Looking for an easy tweak to instantly drive more sales?
If you’re not already using scarcity in your marketing (or not using it correctly), you’re leaving free money on the table.
See, people need deadlines.
They need a reason to act.
They need pressure.
If they know your offer will always be there, they’ll keep procrastinating until “the time is right” (i.e. never).
By throwing scarcity into the mix and limiting your supply, you turn up the heat. You put them on the spot.
If they don’t act NOW, they’ll miss out on the deal FOREVER.
Now, you might think this all sounds a bit shady. A bit manipulative...
But look at it this way. If you sell a product that can truly make your customer’s life better, you’re doing them a favor by putting them on the spot. You’re solving their procrastination problem.
Instead of your product helping them “someday”, your product will help them now.
Real Scarcity VS Designed Scarcity
In order to use scarcity effectively, we need to understand the different types.
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In this article, we’ll look at ways you can incorporate both of these types of scarcity into your business.
The Power of Scarcity
Before getting into the tactics, let’s take a second to appreciate the enormous impact scarcity can make on sales:
As you can see from this super scientific graph, most customers wait until the last second to buy. They NEED the “now or never” pressure in order to make a decision.
So if you ever need a quick payday, scarcity is the way to do it.
Here are 20 ideas to get you started...
Remember, designed scarcity tactics have nothing to do with a limited supply. They are just creative ways to light fires under fannies and give people a reason to act now.
#1.) Fake Scarcity
We’ll start off with what NOT to do. Fake scarcity is when you try to trick people into thinking it’s a limited time offer when it’s really not. This might work once if you’re lucky, but once they find out what you’re doing (and they will...people aren’t stupid), you’ll lose their trust.
#2.) Limited Time Discount
This is the most common way to use scarcity and can be used both online and offline.
You see it all the time. Think of all the coupons you receive with expiration dates. As soon as you see a limited time offer for something, you instantly want it more. You might even decide to buy something solely because you don’t want to miss out on the sale price.
However, there is one obvious drawback to this method. If you use it too much, your customers will start to value your product less. You’re essentially training them to wait for discounts and never buy full price.
[caption id=attachment_7936" align="aligncenter" width="620] A limited-time discount is a great way to re-engage customers who haven’t purchased in a while. Source: Lyft[/caption]
#3.) Limited Time Bonus
This type of limited offer is a way to drive sales without devaluing your product. It’s simple. You keep the price the same, but add in a free bonus for a limited time.
Make sure your bonus enhances the main product itself and isn’t just a random afterthought. Some popular bonus ideas are e-Courses, exclusive digital content, free consults (valued at $X/hour), or small physical products (e.g. free neck pillow when you buy a new luggage set).
[caption id=attachment_7937" align="aligncenter" width="890] This one’s full of scarcity. A completely made-up holiday (Black Friday in July), a limited-time discount, AND a limited-time bonus. Source: Leesa[/caption]
#4.) Exclusive One-Time Offer
The one-time offer is the ultimate way to handle prospects who “want to think about it”.
We all know “let me think about it” really means “I want to look for a better deal.” So, give them what they want. Offer a better deal...but with scarcity.
To help them make a decision NOW—before leaving the store, hanging up the phone, closing the webpage, etc.—offer a one-time special discount (or added bonus).
If they decide to “think it over”, the offer expires.
[caption id=attachment_7938" align="aligncenter" width="803] This pop-up forces you to make a decision NOW. As soon as the pop-up is closed, the offer vanishes forever. Source: ConvertKit[/caption]
#5.) “Early Bird” Pricing
To drive sales for a new product launch, offer special “early bird” pricing. The promotion could be the week before your product launches (presale) or the actual week of the launch. Either way, anyone who doesn’t act before the early bird offer expires will have to pay full price.
[caption id=attachment_7940" align="aligncenter" width="890] Early bird pricing uses scarcity to bring in that first round of customers. The special price helps make up for your lack of testimonials and social proof. Source: Travel Lemming[/caption]
#6.) “Evergreen Launch” Price Increase
With an evergreen launch, you can use the launch week strategy without actually launching a new product. Set up a system (either manually or with automation software like Deadline Funnel) where your price increase X days after a prospect is first introduced to your offer.
[caption id=attachment_7941" align="aligncenter" width="796] Evergreen launches can automate scarcity into your business. In this case, “Today only” might actually be a different day for each individual customer. Source: Lynda.com[/caption]
#7.) Price Increase (For Any Other Reason)
You actually don’t need a launch at all to use the “price going up” strategy. If business is going well at your current price point (or you’ve added new value since originally launching), it’s time to bump up the price. Tell people they have a limited time to get in before the increase happens.
Unlike a limited time discount, this scarcity tactic actually increases the perceived value of your product. The trick is finding the balance on how much to raise your price. The bigger the jump, the more urgency people will feel to buy now. But if you overdo it, the new price might turn off future buyers.
[caption id=attachment_7942" align="aligncenter" width="456] If your product gives customers way more value than what they’re paying, it’s probably safe to bump up your prices (and cash in on a scarcity payday). Source: Appcues[/caption]
#8.) Changes to Pricing Structure
Another way to add scarcity is to play around with the pricing structure and buying options for your product.
This might mean setting a date to remove a monthly payment plan. Or changing a lifetime access deal to a monthly subscription model. Or removing a bundle deal.
There’s tons of ways you can tinker with you offer if you get creative. And remember, your new offer isn’t set in stone (if you’re careful with your words).
Don’t say, “I will be removing the monthly plan forever.” Instead, simply write “I don’t know if I’ll bring this plan back in the future.”
[caption id=attachment_7943" align="aligncenter" width="739] Neville used scarcity by offering a limited-time bundle deal. He ratchets up the pressure by saying “Last 2 hours” right in his CTA.[/caption]
#9.) “Marketing Experiments”
Generally speaking, scarcity works better when you provide a reason for your limited offer (price increase because of added features, special price because it’s launch week, extra discount because we’re overstocked, etc).
If you can’t think of a good reason, why not do a “marketing experiment”?
Make a special offer as part of your “experiment”, and simply say you’ll run the experiment until a certain date (or that it could end at any time based on results).
Be VERY careful with this one though. This should be a legit limited-time experiment, NOT a false scarcity tactic.
[caption id=attachment_7944" align="aligncenter" width="539] The number of ways to use marketing experiment scarcity is limited only by your imagination. Source: BlogThatConverts[/caption]
#10.) Holidays or Special Events
Speaking of reasons why, the reason for your limited time offer could simply be that it’s a special day, week, month, etc.
Black Friday, Shark Week, Breast Cancer Month, your pet turtle’s birthday weekend...literally anything.
“To celebrate X, I am offering Y for a limited time.”
[caption id=attachment_7945" align="aligncenter" width="571] I’m not sure what Pink Friday is, but sounds like a perfect reason to offer a limited discount! Source: Dreem[/caption]
#11.) Registration Closing
If you have an online course, you can create instant scarcity by using a limited enrollment period. This might mean only accepting new members every couple months. If they don’t act during the enrollment period, they’ll have to wait until the next one.
Closing your course registration can be scary. But remember, the sales boost driven by scarcity can far outweigh a lost customer here and there. And if your course (and marketing) is good enough, many will wait to buy it.
This technique isn’t for everyone, but something to consider.
[caption id=attachment_7946" align="aligncenter" width="610] Closing your course is a ballsy move, but the scarcity it creates can lead to a huge payday. Notice how the language he uses gives him flexibility for re-opening in the future. Source: I Will Teach You To Be Rich[/caption]
Real Scarcity is not something you can make up. It’s when you have a true limited supply (usually physical products, time, or space).
Sometimes real scarcity is obvious, other times you have to dig deep to uncover it. Regardless, the key is to never assume your potential buyers are aware of the scarcity. Always make it crystal clear in your advertising.
#12.) Time-Intensive Projects
If there is a significant delay between the time of purchase and finished product, you can highlight it as a form of scarcity.
It takes 6 months to build your website, so if you need it before 2020, you should buy now.
It takes 30 days to file your taxes, so if you want to avoid any late filing fees, we need to start today.
It takes 3 weeks for a nice lady in Guatemala to hand-weave your custom-designed hammock, so if you want to give it as a graduation gift, you need to order now.
[caption id=attachment_7947" align="aligncenter" width="671] To give Tovala time to buy your Christmas dinner ingredients, prep “ready-to-cook” packages, and deliver them to your door in time for your Christmas party—you must order by their deadline. Source: Tovala[/caption]
#13.) Shipping Delays
Similar to time-intensive products, but on a smaller scale. Shipping takes X days. If you want your purchase to arrive before a certain date, you need to buy now. Amazon is the master of this one.
[caption id=attachment_7948" align="aligncenter" width="300] If you sell physical products online, this scarcity tactic is a no-brainer. Source: Amazon[/caption]
#14.) Limited Space
Using space constraints as a scarcity tactic is as simple (and powerful) as it gets. With space scarcity, pressure to make a decision skyrockets because there is no set end time...it could fill up any minute.
[caption id=attachment_7949" align="aligncenter" width="746] Showing that last spots are filling up serves two purposes: It makes the offer more attractive (social proof), and it creates massive urgency. Source: Booking.com[/caption]
#15.) Low Inventory
If your inventory supply is dwindling, let the people know! If you show potential buyers a photo of your last box of products, they’ll realize it’s now or never.
[caption id=attachment_7950" align="aligncenter" width="624] Instead of SAYING you’re almost out of stock, why not SHOW them?[/caption]
#16.) Seasonal Product or Ingredients
Do you sell a product that can only be produced during certain times of the year?
Obvious examples would be fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc.
Not-so-obvious examples would be products made with seasonal ingredients. Like a face cream made with oil from a seasonal plant (better yet, an endangered plant). Or your restaurant’s secret dessert recipe that calls for seasonal berries.
Sometimes you need to dig deep, but if you can find a reason why your products supply might be limited, use it in your marketing.
[caption id=attachment_7951" align="aligncenter" width="890] Every fall I eat pumpkin pie. Not because I like it, but because I know it won’t be around for long. Source: Royalty Pecan Farms[/caption]
#17.) One-of-a-Kind Products
One of a kind products have built in scarcity. If you sell memorabilia, antiques, collectibles, handmade goods, custom designs, or other unique products—you should definitely be emphasizing the scarcity in your marketing.
[caption id=attachment_7952" align="aligncenter" width="326] You don’t need special collectibles for this to work—you can invent your OWN one-of-a-kind scarcity. Source: TNT Fireworks[/caption]
#18.) Once-in-a-Lifetime Events
Similar to one-of-a-kind products. If you’re advertising a special event that will never happen again, you better say so!
[caption id=attachment_7953" align="aligncenter" width="435] In 1969, scientists “shut off” Niagara Falls for maintenance. The scarcity from this once-in-a-lifetime event brought in a record-high 100,000 visitors during the first dry weekend.[/caption]
#19.) Limited Edition Products
Did you know that when a famous artist dies, the price of their art skyrockets?
It’s called the “Death Effect.” It’s a perfect example of how scarcity affects value. And it can easily be replicated in your business by launching limited edition products.
Maybe it’s a special “Anniversary Edition” of your product you manufacture for one year.
Or maybe you create a line of products produced in small batches. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Knowing a product could run out any day not only increases urgency, but also perceived value.
[caption id=attachment_7954" align="aligncenter" width="721] Balcones uses scarcity brilliantly by offering three collections: a classic year-round collection, an annual release collection (limited edition), and a special release collection (super limited edition). Source: Balcones Distilling[/caption]
#20.) Limited Manpower
Real scarcity normally involves physical products, but it can be used with services as well.
You (or your team) have a limited hours each day. If your service requires personal attention, you can only help a certain number of clients each month.
Your marketing should clearly state your time is limited. If someone wants to reserve a piece of that time, they better do so before your schedule fills up.
[caption id=attachment_7955" align="aligncenter" width="298] This example uses a combination of Limited Manpower Scarcity (can only coach 20 people at a time) AND Early Bird Scarcity. Source: Get Your Trim On[/caption]
The Golden Rules of Scarcity
Now that we’ve covered all the main types of scarcity, let’s look at the Golden Rules for using scarcity correctly.
DO Use Countdowns
Countdown timers are the most common form of countdowns. Use them in your emails and sales pages to instantly add drama to the mix.
Other types of countdowns are space countdowns (“only 3 hotel rooms left!”) and schedule countdowns (“only 1 time slot left!”).
When a countdown hits zero. The offer must truly end. No exceptions. If you’re not strict with this, you’ll lose trust and people won’t take your scarcity seriously in the future.
DO Use Specificity
Which of these two phrases makes you feel more compelled to act now?
- “Our 5-star resort discount ends in a few days and we’re running out of space fast!”
- “Our 5-star resort $1000 discount expires Friday at 11:59 ET. We’ve only got 2 rooms left, click here to reserve yours before they fill up!”
DO Emphasize Scarcity
Never assume your buyer knows scarcity is involved. If your offer is limited in any way, make it crystal clear in your marketing.
DON’T Be a Psycho
There’s a fine line between emphasizing scarcity and being a straight up psycho. Your goal is to clearly explain the limited nature of your offer—nothing more. No need to be pushy or scammy.
DON’T Overdo It
Scarcity loses its power if you use it too often.
You know those furniture stores that have a “Blowout Limited-Time Going-Out-of-Business Extravaganza” every couple weeks?
Please don’t do that.
NEVER Abuse Trust
This is the most important rule of all. No matter which scarcity tactic you choose, don’t be a scumbag.
Your customer’s trust is everything. It’s hard to earn and easy to lose. Don’t abuse it.