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Scarcity Marketing: The Good, the Bad, and the Creative

11 July ~ 13 min read 637 views
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Claspo Blog Scarcity Marketing: The Good, the Bad, and the Creative

We constantly want to have more but spend less. These two contradicting impulses power up our economic and social systems by determining our financial decisions and behavior patterns. Therefore, there is no wonder that scarcity of advertising is an inherent part of almost every company’s campaigns.

It is a truly viable strategy because it is built on the most basic of human instincts. Still, being abundant or careless with scarcity tactics can often result in losing the faith of your customers. Thus, it is pivotal to learn how to apply it properly.     

Table of Contents

Understanding Scarcity in Marketing. The Mechanism Behind the Ticking Clock

7 Practical Scarcity Tactics to Entice Customers

Common Misuses of Scarcity Advertising and 3 Ways to Avoid Them

14 Successful Scarcity Marketing Examples to Draw Inspiration From

Conclusion

Understanding Scarcity in Marketing. The Mechanism Behind the Ticking Clock

Scarcity marketing is an efficient strategy to motivate your visitors to buy from you without hesitation because it is based on the mere foundation of economic relations, called “the scarcity principle”. Naturally, it is a complex and multidimensional concept that deserves dedicated research that you can find right here. For now, let’s just summarize the key points:

  • The cost of almost any good is determined through the sacrifice you have to make to obtain or produce it. The higher the cost is, the more valuable becomes the object. That is why, as pointed out in Carl Menger’s concept of marginal utility, in ordinary circumstances, people appreciate scarce objects like diamonds and take easily accessible things like water for granted, but their priorities shift when they find themselves in the desert with no water. 
  • Cost, demand, and supply are interdependent. As soon as the product becomes scarce, and its value goes up, people’s desire to possess it grows too, driving the prices up. Now, fewer consumers can afford it and fewer suppliers can stand the cost of providing it. This is how the market reaches the state of equilibrium between supply and demand. 
  • If there is scarcity, there should also be a place for sufficiency and abundance. Thomas Malthus formulated them through requirements (R) and available quantity (A): 

Absolute scarcity: R>A.

Absolute sufficiency: R=A.

Absolute abundance: R

  • Overproduction & surpluses lead to abundance becoming the new normal. Yet, as Lionel Robbins discovered, in most cases people deal with relative scarcity or abundance, drifting from one end of the scale to another. Your wants will always outweigh your resources. For instance, in a volatile economy, you are forced to economize, while an increase in income turns luxuries into necessities for you. 
  • Humans can never be completely divorced from scarcity’s impact on their behavior. Despite alternative energy sources, synthetic biology, AI, and 3D printing, a post-scarcity society remains a utopian dream because the importance of scarcity is in many ways a powerful social construct. 
  • You are craving exclusive items, scared to lose your habitual lifestyle, or afraid to walk past an incredibly lucrative deal, and all these feelings are triggered by the “brain-clouding arousal”. Moreover, Meng Zhu and Rebecca Ratner proved that the scarcity notion affects buyers’ choices on an emotional level (as researches by Brehm and Cialdini initially suggested) regardless of whether they see exclusiveness of the product or witness the empty shelves. Essentially, people just need to hear about it. That is what makes scarcity marketing so successful in inducing the desired consumer behavior.     

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7 Practical Scarcity Tactics to Entice Customers

The scarcity principle infiltrates buyer-seller relations on every level, providing you with a set of diverse means to make them mutually beneficial. It’s like texting your friend that you are in town for the next week, or suggesting sharing a bottle of exquisite wine you have just laid your hands on with your loved one. 

Time, money, and rare things are of the essence to your customers. So, by providing them with the relevant information you are not rushing them, you are helping them achieve a state of satiety. Yet, understanding all the nuances of applying this principle can be tricky. Hence, here are a few options that use, combine, and even modify to accomplish your sale goals.     

1.Tick, Tick… Boom! Set Up the Alarm Clock

It is a classic Cinderella story: you have until midnight before your carriage turns into a pumpkin again. In other words, it depends directly on you whether you will manage to dance, laugh, and meet the prince before the clock strikes. So, the deadline makes your heart beat faster, shifting your behavior to more decisive and impulsive. 

When you put a clock on something, you emphasize its impermanence. If the Christmas sale is prolonged after the holiday itself, it loses meaning, and you can only enjoy your favorite box of chocolate until the seller has it in store. That is why so many companies display countdown timers on their websites (by the way, you can craft one yourself in a couple of clicks using Claspo popup builder), send email reminders, and show the available product’s quantity. 

Thus, how can you hint to customers that they must act quickly? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make the number of available goods visible, or display a warning/notifications that only a few items are left.
  • Present visitors with time-limited offers, especially when they are about to quit the site without completing a purchase (yes, creating exit-intent popups with Claspo is incredibly easy too). 
  • Promote seasonal or holiday sales by reminding shoppers that they have to enjoy all these perks while they last. 

2.Stimulate Anticipation

Launching a new product is always exciting. Hence, why not share some of this hopefulness with your clientele? Announce the idea behind this addition to your store and describe its most important improvements, awesome innovations, or helpful features, then let the wise one who pre-ordered get the first batch. Of course, you will not generate the same level of hype as the new iPhone, but if you deliver what you promised, the buyers will be grateful.   

3. Reward the Early Birds

Early bird gets the worm and, probably, tired eyes, but that’s not the point. Your product has finally reached the mass market, so you can indulge shoppers’ curiosity by letting them be the first to try it. But you can also foster their competitiveness by encouraging their enthusiasm with some material incentives like discounts, free shipping, next-day delivery, etc. 

Remember that this proposition should be valid only for the selected number of people who ordered first or for the first few days. Otherwise, it will lose its charm.

Besides bringing you money, this approach also has a pivotal bonus. It allows you to collect valuable feedback that you can use to make the necessary change and remove any obstacles to your future sales right from the start. 

4. Emphasize Exclusiveness

Scarcity can agitate people negatively when they are forced to operate within a restrained quantity of resources (financial or any other), or in a positive, status-related way when they become eligible to acquire something rare, join a group of selected few, etc. The latter factor is the foundation of the marketing strategy behind every luxury brand, whether it is Lamborghini or Cartier. This effect is also responsible for the insane price for first editions of popular books, rare vintage cars, or celebrity-signed memorable objects. It is what makes people appreciate delicacies and long to join clubs with a strict acceptance policy. 

Of course, you do not have to be a renowned brand or an elite establishment to utilize these methods. You just have to come up with an exception to your products and services that fits your audience's tastes:

  • Limited edition (e.g., Tom & Jerry pajamas series for those who feel nostalgic); 
  • A few available spots/tickets. This usually applies to concerts, but you can pull the same trick with seminars, conferences, and even wine tastings.
  • Exclusive product line/package like Oreo Batman.

5. Invent an Event

Everyone has Black Friday, Christmas, or Halloween sales. Lift the restrictions that tie your mind to the list of the most popular holidays and let the creativity flow. For instance, you do not need a reason to order pizza, but a call to action would sound much more compelling if it is International Pizza Day. 

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You might even go further and create “a day for a walk in the park with a pumpkin spice latte”. A small discount will be a nice gift to ginger up the first days of autumn before all the big holidays arrive. Honestly, any occasion counts (e.g., your company’s historical milestone), as long as you do not prolong or overdo it. Otherwise, you will ruin the idea of celebrating a special day.  

6. Keep Shoppers’ Preferences in Mind 

Under the circumstances of scarcity, people buy more of their favorite products and less of their least preferred ones, as Meng Zhu and Rebecca Ratner proved with their research. People’s tastes, shopping habits, and brand loyalty largely influence their behavior, provoking either selfishness or generosity, depending on the availability of the desired good. That is why you are so reluctant to share the last piece of cake but would gladly give away broccoli. 

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Retrieved from Meng Zhu and Rebecca Ratner “Scarcity Polarizes Preferences…”

Therefore, people would likely be grateful if you warn them that you are running out of their favorite goods or inform them that something from their wishlist is back in stock. You can easily do it via a personal popup message, just use Claspo’s segmentation, profile enrichment, or CRM/CDP integration instruments.    

7. Show Special Treatment

People love to be appreciated. Show mobile users, social media enthusiasts, and, of course, participants of your loyalty program that you value their contribution to your company by designing a narrowly targeted campaign. For example, a small discount for your Instagram visitors will flatter them and make them feel exclusive. You can use Claspo’s UTM parameters trigger (choose “source”) to create this welcome popup message in minutes.    

Common Misuses of Scarcity Advertising and 3 Ways to Avoid Them

The antecedents and consequences of the scarcity principle have nuances and layers that can pose a few challenges during the practical application of the relevant marketing techniques. Plus, for better or worse, scarcity advertising often transforms into an intentional manipulation or even blunt lying. That is a border that a respectable, trustworthy seller should not cross. Of course, instant profits and booming sales matter, but retaining your customers and preserving your reputation will contribute more to your prosperity from the long-term perspective.   

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1. Keep Your Promises

“The early bird catches the worm”, indeed, but do not force your customers to remember the other part of the proverb, “the second mouse gets the cheese”. If people notice that you keep selling ordinary products simply marked as “exclusive”/“limited”, or increase prices before the sale just to pretend that you offer a discount, it will be hard to clean those stains off your reputation. 

You might ban the reviews on your website, but people will write them on other platforms, publish their stories on social media, and complain about their disappointment to their friends. In the digital age, there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed and nothing concealed that will not be known. So, be honest with your buyers, and they will repay you with loyalty.     

2. Respect the Boundaries

We cannot stand people who fail to respect our boundaries. That is why the “block this user” button was invented. You need to deter from being coercive and obtrusive. 

When it is a limited offer, at noon it is a reminder about your holiday sale, and in the evening it is a promotion email for your exclusive new package deal, it can be exhausting. Truth be told, this advice applies not only to the scarcity marketing tactics but to all of your campaigns. Try to plan them in a way that would not overwhelm and repulse your target audience.      

3. Know Your Limits

Humans are not trained to appreciate sweet without the sour. Weekends and holidays would lose their appeal without work. Rolex would not feel so desirable if everyone had one. The abundance of scarce items just devalues them instead of making them in demand. 

Let’s take the travel industry, many renowned accommodation search platforms, such as Agoda, Booking.com, and Hotels.com, displayed a warning ‘Only 1 room left” regardless of whether this was true or not. But if you constantly scream “Wolf” for no apparent reason, people eventually will stop believing your words. Therefore, if you feel the urge to prolong your holiday sale, make “special” discounts every day, or label every item as “exclusive”, you must resist it. Otherwise, you risk turning your strategy against you. 

Plus, abundance can invigorate your sales, too. When there is no pressure or threats to their freedom of choice, people tend to be more inclined to try different consumer experiences. This creates a positive and enabling environment for experiments with new products.

14 Successful Scarcity Marketing Examples to Draw Inspiration From

By now, you have probably comprehended the logic behind scarcity marketing and remembered multiple times when you encountered it. However, practice always makes the theory more applicable. So, let’s dive into the sea of campaigns to find something that will spark your creative thinking. 

1. PIONEER

PIONEER certainly knows how to make its subscribers happy. Announcing that only they are eligible for the Black Friday Sale and with a personal discount, nonetheless, will surely make them proud and ready to buy.   

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

2. Apolis

Customized or hand-made objects can be real treasures for potential buyers because no one (or, at least, almost no one, some people do think alike) have the same possession. This is why Apolis’s idea to print anything customers want on their bags to reflect their beliefs or match their lifestyle turns every item into something unique and therefore scarce. They also do not miss the opportunity to remind you about the necessity to order a gift for Mother’s Day while the next-day delivery option is still available (you can easily create this unobtrusive & elegant floating bar popup with Claspo).      

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

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Retrieved from Apolis 

3. Soon

When you are a company’s co-founder, you can afford the luxury of throwing a Birthday party for your shoppers, figuratively, of course. Anyway, it is nice to see people congratulating you with a “HAPPYBDAYKAYLA” code. Plus, who does not love a good celebration? Especially, when the host is generous enough to add a bonus to a discount.  

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

4. TripAdvisor

Not only products can be scarce, but our resources can be too. Turbulent economic situations force us to economize, and TripAdvisor knows it. Hence, the platform warns you to act right away, or it might cost you a pretty penny.  

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

5. Perfect Keto

Perfect Keto might be “cuckoo” for the launch of their new cereal, but they are sane enough to give you a heads-up, so you do not miss it. Furthermore, they do not forget about their new additions. Just look at this colorful, eye-catching floating bar with a lucrative “today only” offer, and you will immediately long to open Claspo to make the same one for your site.  

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

6. Cracker Barrel

We will never know what Cracker Barrel had planned if it was a sunny day and the groundhog could see his (or her) shadow. Yet, those tasty-looking beverages sure look like they can console anyone who was disappointed that winter is here to stay or turn into celebratory drinks in the hands of winter lovers.       

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

7. Munk Pack

It is hard to argue with Munk Pack, one day is definitely not enough to celebrate our love for peanut butter. But that is what makes it so special, right?

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

8. Whisky Loot

Of course, you can save money with the “best value” plan, but the ability to try whiskey normally reserved solely for the recognized experts agitates your curiosity, pride, and taste buds all at the same time. Thus, when Whisky Loot labels this option as the “most popular” it is likely no idle boast.  

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Retrieved from Whisky Loot

9. Lunar Beauty

If you are worried about not getting enough visitors’ attention with floating bars, go ahead and play big with lightbox popups as Lunar Beauty did. Of course, with Claspo you can add a timer just like that with a couple of clicks. 

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Retrieved from Lunar Beauty  

10. FÍO

An explicit illustration from FÍO athletics of how to prevent cart abandonment using exit-intent popups (that you can effortlessly build with Claspo)

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Retrieved from FÍO 

11. Tropicfeel

Orange might be the new black for some people, but the rest of us are still loyal to the classic. That is why Tropicfeel made a smart call when it decided to make its limited-edition style black, wild, and available in small numbers.   

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

12. Rover

Nothing triggers your guilt like the inability to explain to your pet that he (or she) does not have a tasty snack to eat and a new shiny toy to play with because you failed to order the new limited edition goodies kit before it was still available. Luckily, Rover is here to have your back.   

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

13. OFFHOURS

Some things just stay in our hearts and make us crave more. That is why so many people were excited to see “Return to Hogwarts”. Considering the level of comfort OFFHOURS’s homecoat can bring, the anticipation of having these uniquely designed robes back in stock even for a limited amount of time was also quite high (not that much, but still).  

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Retrieved from Really Good Emails

14. Birchbox

Holidays should bring joy to everyone. Yet, some people might get something extra special like a 20% discount for mobile users from Birchbox. Moreover, regardless of the season, you can get the limited-edition kit with some really exclusive product samples that you will not find anywhere else on the website.    

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Retrieved from Birchbox 

Conclusion

As the scarcity principle is and most likely will be the foundation of every economic relationship, scarcity marketing is also here to stay. You can use this strategy to help lay their hands on a desired, preferred, or valuable object before anyone else does. You might also show people the opportunities to save their limited resources, e.g., economize. Plus, you can make shoppers happy with some festive events or unique propositions. 

But whichever tactic you choose, you have to learn how to be subtle, polite, and respectful. Otherwise, you might inadvertently turn your visitors into enemies instead of grateful allies.

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