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Scarcity in Marketing: Why it works and how to leverage it

Did you ever quickly add an item to your cart when you saw that there were only “2 Stocks Left” or that the promo was only valid “Until Supplies Last”? Well, we’ve been there too. We’ve all fallen for this marketing trick many times. And it's something you can practice too!


The Element of Scarcity

The Oxford dictionary defines scarcity as the state of being scarce or in short supply. Simply put, you have a shortage.


You’re probably wondering, “Isn’t that a bad thing?” Well, in this context, what you have is not a real shortage. You’re merely adding a deadline to create a sense of urgency, exclusivity, and demand among customers.


It’s Science!

Using the element of scarcity in sales and marketing is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It’s nothing new, yet it remains one of the most effective tools to get your target market to buy. It works for both B2C and B2B. Why is that so? It comes down to the science behind it.


Think of a time you were in a highly stressful situation and had to make a decision. Likely you ended up making a judgment, verdict, or choice without thoroughly assessing the situation. That’s not on you, nor does it mean you made the wrong decision; that’s just how the human brain works.


To explain this scientifically, the frontal cortex of the brain is responsible for decision-making. When put in tense or hectic situations or when caught off-guard, glucose levels in this area drop. This causes the brain to make mental shortcuts, which results in less thought-out, rash decisions.

Now that you know how the brain works, what does scarcity have to do with this? Seeing elements of scarcity or triggers such as deadlines, depleting stock, and discounts create a sense of urgency. This urgency stresses out the brain, leading to the impulsive buying we do during sales. So next time you go on a shopping spree, you can blame it on the chemicals in your brains.


Scarcity in Marketing

1. Scarcity in Time
  • Limited Free Trial – This exploits something no one can resist – free things! However, more than just giving away free stuff for its sake, this is a crucial step in the sales cycle. With a free trial, you allow customers to immerse themselves in your product or service, giving them a sense of how To learn how to incorporate these strategies into your campaigns, contact us at your offering meets their requirements or provides a value-add to their business. It also allows them to explore without making a commitment or investment. If customers like what they see, they’re most likely to convert to paying customers.

Note that the customer experience, especially during this free trial period, should be smooth and easy. Moreover, to avoid churn, your post-sales experience should be just as good and headache-free.

  • Limited Sale Time – This trick usually gets us all and works best with a special offering. Your offer can vary from discounts, bonuses, exclusive bundles, or a combination. Some examples are:

“Sign-up by x date and get a free 3-month subscription.” “Get additional x when you sign up between now and x date” “Up to 30% off for purchases made until x date” “FREE x when to upgrade by x date”

To reinforce the urgency, use a countdown in your campaign. This will remind customers that they might be missing out on a great deal and that your offer has an expiration. Another great technique is to offer an introductory price. This is usually reserved for new customers. Give them a price they can’t resist and let them use your products or services for a certain period. If they’re happy with the experience, they’ll be willing to pay full price.

  • Seasonality – When scheduling your campaigns, take advantage of upcoming holidays, anniversaries, or seasons.


“It’s our birthday so we’re giving away x with every sign-up until x date” “Rainy Season Sale: Get up to 20% on your next purchase” “Christmas Rush Sale! Upgrade your subscription now and we’ll throw in an x for free!” “Ladies’ Choice! Special Women’s Month Promo for the entire month of March”

“Year End Promo: Free upgrade for the next 30-days”


2. Scarcity in Product or Quantity
  • Limited Supply – This follows the basic economic principle of supply and demand. When supplies are low, demand increases. Thus, by limiting availability, you create more demand among your customers. Additionally, this does not only apply to products or stocks. Here are some other ways you can use this:

“Free x for the first 50 signups” “Only 20 slots left! Don’t miss out on this deal!” “We’re giving away x item to the first 100 responders”

  • Special or Limited Editions – Psychologists have found that when items are less available or rare, people perceive them to be of higher value or more desirable. In short, we want what we can’t easily have. Hence, by offering special or limited-edition items, bundles, promos, you’re creating exclusivity and desire.


Before You Go

Now that you have some ideas and are ready to build your next campaign, here are some additional tips and best practices:


  • Feel free to experiment. At times, marketers would use a combination of scarcity in time and product in their campaigns. See what works and what doesn’t.

  • You may want to mix it up once in a while. When done regularly, customers might only make a purchase during these sales, which in turn may affect your sales during non-sale periods.

  • Be concise and careful with your wording. Keep taglines short and catchy, and make sure nothing gets misconstrued.

  • Stay true to your word, and don’t oversell. Your sales and promos may get your foot in the door, but what would make customers stick around is an excellent experience with you.

Want to learn how to incorporate these strategies into your campaigns? Book a consultation with Beeline.