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Scarcity: only one left

How scarcity and urgency improve your sales

If you like to go on holiday, you probably have used Booking.com at least once in your life. During my travels, I used their app almost every day, in order to find myself a bed again for the night. How relaxing travelling may be, Booking.com always succeeded in making me nervous with their “hurry! We have only 1 room left” note, resulting in a pretty fast decision of booking a room urgency. This is a classic example of The Scarcity Principle: people attach more value to things that are fewer in quantity1.

A golden persuasion principle

Marketing means persuasion where you build on a customer’s impulsive behaviour that eventually, or hopefully, leads to a sale. As we do here at Neurofied, psychology can be 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 2. From a neuromarketing perspective, this means that certain words, layouts and colours have an influence on decision making that largely happens unconsciously in our brain3.

The online salesman

Can I help you? - Photo by Naomi Hébert
Can I help you?

Before the digital world made its entrance, a salesman in a shop was the one to persuade a customer of buying a new kitchen. Communication between and the emotional state of the customer are important factors that determine the success of a sale4. We can apply this oldskool information to the nowadays online sales world where not a person, but a webshop is selling a product. For a website, this can mean that the first page the customer sees presents the initial message and leads to more curiosity to further explore the website. In addition, the use of certain words or images —priming— can lead to certain emotional responses like familiarity or empathy.

How to use scarcity

Putting all this information together, there are quite some tricks that combine scarcity, communication and emotions in order to make your online sales rise. We will mention a few to give an impression of how to use this type of neuromarketing.

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  • stock scarcity: displaying how much stock is left for a certain product, in the form of ‘only X numbers left!’. This 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. Booking.com is again a good example of this and 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 article during this period.

The list of how to influence your online customers is even longer. For instance, think about using social proof in your marketing. But with this article, we want to give you a short introduction in how this works and how to put it in practice. The power of online marketing can be enormous if you know how to apply it.

Milou Odekerken

A passion for writing combined with fascination for the brain to give you the best neuromarketing content!


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