be gone.
Similar to the countdown timer, Overstock uses a “Sale Ends in 3 Days,” product badge to create urgency. In this case, a shopper knows the item will probably still be available after the sale, however, to get the item (which they may have already thought about buying) at the sale price, they need to purchase soon. The limited time frame provokes a sense of urgency.
This message is FOMO at its best. The marketing message isn’t a “Deal of the Day,” or a “Limited Edition,” kind of deal, it isn’t even a rare collector’s edition opportunity. Combining both scarcity marketing and urgency marketing, the “Almost Gone,” marketing message (and similar messages) highlights a product that is almost sold out.
In the example below, Nordstrom Rack shows that there are only two pairs of these shorts left in stock. Unless the shopper acts now, they will miss them. As a result, a message like “Only 2 Left,” maximizes both scarcity and urgency. Even if a shopper was considering a completely different pair of shorts, the psychological effect of this message might be too much to resist.
Messages About Shipping
Rather than focusing on scarcity marketing, shipping offers and promotions also produce urgency. For example, you can give purchasers a deadline with messages like “Free Shipping Today Only,” or “Order by 2 pm for Next-Day Shipping,” to instill urgency. In addition, messages about shipping can be combined with a countdown timer or even a product badge.
Although, you could also offer free shipping or a shipping upgrade to spur customers to make additional scarcity or urgency-driven purchases. Big retailers like Target entice customers to spend more than they had planned to spend by using marketing messages like “Free 2-Day Shipping with $35 Order.” Additionally, if the shopper makes their purchase by 5:30 pm, Target also offers 2-Day shipping (not free shipping). So using shipping-related messages can help produce a sense of urgency within customers.
Scarcity Marketing & Urgency Marketing Summary
Once you get a customer to your site, you need to keep their attention. Scarcity marketing and urgency marketing are two key tactics that can help you turn your site’s casual browsers into paying customers. Messages like free shipping, one-day sales, and low inventory reinforce scarcity and heighten the sense of urgency in your customers.
As stated in the beginning, these messages tend to discourage procrastination and speed up sales. More than anything, they are motivators. Also, with a number of these messages, you’re not trying to convince a casual shopper to buy something they don’t want. Often, you’re simply nudging your customers closer to a purchase they have already thought about. Occasionally, they simply need a small push and a little extra encouragement to follow through and click the “Buy” button.
Now Go Experiment on Your Site
Try out some of these 7 simple scarcity marketing and urgency marketing tips on your ecommerce site and see if they help boost your sales. When used well, these messages can create a genuine drive to buy. With your own customers, you might find certain messages are more effective than others. Do some experimenting and see how well these scarcity and urgency messages work for you!