Scarcity and urgency to improve your sales

Scarcity and urgency to improve your sales

Have you ever used booking.com for finding a place to stay on vacation? If so, you've probably come across these messages in red letters below an offer: 'Last chance! Only 1 room left on our site!' and '1 other person looked for your dates in the last 10 minutes'. The inevitable reaction: stress resulting in an immediate booking. This is a prime example of how scarcity and urgency improve your sales. The scarcity principle explains it: people attach more value to things that are fewer in quantity.

A golden persuasion principle

Marketing means persuasion where you build on a customer’s behaviour that eventually leads to a sale. Knowledge of Brain & Behaviour is a useful tool to understand and influence this behaviour.

In his book ‘Influence’, marketing expert Robert Cialdini views scarcity as one of the six golden persuasion principles. He says that scarcity and urgency combined are a success formula for increasing online sales. From a psychological perspective, this means that certain words, layouts and colours have an influence on decision-making that largely happens unconsciously in our brain.

The online salesperson

how scarcity and urgency improve your sales online

Before the rise of the digital world, a human salesperson in a shop was the one to nudge a customer towards buying new kitchen. Through communication she could establish a personal relationship with customers and create a comfortable and trustworthy environment. The customer's emotional state can determine the success of a sale.

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Even though the way of shopping has shifted drastically to online shops, emotions are still a leading driver of our behaviour. This means that design, usability and copy have to be on point. This is especially true for the landing page. The first few seconds on a website can determine whether a visitor wants to find out more or whether she leaves the site again. The first impression, derived from the used words or images can create certain emotional responses like familiarity or empathy. This principle is called priming.

How scarcity and urgency improve your sales online

Putting all this information together, there are quite some tactics that combine scarcity, communication and emotions in order to make your online sales rise. Let's look at some examples of how scarcity and urgency improve your sales:

  • stock scarcity: displaying how much stock is left for a certain product, in the form of ‘only X numbers left!’. It will increase the chance a customer will buy the product and speeds up the whole buying process.
  • seeing other buyers: displaying how many other people are looking at the product. Think of Booking.com again, this tactic replicates the real-life situation where two people grab the same item in a store at the same time. If others are also interested in an item, it becomes more valuable to us.
  • fear of missing out: also known as FOMO, which is the anticipated regret of not being able to seize an opportunity. A good example is a limited-time discount, which pushes customers in the direction of buying the product during this period.

There is more…

There are more possibilities of how to impact your online customers. For instance, do you know how to use social proof in your marketing?


Clara Vetter

Clara Vetter

Combines the art of storytelling with the science of behavioural psychology & neuroscience

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