5 forms of scarcity to skyrocket your sales

by on 23rd September 2014

Scarcity is a glorious form of persuasion and when exploited can yield incredible benefits to your conversion rate. In a nutshell, if you reduce the quantity supplied of a product or its availability you create a scarce product. This perceived scarcity then allows you to sell more.

Here are some smart scarcity techniques that can be used to increase sales.

1. The classic limited stock

Displaying low amounts of stock available creates a sense of scarcity. Revealing a number between 1-3 in stock usually converts better. Here’s an example of implementing this classic tactic.

“Act Fast! Only 3 rooms left at this price!”

2. Interactive limited stock

Revealing low stock levels is a simple and great win but the visuals could be much better. If we look at Argos, these guys make scarcity much more interactive.

You can check the stock in your area and reserve it. If you enter a postcode and click on the check stock button you’ll receive this pop up.

Notice how it’s in stock on home delivery, out of stock in one area but only 1 left to collect in another branch close to my location. Argos are integrating framing with scarcity in a clever way. Also pay attention to the fact that they offer the option to check stock in another area on the pop up. When you make scarcity interactive, and show something being generated, it makes your service appear more trustworthy to your users.

3. Real time scarcity utilise a clever scarcity technique which is to show the number of stock, the number of people viewing the page and when the last purchase was just made.

Notice the 2 messages that pop up at the bottom corner. Combining the stock level with the last purchase and how many people are ogling up my hotel is awesome but the execution could be much better.

Those messages can be argued to look like a windows error message, a site error message or even some type of spyware at a quick glance. When you make scarcity real time it becomes more believable and is much more powerful than some of the classic methods.

4. Auctioning and scarcity

Bidding fee auctions utilise the principle of scarcity whereby a user bids incrementally against other bids and against time. When time runs out the final bidder wins and pays for the product at a fraction of the retail price and the auction company generate a skyrocketed profit margin on the product. A really good online example is Madbid.

Each product has a timer countdown which effectively pits users against each other. The concept of scarcity is used in an extremely powerful manner on this site, and could be really effective on more general retail sites – especially for clearance items.

5. Treasure hunts and scarcity

Everyone loves a good old treasure hunt. But how do you relate this to scarcity and sales?

Create competitions that require intelligence or the solving of something such as a riddle or mystery. For example solve the riddle to receive the hidden code – which can be used to obtain a unique limited edition item. One of the most effective examples of this was a campaign led by Jimmy Choos.

Here’s what they did…

“Shoe lovers in London have been glued to their mobile devices and computer screens in a race to win a pair of free Jimmy Choos.” (Reuters 2012)

Jimmy Choos created an internet style treasure hunt. A picture of the bag is left at a random location on the site with clues provided on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. Once a user has figured out the clue it’s a mad dash to the location to claim their prize.

Awesome right? For those that miss out there’s a real desire to get it the next time. The integration of social, competitions and scarcity are seen in one campaign. The result: a 33% uplift in sales! Take a look through the case study here.

The Hoxton Hotel $1 sale is an great case study using similar principles. Check out Sam Crocker’s post on their campaign.

Final thoughts

Scarcity is a powerful sales tool and can create a “Black Friday” effect.

In the past, we’ve even implemented a simple scarcity technique for a retail site, and got a 30% uplift in conversion rate – proof it does indeed work, so long as it’s executed in the right way. It’s only when you pit people against each other and create competition for a product that you skyrocket your sales.

I’d love to know your thoughts as always drop me a comment below!


  1. Great post Fabian – I’d love to see how gamifcation strategies (game mechanics points / status) could be developed influence conversion rates – particularly in a checkout / sale period.

  2. Great post Fabian, in your research did you see (or do you know of) any good examples of using scarcity in a B2B environment?

    Also, do you know how ‘genuine’ the reported scarcity is? When you look at 10 hotels on the same site and they all have only 1 room left, it seems rather suspicious (or do you call that over-scarcity??)

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