Scarcity Marketing Tactics: Act Now or Forever Live in Regret

The aurora borealis is on 90% of bucket lists, but why?

Before contemplating its beauty or its sheer natural wonder, let’s consider a few facts about the ‘Northern Lights’:

  • They can only be seen in limited parts of the world
  • Are only visible at certain times of year
  • Clear skies are required
  • Even if you time your trip perfectly, visit the right location during the correct season and get perfect weather conditions, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see them!

In other words, witnessing this natural wonder isn’t straight-forward.

Let’s compare that with another natural phenomenon –  everyone’s favourite night light and the conductor of our oceanic tides, the moon.

This huge floating ball of rock circles our planet from (an average of) 384,400 km away. It changes size and shape nearly every night, very often flits between colours (white, yellow, orange, red) and boasts a crazy array of interesting patterns…

…and yet, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say ‘I really want to see the moon!’

So, what’s the difference between the two?

Scarcity!

Whilst the northern lights are extremely difficult to see, the moon is visible nearly every night. If their roles were reversed and the northern lights were available every night of our lives from any location in the world and the moon was only visible in limited areas, at specific times, with a heavy dependence on luck…

…the moon would be on all those bucket lists instead.

Scarcity triggers an intense psychological desire. If you’re able to harness its power in your marketing (or sales) tactics, you’ll reap huge rewards. Let’s look at how you can become the aurora borealis of the digital world…

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Scarcity Tactics

Scarcity marketing tactics focus on the same effect as the Northern Lights, taking away a prospect’s freedom of choice.

When a product isn’t available, difficult to obtain or rare, its coolness-rating and desirability go through the roof.

In 1975, a team of researchers (Worchel, Lee and Adewole) conducted a study on the value of cookies. They used two identical jars and a handful of identical cookies.

In one jar they placed ten cookies and in another they placed two. Participants were then asked to value a single cookie from each one.

cookie scarcity experiment

What do you think they valued higher?

You guessed it. Despite using the exact same jars and identical cookies, people valued the cookies in the jar with just two, higher.

Why?

Scarcity. Rarity. They’re harder to obtain. And maybe, participants thought there were only two left in the jar because they tasted better (popularity).

The same principle applies in marketing.

FOMO 

Instead of focussing on discounts, offers and bonuses, you should prime your offers on urgency.

People have a natural psychological trigger called FOMO and if marketing campaigns hit that soft spot, they’ll encourage prospects to make a buying decision immediately.

So, what exactly is FOMO?

The ‘fear of missing out’.

via GIPHY

This psychological prompt can be simply explained in two different ways, both of which are incredibly valuable to marketers, entrepreneurs and businesses:

  1. A natural worry that you will miss out on an experience/product that everyone is else is benefitting from.
  2. The apprehension that you will miss out on something because it will be unavailable soon.

In a few moments, I’ll run through a few tactics that create these effects in your prospects, but first I want to talk about a day when FOMO is at its absolute peak…

…Black Friday.

Anybody who has ever sold a product on or offline, will understand the spike in sales that occur during this one day. It has been marketed so heavily by so many massive businesses, that FOMO is already primed in the mentality of desperate shoppers worldwide.

For 24 hours only, Black Friday offers discounts that can’t be had at any other time of year. The huge marketing and sales madness that surrounds it instils both sides of FOMO, missing out on deals that others will benefit from and the fear that buying the same product the next day/week/month will mean spending more heavily.

And just in case you haven’t heard of Black Friday or you’ve been ignoring it every year, here’s an example of what the power of FOMO does to people:

FOMO! At its maddest.

Those people are fighting, not because they’ll kill anyone to buy a TV, they can do that any day of the week. They’re fighting because they have FOMO for the limited time offer (created by scarcity).

I don’t condone violence, but wouldn’t it be cool to drum up that sort of desire around your product/service, without all the fists, head-butts and kicks?

How Can We Achieve It?

Before we get into this, I want you all to understand how important honesty and integrity are. If you use any of these tactics deceitfully, your customers will find out and you’ll lose the return custom and referrals that will grow your business.

Everyone clear? Let’s go:

Few Items Left

Remember those cookies?

When prospects know there are only a few products/services available to them, they go mad for them.

This is a tactic that is used by tons of eCommerce businesses, including the world’s biggest online retailer, Amazon.

On almost every single product page they display how many items are left in stock and when this is number is low, it is shown more prominently (and often in a different colour).

scarcity marketing few items left

This creates FOMO in prospects who would usually browse and come back to purchase later.

Encouraging prospects to buy immediately increases conversion rates and reduces the number of shoppers who would either forget about it or purchase elsewhere.

If you’re running a marketing campaign that highlights the fact that you’re running out of stock or selling out fast, you must call on them to take action, then and there.

The keyword in any ‘few items left’ campaign is ‘now’, e.g. BUY NOW, BOOK NOW, ACT NOW. Not later, or tomorrow, or soon, now. If they don’t act immediately, it’s highly likely that they’ll miss out.

Order Before… 

Have you ever been to a website that says something like: ‘order before 3pm for next day delivery’?

This is an urgency tactic that is widely used by online businesses and there’s good reason for it. Consumers think, ‘I can get it tomorrow if I order before 3pm? But I’ll have to wait 3 days if I order at 3.05pm?’

‘Order before’ tactics encourage users to take immediate action, creating irresistible sounding deals that turn browsers into buyers. They hammer the FOMO, logic and patience soft spots of consumers.

An online business who have adopted this tactic and then taken it to the next level are Interflora. The digital florists promise to provide same day delivery when a customer orders before 3pm!

order before offer

This incredibly fast service creates urgency and will beat many of their competitors to the sale.

Take a look at your product/service, is there a regular ORDER BEFORE… tactic you can use?

Limited Bonuses

Limited time bonuses inject tons of FOMO, encourage purchases and improve customer experience.

If you hadn’t figured it out already, limited time bonuses are FREE add-ons that you include with a purchase for a specific amount of time.

limited time bonus scarcity

For example, let’s pretend that you’re considering buying my shoes (they’re nice, promise). And I say, ‘if you buy them before midnight tonight, I’ll throw in a shoe-care kit, to keep them beautiful forever…

…but if you buy them in the next hour, I’ll give you my favourite pair of slippers for FREE too!’

Most of you will take them immediately.

And because they’re totally awesome, and you’ve received incredible value, you’re probably going to come back and buy your next pair of shoes from me.

Limited Bonuses are often used in the world of cosmetics, with top brands offering free make-up bags, mini’s and add-on’s with purchases at specific times of year.

limited time bonus scarcity

Introductory Price  

So, you’re launching a new product/service? Maybe you’re rebranding an existing commodity?

How’re you going to maximise sales? Create a buzz around your new product? And get loads of quick fire positive reviews?

An introductory price is a great FOMO tactic. Countless companies use it because it speeds up the buying process and encourages prospects to purchase early.

introductory price

Many potential new buyers see promotions and consider buying at a future date, but never get around to it. The introductory price obliterates procrastination.

And even better, you can run it before you even launch. That means making sales before ever shipping a product. That’s right, pre-orders!

And what happens when you buy something that you can’t get your hands on yet?

Anticipation, excitement, furore.

Those emotions can’t be held in. Pre-order customers often hit social media to tell everyone exactly how much they can’t wait to get it, creating free word-of-mouth advertising.

Scarcity Marketing Tactics

So, there are 4 incredible scarcity tactics that work a treat. There are more and you’ll find them on our BLOG soon…

…but for now, we’ll leave you to stew on our favourites.

Run through the tactics and find one or two that fit your products, offer and brand. And remember, the more prospects who are convinced to take immediate action, the less you’ll lose.

Scarcity, psychology’s gift to marketers.

Enjoy this blog? Learn more about marketing psychology in our article, The Psychology of Colour in Marketing.

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Director of Content at Einstein Marketer
Josh is an award winning content marketer and the Director of Content at Einstein Marketer, previously working as a Content Manager, freelance copywriter and marketer. He writes, edits, proofs and strategises content for Einstein Marketer's agency and their clients, sharing the most successful tactics and strategies with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links (above) so he can get back to writing as himself.

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