Could Scarcity Marketing be Costing you Customers?

If you’ve never heard of it, you still might have used it, and you’ve almost certainly bought something because of it.

Scarcity Marketing simply plays on a persons fear of missing out. It creates a sense of urgency and adds an element of risk to not making a purchase.

It might mention limited quantities, or there might be a time limited offer such as seasonal availability. We’ve all seen adverts that say “last few spots” or “offer ends at midnight.” And if you shop on Amazon, you’re bound to have seen the below example.

Just adding the text “FREE delivery Tomorrow. Order within 8 hrs 14mins” is a great incentive to add an item to your basket. As the timer ticks down, the items slips further and further out of your reach, and the chance of you missing out increases.

Amazon use this type of advertising to even better effect when they do their countdown deals. If you’ve never seen them, a product is heavily discounted at the beginning of a pre-set period of time, usually 24 hours or so, and as every hour passes the discount is reduced until it is back to full price again. They also run quantity limited deals on Black Friday.

The more limited an item is, the more valuable it becomes!

If you think back to the recent petrol crisis, it didn’t take much to get us queuing in our cars for a tenners worth of petrol. The fear of running out created a fuel supply crisis that has us all fighting for petrol. Early on in the pandemic we saw bottles of hand sanitiser sell for ridiculous amounts, we were scared and some people were able to take advantage. I paid more than I am prepared to admit, for a case of hand sanitiser. Without it I would’ve been shut down. A it turns out, I would never have run out, and I still haven’t used it all up 20 months later! But still, I slept well that night.

Etsy use this principle, to good effect. In this screen shot, they are telling us that 20 people have this wall hanging in their baskets, but there are only five left – argh! there is simply not enough to go round, so if you think you might want one, you’d better act fast.

Using Scarcity Badly

My hairdresser is constantly posting to her social media about the last minute availability she has. When I went to book an appointment the other day, it turned out she had tons of spaces left. The same happened to a friend that booked a yoga class. There were only a few spaces left, so she grabbed one, but when she arrived the place was half empty! She never went back to that yoga studio, and I never booked the hair appointment. In fact, I unfollowed her page.

How about a local restaurant/cafe that constantly boasts how busy they are? They regularly invite their followers to fill cancellations at the last minute, and remind us to always book in advance so we don’t miss out. I purposefully haven’t been because I prefer quiet, cosy places. But, when I walked past the other day it was empty, and actually would have been perfect. I also wonder how many drop-ins they lose due to creating a sense of exclusivity!

Big businesses aren’t immune from using scarcity badly either. What about DFS and their “extended” sales? We are so used to them adding extra time to the end of their sales that we have become immune to it, and are starting to question if we are getting a deal at all.

When used too frequently, or falsely, this kind of marketing tactic can feel scammy. We lose trust in the company, and we question the quality of the product.

Scarcity is a powerful tool

Scarcity can boost the value of your product and encourage people to buy, but use it wisely. As we can see, using it badly can have a really negative effect on your brand and business.

Have you used this type of marketing, how did it work for you?


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