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Scarcity Principle

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Let’s admit that we all have purchased something online just because of that blinking ‘Only one item remaining’ or ‘limited time sale’ sticker. Just go back to that moment. Did you really have the need to buy that particular item at that time of purchase? The answer of most would be a big NO! Then what exactly tricked you? Let me tell you. It’s the result of scarcity in human psychology.

Scarcity is one of the golden persuasion principles related to human psychology that discusses how the feeling of a short supply or scarce makes a certain item much more valuable than it really is. The above-mentioned behavior of us can be strongly justified by this theory.

The theory of scarcity is used by many marketers online to influence buying decisions of the users to their favor towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Honestly, simulated scarcity can be used at any point to maximize the sales of your web store. It’s only you who know it’s simulated, and no harm will be imposed for the customers. Also, scarcity is not only limited to the supply of products, it works just fine with the limited time constraint, limited offer constraint as well as limited edition constraint. In each case, the products are perceived as more valuable by the target consumers.

Table of contents:
  1. How to use Scarcity principle in your web store for CRO?
    1. Play with product availability countdowns
    2. Play with free shipping countdowns
    3. Launch-limited edition items
  2. Conclusion
  3. Scarcity Principle Example

How to use Scarcity principle in your web store for CRO?

Play with product availability countdowns

"A limited time sale" is a text that can attract our immediate attention. How to play with this? Just pick that product that you target towards boosted sales and let's begin. Displaying the text of "limited time sales" itself won't work much effectively. Embed a countdown timer next to the text and see for yourself how it contributes to hype up the sales. The shorter the countdown period, fewer the impressions will be. But the purchasing decisions on such a shorter countdown will be made at rapid paces by your customers. Having a countdown timer does the math for the users other than "Only 10 hours remaining" text. And a countdown appears in a much more compelling way to influence the buyers. And of course, it feels more real. There's another important aspect to the tip which is not to overload your site with countdowns for each and every product as such actions will rather present your site with a spammy impression. Focus on one or a few products at a time and you'll be doing great towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Play with free shipping countdowns

Unless you're an online store who provides free shipping as a matter of fact, you can play with this strategy to get a great advantage of scarcity. We are too scared to miss the opportunity of free shipping as we feel we may regret it later. Amazon uses this strategy very well to influence buying decisions of their target consumers. Embedding free shipping countdown to your online store will not only increase the number of orders but also will influence the customers to place orders with greater values. How come? Think it this way. We always have a budget set in our minds when shopping online. Surely, our budget will contain the shipping fee as well. But when we get to know that the shipping cost is taken away, we tend to buy another item to cover the budget and then end up buying more things than originally planned . Play with seasonal offers

You don't have to wait for a seasonal change to play with seasonal offers. If you are a little more creative, you can create a season for yourself. Give your website a new look every once in a while to make your visitors feel that it's a new season for you and then embed the offers. Giving a new look doesn't mean that you have to change the entire theme of the site, but you can change the presentation method of the product imagery. For example "Weekend offers", "Valentine offers", "Friday offers", of course you can make any day special with a creative idea. The key is to persuade the users that missing it out is a great loss.

Nevertheless, real seasonal offers too can pay you back a great deal. In such a case you can influence the buying decisions of the visitors by highlighting that your unique seasonal products won't be available in the next season, therefore it's time to stack them up. When the scarcity theory of human psychology is applied effectively, it can definitely help you towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Launch-limited edition items

Launching limited edition items via your web store is another key method to obtain the advantage of scarcity. The secret behind limited edition items is not only that they are used by only a limited audience, but if you miss the opportunity you'll never get that second chance. This message should be conveyed clearly from your online store rather than just displaying "Limited Edition." Even though the limited edition concept is extremely popular with luxury brands, you can still embed the concept in your website to give a unique taste to the users. And obviously this form of scarcity can never be fake or simulated, as your customers would know if you resell a limited edition item for a second time and it can bring a great black mark on your brand name.


Scarcity principle of human psychology of influencing people's decisions by creating a situation of scarcity is one of the most popular marketing techniques used online. Whether you fake it or it's a genuine concern, the key is to present your content in a way they seem real and appealing to your target audience. To do so, it's absolutely important to know exactly how scarcity plays tricks in the human minds. That's why we briefed the industry secrets for you to climb that ladder of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Scarcity Principle Example

In this example Amazon is making both a limited time and quantity sales, making users fear of missing out an opportunity.

This web widget that tracks how much of the products have moved and track how much time has past moves products much faster.

Scarcity Principle is used by Amazon as can be seen on the screenshot

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Example of hypothesis applied

If we add and end date to our offer, then conversions for new users on desktop devices will increase, because of Scarcity Principle.


Would you like to go more in-depth? Here are our recommendations:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Buy this book

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