Scarcity Marketing: 9 Examples to Prove You Can Make More by Selling Less
“Only one left? I should snag that now before someone else does.”
If we were to boil down scarcity marketing into one internal monologue, that’d be it.
Marketers rely on scarcity because they know that monologue happens. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $1 pen or a private jet—consumers of all income brackets, genders, and demographics respond to scarcity marketing campaigns.
This scarcity ties into the fact that 69% of millennials experience FOMO—the fear of missing out. They’re also the demographic most likely to purposely make their friends feel FOMO, and make purchases off the back of that feeling.
So, how can your business use this to increase sales and conversions? In this post, we show you how to implement a scarcity marketing strategy and share nine incredible examples of scarcity for you to emulate.
<what>What is scarcity marketing?<what>
Scarcity marketing happens when you make a product appear like it’s almost unavailable. Retailers use it in their “only one left” messaging on product pages, online course creators limit how many students can enroll at any one time.
Not convinced that it works?
Consider this well-known research study that tested the impact of scarcity on perceived value. It asked 200 respondents to rate the value and attractiveness of a cookie jar: one with 10 cookies, the other with just two.
The results were shocking:
- Cookies in scarce supply were rated as more desirable than cookies in abundant supply
- Cookies were rated as more valuable when their supply changed from abundant to scarce than when they were constantly scarce
- Cookies scarce because of high demand were rated higher than cookies that were scarce because of an accident
Yet another study into how product scarcity impacts decisions concluded that people buy into scarce products because of the way they can express themselves after doing so:
“Consumers value the exclusivity of possessing rare products, and may see these products as a means to emphasize their uniqueness. Being one of the few who own a particular product may increase the product utility.”
The best part? It’s a timeless marketing tactic. A recent study by Indiana University concluded that “scarcity reduces consumers' concerns about prices, even during a pandemic.”
It’s why toilet rolls, cleaning products, and diapers were out of stock almost everywhere during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Everyone knew they were scarce... so they had to buy them just in case.
<vs>Scarcity vs. urgency<vs>
Similar to scarcity, urgency is another psychological trigger that causes people to buy. They’re often confused, but there is a slight difference.
- Urgency is limited-time offers. Messaging like “buy now before the pricing changes,” flash sales, and countdown timers convince someone to buy now, rather than later. People have a limited amount of time to claim it.
- Scarcity, on the other hand, refers to limited quantities (such as stock levels, seat numbers, or tickets). It can create a sense of urgency to push those limited numbers, but the idea is that only a few people can get them at any one time.
It’s best practice to usually implement just one of these FOMO tactics per call-to-action—otherwise, you risk overplaying your hand and coming off as disingenuous.
<note>An important note on using scarcity marketing<note>
Before we jump into the scarcity marketing tactics, we have an important note: Don’t overuse it.
Customers are savvy; they know when a marketer is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Always running limited offers is not only disingenuous, but totally noticeable.
Eyebrows will be raised if all your products constantly have “just one left in stock”—and each scarcity campaign you do after that will become less impactful.
In fact, one study discovered that it could backfire entirely:
“When consumers interpreted scarcity claims as a sales tactic, the positive effect of scarcity claims on product evaluation would be diluted.”
So, while scarcity marketing can work wonders, use it wisely and authentically.
<examples>9 examples of scarcity marketing for you to copy<examples>
Now we’ve got the word of warnings out of the way, let’s take a look at nine incredible examples of scarcity marketing and why they work so well:
1. Booking.com’s “two rooms left” message
One look at hotel search results on Booking.com, and you’ll see they do a lot of things right. You see star ratings, social proof, and discounts. But the most impressive is its use of scarcity:
To convince people to book a room right then, it uses messaging like “only two rooms left at this price.” The limited quantity makes people think there’s a reason why it’s booked up—and they should be the ones who take the last remaining rooms. They’ll miss out otherwise.
2. Ugmonk’s “1 left in stock” message
Ecommerce stores can use similar messaging to create scarcity around their products. Ugmonk, for example, adds a simple line to its product page, “Only 1 left in stock:”
It is smartly placed below the call-to-action button and uses the scarcity principle to induce FOMO. It’s clearly in high demand, and if they want to be in the group, they need to snag it before someone else does.
3. Aldi’s limited stock egg chair
Supermarket chain Aldi is no stranger to scarcity marketing. But, perhaps its most impressive campaign focuses on its egg chair—a piece of garden furniture that only gets restocked a handful of times throughout the year:
It’s so scarce that 74,000 people search for “Aldi egg chair” every month.
Plus, the product’s scarcity nets Aldi a fair bit of media coverage. Publications like Huffington Post, Grazia, and The Daily Mail all have content on their sites along the lines of “how to get the Aldi egg chair.”
Any indication of a restock can cause online queues of 40,000 people. When people do manage to snag one, they share about it on social media—even tweeting that they feel like they’ve won the lottery:
Sure, Aldi could jump on the demand and stock up on way more than it usually does. But the social activity, press coverage, and brand awareness the stockouts drive are likely worth far more in the long run.
4. Kaleigh Moore’s “four spots left” webinar
The beauty of hosting online events is that you can have unlimited people attend (so long as you’ve got the right software for it).
But that doesn’t mean you have to keep webinars open for all.
Kaleigh Moore uses scarcity to push people towards registering for her webinar:
The fact there are only four remaining spots makes it more appealing—at least more so than a standard “register now” would be.
5. The Website Flip’s limited digital product sale
It’s not just physical products that can sell like hotcakes through scarcity marketing.
The Website Flip, which sells digital products, had one of its products sell out within the first few hours by offering a hefty discount to only a few people:
Its founder, Mushfiq, explains:
6. GAME’s “while stocks last”
Social media forms part of many digital marketing strategies. This example from GAME shows how you can use it to promote scarcity.
The retailer put out a tweet to promote a restock of a popular game, noting that it’s only available “while stocks last.” The idea is: as soon as people see the tweet, they want to visit the store to buy it before it sells out:
Going back to the genuine use of scarcity we discussed earlier, “while stocks last” messaging only works when true. Most retailers falsely say "while stocks last" and wonder why they don’t get the results they’re expecting.
GAME’s message is believable because:
- Popular video games do tend to sell out;
- This is a re-stock, so it has already proven to have sold out once.
(The extra incentive—the fact any purchase over £15 is eligible for a free gift card—is an added bonus.)
7. BrightonSEO’s free ticket ballot
BrightonSEO is a conference that happens every year. Most tickets are sold at a price, but part of their marketing strategy is to give a limited amount of free tickets.
The free ticket ballot is tied in with scarcity—people only have a limited amount of time to enter. But because there are only so many free tickets available, people enter (and likely attend the event) since they can get something that others pay for… if they’re lucky.
The best part? Even if people enter the ballot and don’t win a free ticket, BrightonSEO knows they’re potential customers. They use email marketing to convince them to buy a paid ticket. Talk about a win-win:
8. Myprotein’s limited edition products
A limited supply of a product is one of the easiest ways to use scarcity.
Take a look at how Myprotein does it with Facebook Ads:
The retailer partnered with an influencer in its space to create a new product. The catch? There was only a limited amount made.
The only time someone can get them is if they buy right now... before it sells out.
9. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte
Each fall, Starbucks brings back its iconic pumpkin spice latte. (If you're not aware, it’s a drink that’s been hashtagged almost 635,000 times on Instagram to date.)
Despite the fact people wait year-round for it to become available, Starbucks takes the drink off the menu for most of the year—a seemingly silly mistake that could mean they miss out on year-round revenue.
However, (similarly to the above Aldi example) the drink’s scarcity brings hype. People Tweet about their excitement for it and rush to stores to grab their first PSL of the year—which is why the drink drives an estimated $100 million in revenue each year:
<start>Start using scarcity marketing today<start>
There’s no doubt that limited availability of a product impacts how badly people want it. Not only that, but scarce products seem to be of higher value—which could mean you make more revenue by selling less.
Want to test the waters with a product you’ve got a low stock of?
Promote it using ConvertFlow by creating a: