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The Power of Scarcity Marketing For eCommerce: Everything You Need to Know

People usually want what they can’t have and freak out whenever they feel that they might be missing out on something good. Studies show that 36% of people are scared of feeling like an outsider. It’s human nature. Today, most eCommerce marketers capitalize on these psychological aspects to promote their products or services. 

This often comes under the name “FOMO Marketing”, which stands for “fear of missing out marketing” and refers to a mix of anxiety, apprehension, and regret triggered when you feel that you are missing out on a great opportunity or that someone else might be getting that opportunity before you. 

FOMO marketing has three main aspects: urgency, scarcity, and social proof. In this article, we will focus on the scarcity aspect by discussing what marketers call “Scarcity marketing”. However, it is important to keep in mind that these aspects are interrelated and interdependent. Thus, even though our main focus here would be scarcity, you might still see the words urgency and social proof occasionally within the article.

Keep reading to know what scarcity marketing is and why it is used by eCommerce marketers, in addition to learning the best tips and tactics with examples. 

Table of Content:

What is Scarcity Marketing?

Scarcity MarketingImage source

As was mentioned in the introduction, scarcity marketing represents a substantial aspect of FOMO marketing. It targets people’s fear of missing out by telling them that there is a limited supply of certain products or certain offers. 

As a response to this, people usually take an action, such as making a purchase, because they fear the possibility that such products or offers might become unavailable soon. Scarcity marketing depends on this response, which is provoked by the psychological factors involved. 

However, to truly digest the idea of what we’re talking about, you need to understand the meaning of scarcity properly. The word “scarcity” refers to a shortage or insufficiency in the supply of an item. When customers feel that there is a shortage in supply, their demand starts increasing, and they start acting fast, which is exactly what eCommerce businesses are counting on when implementing scarcity marketing strategies.

So, we can say that scarcity marketing has both an economic aspect and a psychological aspect:

  • Economic Aspect: The scarcity principle in economics stipulates that when there is a low supply of a product and high demand for it, its price rises automatically.
  • Psychological Aspect: People tend to believe that the limited availability of a product is a sign of its exclusivity. 

Why Do We Use Scarcity Marketing? (Benefits)

E-Commerce marketers use scarcity marketing because it can have many benefits, such as:

  • Persuading more customers and more prospects to purchase from your online store.
  • Encouraging procrastinators who usually delay their buying decisions to act rapidly. Research shows that customers who are considered high procrastinators have a 73% chance of not making a purchase decision immediately, and even customers who try to be low procrastinators still have a 26% chance. Scarcity marketing helps you lower that percentage significantly.
  • Increasing the value and prices of your products or services. This is based on the fact that people are more likely to spend more money on items that are not available in abundance. 
  • Increasing the demand for certain products. For instance, if you apply scarcity marketing techniques on products that are not performing very well, it might make them more attractive to customers. 
  • Improving brand awareness and visibility of your online store. Customers tend to share exclusive or limited offers with their friends and family.
  • Increasing sales and profits.

Best Tactics For Scarcity Marketing With Examples

It is now time to discuss how you can implement scarcity marketing within your eCommerce store’s marketing plans. Now we are going to provide you with some of the best tips and tactics for scarcity marketing, along with some examples to apply for your online store:

1- The Limited Stock Tactic

One of the strongest scarcity marketing tactics is showing the available quantity of the product to prove that it is limited. There is a variety of ways in which you can utilize this tactic. For instance, you can display the number of items left in stock on your online store’s product pages or send it in an email.

You can also do it in a more subtle way like the following example:

alo yoga

As you can see in the previous example, Alo Yoga, which is an eCommerce store for yoga clothes, does not display the exact number of items left in stock. However, it refers to their limited quantities by saying “Almost Gone” under each color that might run out of stock soon. This is a very smart way of using the limited stock tactic for two main reasons:

  1. The eCommerce brand here does not throw its scarcity marketing techniques in the face of customers by explicitly saying how many products are left. This is why we referred to this example as “subtle”, which simply means that Alo Yoga is cleverly leveraging this tactic but not in an obvious direct way. 
  2. This might provoke the curiosity of customers or prospects even more because not knowing the exact number of items in stock means that there could be 100 items left or there could be only one item left. A lot of customers are not willing to take that risk and such a technique ends up motivating them to make a purchase. 

2- The Countdown Timer Tactic

Another effective scarcity marketing tactic that eCommerce businesses can use is the countdown timer. 

Don’t you just feel anxious whenever you see a countdown timer and immediately start thinking that you need to act quickly? Well, customers usually feel the same too. 

Remember when we said at the beginning that you might be seeing the word “urgency” throughout the article? Here it comes. Countdown timers create a sense of urgency which motivates people to take action. 

There is more than one place in which you can use a countdown timer. For instance, you can add a countdown timer to your eCommerce website, to your social media channels, or even to your mobile application if you are pursuing mobile commerce, such as in the following example:


In the previous example, Pandora, the jewelry manufacturer, and retailer is perfectly using a countdown timer. There are a few things that we can learn from that example:

  1. The countdown timer is optimized for the screens of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This also shows that this brand is providing an omnichannel experience to its customers since it is leveraging all the available channels and spreading a sense of urgency across them all.
  2. The use of sentence “Hurry, don’t miss out on your free gift” was a good choice of a sentence to be displayed with the countdown timer. It reinforces the idea of scarcity by trying to deliver to the customers the idea that there is a limited number of gifts and that you might miss out on having one if you do not act now. 

3- The Special Edition Products Tactic

You say “special edition products” and customers hear “exclusive products”. Research shows that 46% of people aged from 18 to 24 years old and 43% of people aged from 13 to 39 years old tend to purchase special edition products.

Special edition products usually come with a time window in which customers can purchase the product before it is not available. Here is where the scarcity principle appears. Check the following example:

allbirdsImage source:

Allbirds is an American eCommerce store that sells footwear. As you can see in this example, this brand highlights the difference between its usual products and its special edition products, which are available in limited quantities. This is a great way of implementing scarcity marketing. 

4- The Limited-Time Offers Tactic

Limited-time offers and discounts can also come in handy when you want to communicate the existence of scarcity to your customers. A limited-time offer is simply a promotion, a discount, or a flash sale that is available only for a specified period. This tactic can be very effective during special occasions or for seasonal offers, such as the following example:

limited offersImage source:

5- The Early Bird Discount Tactic

Just like the special edition product tactic, the early bird discount tactic employs scarcity marketing in a way that makes customers feel more special than others. 

This tactic is very suitable if you are launching a new product and want to leverage scarcity to generate more sales. In this case, you can give special discounts to customers who preorder this product. 

The most important thing here is to highlight the fact that this discount is not available for everyone and that it is available only for those who decide to make a purchase now. Here, scarcity marketing is more about the scarcity of the discount than it is about the scarcity of the product itself. 

The following example shows how you can implement the early bird or the pre-order discount technique within your eCommerce website.


Scarcity Marketing Tips To Follow

  • Leverage email marketing while using any of these scarcity marketing tactics. Research shows that emails involving a sense of urgency had at least 14% higher click-to-open rates, 59% higher transaction-to-click rates, and twice as high transaction rates compared to the average marketing emails. 
  • Take advantage of influencer marketing, which is on the rise. Influencers can help you in spreading the word about your limited-time offers and discounts. They add another important aspect to the equation, which is social proof
  • Base the scarcity you are creating on something meaningful. For example, create a story behind your product and give reasons why there is a shortage of it. This will make your scarcity marketing techniques more believable and attractive.

Scarcity Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

  • Do not overdo it! Using scarcity marketing techniques too many times can get you negative results. It will remove the element of exclusivity, which is crucial for these tactics to succeed. 
  • Do not be pushy! In other words, customers do not want to read about the same limited-time discount that you’re offering everywhere they go, and they do not want to receive 10 emails about it. Doing this might make your customers feel pressured, on the one hand, and make you seem desperate on the other hand.
  • Do not extend the deal! Doing such a thing will lead to your customers not believing the time frames you set; hence, they might become skeptical and start wondering if the scarcity you’re showing them is even real. 
  • Always deliver! Whatever it is that you promised your customers, you have to make sure that you deliver it no matter what.

Final Thoughts:

Even though there is a lot of controversy around whether scarcity marketing is ethical or not, there is no debate regarding how much it benefits eCommerce marketing. Therefore, if you want to leverage the benefits of scarcity marketing for your eCommerce store without violating your customer's trust, make sure you implement the scarcity marketing tactics carefully while avoiding excessive use. 

In addition to giving you a complete guide on scarcity marketing, is offering you a great marketing automation tool that will facilitate the implementation of all scarcity marketing tactics.

Book your demo now and start integrating automation within your scarcity marketing campaigns.