How To Sell More With Scarcity (and why it matters)

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Why does scarcity work?

Scarcity principle is one of the best conversion hacks in online marketing. Using the scarcity principles outlined in this post, helped ConversionXL increase sales by 332%!

Scarcity works so well because its been with us since the dawn of mankind … and we’ve evolved with it.

Here’s how …

Since hunter gatherer years, essential resources like food and clean drinking water have been extremely hard to find.

It’s only now in the last 1000 years, of millions of years of human evolution, that we can take food and water for granted.

food scarcity

The human species has lived in scarcity for so long, that automatic responses have been hard wired into our brains.

Our evolution has designed us to focus all our attention on scare items and make acquiring them our TOP PRIORITY.

Scarcity is a powerful emotion that makes us do incredible (and sometimes crazy) things

Robert Cialdini

Scarcity fuels our competitive drive ...

If others have the item that we want, scarcity compels us to fight battles to get that item.

when everyone wants the same thing, competition can become violent

When we come across scarcity, it hijacks the brain and makes the scare things seem much more desirable to us.

And we yearn to have them …

And if we don’t get them, we know we’ll feel a lot of pain …
And we’d do anything to avoid that pain

So our mind tells that whenever we are faced with scarcity, we must get off our butts and jump into action …

And do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get that thing …

Not only do we want the same item more when it’s scare, we want it most when we are in competition for it

Robert Cialdini

Scarcity hijacks the brain

Whenever we’re faced with scarcity, we realize that there’s limited time to act … or we might lose the item while we’re taking time to think it over.

So our brain goes into fast action mode and starts relying on mental shortcuts - which we’ve learn from living everyday life.

The scarcity shortcut goes like this:

Item is difficult to get --> That means lots of people want that item --> That means the item is better than a similar, easily available item --> That makes me want it more --> So I must get it now before it’s gone

Our brain uses such mental shortcuts because the pace of modern life is frantic …

there’s so much information coming to us, especially on the internet, that we need to make quick decisions … so we don’t take too long to figure things out …

because the thing we want won’t be available for much longer.

This response in our brain is so strong that it ALWAYS comes up whenever we’re faced with GENUINE scarcity.

And no matter how much we try to trick our brain into not feeling it …
It happens automatically and we have no control over it …

These scarcity shortcuts are so powerful and so universal, that they helped create the biggest company EVER!

A company worth 7.9 Trillion Dollars!

(that just made Apple Inc. look tiny)

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost

G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton

When we get the scarce thing, we feel relieved, even elated, to own that item

We feel proud our ourselves for having taking action and getting what we wanted so badly

And the item becomes a prized possession … Because we almost lost it …

relieved and happy

(when we complete the purchase just before the countdown timer hits zero)

And if we manage to get what we want and save money doing it …

That’s the best feeling in the world 😀

And something evil in our brains loves it even more … if the others had to pay full price for it 😉

when you get a discount

when you get a discount and your friend pays full price

Robert Cialdini Influence Book Cover

The simple fact is:

Most people (including your customers) think they make logical purchase decisions.

But extensive research shows that most purchases are emotional decisions.

Scarcity is a big factor in making the "buy now" decision. 

To know more, read  Robert Cialdini’s groundbreaking bestselling book: Influence ...
... in which he breaks down the psychology of why people buy stuff ... the unknown things happening in our brains, influencing our decisions every day, every moment

Why you should use scarcity marketing

Get procrastinators to act …

Do you ever procrastinate?

Me too … In fact, everyone does.

Including your customers.

Let’s assume:

You work hard on creating a product/service you want to sell and after spending a lot of time, effort and money, you’ve finally got some customers interested.

But if your customers don’t buy today, the product will still be available forever and they’ll still pay the same price.

So your customer might think:

“Hmm … I need this product but I guess I’ll wait.
I’ll check out what the competitors are offering and come back in a few days.
After all, there’s no downside if I don’t buy today.”

And then a few days pass … and they’ve either:

•forgotten about their problem … so they don’t come back
•bought your competitor’s product
•solved their problem without your product

Either way, you let your customer postpone making the decision, their excitement for your product fizzled out and you lost the sale. 

well ... that sucks

But if you have a scarcity timer on your site, you can get the procrastinators to take action by offering them a discount or telling them that the product won’t be available for long.

That'll get them to jump on your offer and hit the buy now button.

Scarcity gives your customers a reason to BUY NOW rather than LATER #blogging #marketing #bloggingtips

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Makes your product look better

Our brains aren’t really good at figuring out what things should cost.
That’s why shows like The Price Is Right became so popular:

remember this craziness?

The fact is, that our perception of what’s valuable and what’s not, is more often determined by scarcity than anything else.
In fact, studies have shown that we are more willing to pay a higher price for scarce products BECAUSE our brains trick us into thinking they are of higher value.

Robert Cialdini

That means, if you make your products scare, you make them seem worth more than they are.

And this technique is often used by retailers (especially during holiday shopping season) and it goes like this:

  1. hike the prices
  2. announce a limited time discount to sell more of their products at the original price


  1. Create a fake shortage of popular product(s)
  2. Sell at a higher price

Of course, these techniques are unethical (and illegal) and I don’t recommend that you treat your customers this way …

but it does help me illustrate the point that scarcity skews the perception of value and makes scare products look more valuable.

Scarcity can be automated

On the web, the scarcity principle can be automated so you can setup your offers to automatically start on certain dates.

For example:
•offer a 20% discount during Christmas season every year
•limited time offers at the end of each month

You can also setup evergreen offers to run automatically.

For example:
•a 20% discount valid for 7 days to every UNIQUE person who signs up to your mailing list

(softwares like deadline funnel and thrive ultimatum use technology to ensure that the same person cannot signup with a different email address and still get the discount)

Campaigns can even start automatically when a person visits a certain page (like your product sales page) …

Or when someone finishes watching your webinar (works for pre-recorded webinars too)

Or when you apply a tag to the contact in your email marketing service (deadline funnel feature)

And because the scarcity principle provides a boost in sales, you can get these sales boosts automatically and free up your time.

Of course, if you want, you can still run campaigns manually whenever you want.

How To Sell With Scarcity

What to sell

  • Digital products, Downloadable Information Products, Software, Memberships or similar
  • Physical products
  • Offers for your affiliates

How to sell

  • Product launches
  • Upsells, downsells and cross sells
  • Holiday offers
  • Clearing sales
  • and anything else you fancy

Selling techniques

  • Discounts (show the exact discount: percentage or amount)
  • Limited time bonus (clearly mention the benefit of the bonus and time remaining)
  • Limited quantity (display the number of units remaining)
  • Access restricted (inform visitors that the item is available only for first X number of people OR course opens only twice a year)

Scarcity Marketing Examples

There are many techniques you can use to sell with scarcity.

Ramit Sethi closes access to his courses.

Only new newsletter subscribers can get access to these courses, and that too for a limited time before they lose the opportunity.

And anybody waiting for the course to open can “join the waiting list” by subscribing to his email list.

This tactic helps him grow his email list AND have lots of people join the paid course as soon as it opens.

A double whammy!


Shane Melaugh from thrivethemes also does something similar for Coursecraft – a premium course for people who want to start an online-course based business.

Learn how to use this strategy

More Use Cases for scarcity

•Show a Coupon Code for 10 Days (one time campaign)
•Advertise a Recurring Weekly Webinar
•Make an Evergreen Offer for New Subscribers
•Use scarcity to make tripwire sales to recover your ads budget (self liquidating funnel. also called tripwire)
•Your affiliates can send traffic to your product which displays the countdown timer (one time offer)
•Put daily timers to let people know when the deadline for next day shipping expires
•Put up limited hard copies of your book for sale like Clickfunnels does with DotCom Secrets (dotcom secrets review)

Click here to learn how to setup the campaigns

Important Note: Fake scarcity doesn’t work

Some websites put up fake countdown timers that can be reset by simply refreshing the page or by opening the URL in an incognito browser window.

This is a scammy tactic and it doesn’t work. Your customers hate you for this and you could also get into trouble for doing it.

Fake timers harm the reputation of business and you’ll will probably end up losing sales because of this.

For example:

Optinmonster Fake Scarcity

OptinMonster is a great tool but they’ve done this stupid thing of placing a fake timer on their pricing page.

It can easily be reset just by changing your IP address and opening the same URL in an incognito window.

And the worst part is, they don’t need to do this.

It’s an awesome company and they have an awesome product, but they still lose some credibility because someone at the company didn’t think things through.

You need to have real scarcity. That means a countdown timer that cannot be cheated even if the visitor changes IP address, changes their browser, device or even signs up using a different email address.

And if they miss the deadline, they shouldn’t be able to access the special offer page under any circumstance (so they can actually regret missing the deadline which will cause them to become much more serious about any other deadlines on your site)

Fortunately there are tools that can do this: Ultimatum and Deadline Funnel

How to get started with scarcity marketing?

Of course, you wanna know how you can enable scarcity marketing in your business and get crazy conversions …

This 4 part video course will teach you:
•How to set-up an evergreen funnel that makes you money on it's own!
•How to create real scarcity so that visitors rush to buy your product
•How to integrate with email marketing to operate the funnel automatically

Get Started
(this is a 3rd party course and you’ll need to create a free login to access it)

pulkit gera

Pulkit Gera – Blogging Done Better

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