Have you ever wondered why things in limited quantities are strangely appealing?

Well, now that you’re here, I assume you have the same question in mind. So today, let’s talk about scarcity marketing. 

What is scarcity marketing? We all know what scarcity is. It happens when there is a high demand for goods and services but low in supply. Applying scarcity to marketing – it means using the fear of insufficiency to sell more.

Say you own an e-commerce business that sells accessories. Using scarcity marketing, you will notify consumers that there are only X number of products left in stock. The news will urge costumers to buy now because if they do not purchase today, the product will likely sell out before they even get the chance to shop. 

A classic example of this is the Nike Limited Edition of Roshe Run LD-1000 for the Conquer Cancer Foundation. The shoes came in orange color, and were released in 2018 with a limited stock and more exclusively to help people with cancer. Since it was for a special purpose, the price of the shoes was way steeper than ordinary Roshe Run you find in their outlets.

The strategy is so well-designed that people cannot escape the urge to buy. Sure, they will find a lot of Roshe Run in various Nike stores but it wouldn’t be the same shoes as the LD-1000. Plus the fact that a portion of its sales goes to the Conquer Cancer Foundation is extremely beneficial that people will really buy before the stock runs out. As a bonus they get the pride of wearing Nike’s limited edition where one can say “Hey, I am wearing these shoes and I was able to helped cancer patients.” 

There are two types of scarcity marketing. 

The first is limited number scarcity marketing. This means that you only have a short supply of X products and they won’t be available once they sell out. For example, you are selling sports apparel. In March your popular soccer shoes have been selling out well because of the regular soccer season had just began. So you tell your customers that a specific design of soccer shoes are running out of stock, hence they must buy now before they’re gone.

The second is limited time scarcity marketing.  This means that the product is limited for a specific period of time and won’t be available after the end date. For example, your wedding anniversary is coming next month and you want to sell a limited edition of your signature wine. So you make an advertisement about your product and tell costumers that the offer is only available on your anniversary date.  

When done right, scarcity marketing can incredibly increase the value of your goods and services. 

How to Set Up a Scarcity Marketing Plan

The concept of marketing sounds very simple, doesn’t it? But how do you make it work for your business?

It’s no secret that a lot of online marketing agencies are already using this strategy in their marketing efforts. Sad to say, only a few are doing it right.

First let’s discuss how you can set up an effective scarcity marketing plan.

Describe your target audience

Decide on the type of customers that you want to target in your scarcity marketing plan. On your marketing notes, choose the demographics of your primary audience such as the age, gender, and location. What are their interests? Can you describe their shopping behavior? How often do they use mobile devices when searching for products and services?

When you determine the demographics of your chosen audience, they can be segmented so you can target them accurately.

Set up your budget

Since you are creating a marketing plan, you must also determine your budget. You will use the budget to pay for your product release, ads, and other marketing activities. 

Choose an effective scarcity method

Whether you go for the first or second format, it all depends on the type of business you’re running. 

If you are a small business owner with a limited inventory of products, the first type of scarcity marketing will most likely be the best route for you.

If you have a huge warehouse with a variety of products (ex. shoes, apparel, sportswear, etc.) you need the second type of scarcity marketing method to help you move products as soon as possible.

Plan a strategy

How do you plan to get the word about your promotion? Would you prefer to have it included in your email marketing strategy? Or do you want to create a separate advertisement for your products and have it displayed in other reputable websites?

I will give some good examples of a great scarcity strategy.

Amazon’s “Deal of the Day” – If you noticed, Amazon has a specific section where you can see products that are on a countdown timer called “Deal of the Day.” All products in this section are sold at a great discount but costumers need to purchase them before the time expires so they can avail of the discount.

Groupon – It’s amazing how this site takes scarcity marketing and turns it into its core business model. Groupon sells discounted products and services, including some tickets to your favorite movie at a given period of time. 

Evaluate your Plan

There are many tools that you can use to evaluate your plan such as measuring your sales and tracking customer response.

One of the best ways to track customer response is to determine the number of click-through rate. Segregate the numbers according to who clicked your ad and made some purchase, those who only add products to their cart but did not make any purchase, and those who did not click at all. Also you can track your customer’s behavior. 

You can also use questionnaires to gather feedback from customers.  If you have included your scarcity marketing in your email marketing plan, you can ask questions like, “How did you find out about the sale?” and “Would you want to make a new purchase in the future?”

Evaluating your plan is important because it will help you tailor your next campaign and make it more successful. 

5 Innovative Ways to Use Scarcity Marketing to your Own Advantage

Are you ready to craft your own scarcity marketing plan?

Let’s now look at some specific ways on how you can use scarcity to your advantage and make it work. 

Purchase Countdowns or Flash Sales

Admit it. We don’t like missing chances.  

So we buy things even if we don’t need them because we are on time constraint and not purchasing them today might only bring us regret. 

This is the concept of purchase countdowns or flash sales. It ignites last bidding wars on buyers and urges them to buy before they run out of time. This is a great strategy for those who have retail business. 

Next day free shipping countdowns

Loses are painful but gains are pleasurable. 

Today almost 80 percent of shoppers would shop online and love free shipping.  Instead of placing some items on sale, you can set a next day free shipping countdown and urge people to buy the product. 

This way you don’t have to lose a portion of the original price. People will feel the urge to buy your item even on regular price because of the free shipping countdown.

Amazon is probably the most popular shopping website that uses this tactic. If you check a particular product, the next day free shipping notice is included in its product description.  

Low stock notices

Inform your customers that a certain item is nearly selling out.  When a buyers see that the item they want is selling out, the will eventually make a purchase.

A low stock notice is very simple. If you are operating a retail store online, you can simply add in your product description that such product is low on stock.

Alternately, you can include it in your weekly newsletter and feature products that are currently low on stock. 

Limited edition and exclusive promotions

When you release a product that is limited edition, it means you only have a limited supply of the product and it will not be available once it sells out.

Oftentimes, retail stores offer limited edition products for a special purpose and reason which make them very easy to sell. Think back to Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy Boost 350. The shoes were release for a limited stock for a limited time offer. If you were one of Kanye’s fans, you wouldn’t miss out buying the shoes no matter how expensive it is.

Consumer’s real-time activity 

In this strategy you want to communicate to people that your products and services are almost selling out by showing them the number of people that are checking on them.

This is very common in hotel and restaurant services. In fact, you have probably seen this tactic when accessing hotel bookings. Expedia for example, uses a yellow pop-up notification to show the number of available hotels and the number of people that are viewing the same.

If you see that there are only two rooms left in your favorite hotel and there are 50 people currently viewing it, you would normally feel the need to book a room before anyone gets it. 

The concept is very simple, isn’t it? When a certain product is running out, it leads people to believe that it is popular. So other buyers tend to compete with other buyers and get it. 

Expedia is not the only website that uses this tactic. Other hotel services like Booking.com and TripAdvisor use this method to encourage customers to use their services when booking hotels. 


Using a little pressure to entice your customers to buy your products and services is a unique, creative way to increase your sales. While it entails manipulating your customer behavior, it is actually very effective. 

Again customers buy products that are scarce because of they are pressured to do so. But on top of everything, customers buy them because they feel powerful afterwards. 

Winning is something everyone wants. And this is exactly what we feel after getting an item that is no longer available soon. 

I hope this article has enhanced your understanding about scarcity marketing. If you need any help in setting up your own scarcity marketing plan, don’t hesitate to reach out.