A study was conducted in 1975 where researchers wanted to know how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars, one of which had 10 cookies and other only with two. While everything remained the same, they found out that people preferred cookies in the near-empty jar more than the one filled up to the brim.
This is precisely what the principle of scarcity states. It defines that people tend to give more value to objects which are practically scarce as compared to the ones available in abundance . When applied to the field of marketing, scarcity, along with urgency, can make for a potential weapon to significantly increase ecommerce conversion sales and revenue thereafter.
Principles of Persuasion – Scarcity and Urgency
Below mentioned are some examples of how different ecommerce websites creatively use these principles of persuasion – scarcity, and urgency – to their advantage.
1) Stock Scarcity
Displaying your stock meter on the ecommerce product page is always a good conversion practice. Not only does it ensure that there are no last-minute heart breaks for the customers, but it also speeds up the buying process. A user might be convinced to make a purchase, but they might not always be willing to buy products right away. They might want to compare the prices of their selected items on other sites, look for discount coupons, the right payment options or may simply forget about the products — thanks to the myriad distractions of the web.
Look how ModMomFurniture flashes a message stating ‘Only 3 items left’ on one of its product pages.
Boticca too uses the same trick. It urges its existing and potential customers to complete their purchase right away to grab the last piece before the stock runs out. The use of an active call to action like ‘Act’ helps drive immediate action and increase conversions.
2) Size Scarcity
Imagine you head to a shop to buy a pair of denim jeans only to find out that the last piece in your size has just gone out of stock. Old story? Well, if it can happen in the retail stores, it can definitely happen online as well.
Informing the buyers when a particular size goes out of stock is similar to killing two birds with one arrow. Not only does this help to inform the online shoppers that a particular product is unavailable, but works as a positive reinforcement as well.
See how Jabong represents the unavailable size in grey.
Zappos goes a step further and even shows how many items are left in a particular size and color combination.
3) Time-Bound Purchase for Next Day Shipping
If you are already offering next-day delivery, then ‘time-bound purchase’ won’t cost you any additional resource. You just need to inform your customers how many hours/minutes they have to complete their purchase process to qualify for next day delivery. Here, you can also offer free shipping schemes as well. Time-bound purchase strategy primarily solves two purposes – it makes customers more proactive towards completing their purchase process within the specified period and eliminates confusion as to when their purchased items will be delivered at their doorstep.
Amazon shows the exact number of hours/minutes within which a customer must complete their purchase process to get their order delivered the very next day.
Arguably, it’s one of the best conversion rate optimization tactics as well.
4) Make them see other buyers
People are much more inclined towards buying something when others desire them too.
When you look at a property at Booking.com, it shows exactly how many people are checking out the same property in real time. Social proof typically helps create a sense of urgency in the minds of shoppers.
5) Limited-Period Offer
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a legitimate one. It is the anticipated regret of not being able to seize an opportunity. A limited-period offer works precisely the same way. It makes the offer look so tempting and fleeting that one is compelled to take the opportunity before it’s gone.
Amazon dramatically uses a running countdown to show how long the sale will last.
MakeMyTrip.com shows an alert when the last few discounted airline tickets are left in stock. See how they use color psychology here to instill urgency. The use of the red color is not a mere coincidence, it’s associated with energy, increased heart rate, and often used in clearance sales.
5) Limited-Time Discount on Abandoned Cart Items
Offering limited-time discounts on abandoned carts is a great way to use the urgency principle to re-market products. However, the risk here is not to overdo it. Doing this too often can affect how people perceive your brand and may be compelled to think twice to buy products from your ecommerce store in the future.
See how Miracas offers a 5% discount to abandoned carts to get them back on their site and complete their purchase process although their offer stands valid for the next two days only.
6) Shopping Cart Item – Sold Out
Seeing some items disappear from the cart works as a reality check for users – urging them to buy the rest of their selected products before they too run out of stock. See how Snapdeal shows a ‘Sold Out’ message next to items in the cart to prompt urgency.
7) Limited-Period Free Delivery
Well, this is quite similar to limited-period offers. The desire to avail free delivery and not paying any additional shipping costs can plausibly offset a visitors’ tendency to procrastinate the purchase. This can further aid to a good user experience as well.
8) Special Discount Hours
A two-day or a weekend sale has its own charm. But, a special discount hour can be more useful in galvanizing excitement. Zivame sent out this mailer to its subscribers to build up craze for its hour-long sale.
9) Last Chance Emails
E-mails informing subscribers about last day of sale is another great way to get more attention. This is how Myntra makes use of Orange color to drive action on its website.
According to color psychology, just like red, orange too has an aggressive feel and creates a sense of urgency to take the desired action and boost ecommerce conversion rate.
Before you set out to use any of the rules mentioned above, adhere to these three golden rules
1) Don’t Expect ‘Scarcity’ to Create a Lot of Demand
‘Scarcity’ or ‘Urgency’ work as two of the best ways to motivate customers and quicken their buying process. But, they only work wonders if a customer is already convinced to make the purchase . They may be great procrastination killers, but they do not guarantee demand generation. It’s only when you’ve decided to buy something that you start considering whether to choose option A or B.
2) False Urgency can Backfire
Don’t go about faking urgency as it can whiff off your customers right away. Be honest. Don’t try to get rid of the stock that won’t move by flashing messages like ‘hurry, only last two pieces left.’ Customers will not only easily catch your bluff, but will also start questioning your genuineness. This can, in turn, also ruin their shopping experience.
3) Don’t Overdo It
Even if you’re using the scarcity principle in all earnestness, don’t overdo it. You don’t need to employ all the practices with multiple countdowns breathing down a customer’s neck as you’ll end up being a pushy, shady, and untrustworthy brand in the eyes of your customers. Moderation is the key. However, testing gives you better insights as to what will work best for your brand and enhance ecommerce conversion rate.
PS. It’s very easy to go overboard with persuasion elements. Test what works but also, on top of that, use your judgement to see when enough is enough, or you can end up with a more effective website in a short term but with a broken brand image and customers not willing to return in the future.