Nowadays, everything seems to be about ease, convenience, and availability. With a few clicks, you can get almost anything sent to your home. And if you can’t get what you need from one business, another option is just a few more clicks away. So why wait? In this climate, it seems like scarcity marketing should be a thing of the past.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As it turns out, having so much surplus makes people much more competitive over limited resources. So, if you do it right, scarcity marketing can actually be an incredibly powerful way to sell your products or services.
How scarcity marketing works
People always want what they can’t have because they think the grass is greener on the other side. Scarcity marketing is based on one very simple, primal principle: fear motivates people to act. Simply put, if a product isn’t available, it suddenly becomes more attractive.
We tend to associate limited availability with exclusivity. If things are difficult to get, we know it’s because they’re better than the things we already have.
As such, consumers use an item’s availability to decide on the quality of the product.
People don’t think about the fact that it’s a psychological reaction that’s causing us to want something. We know we want it. And because we need to make sense of this feeling, we assign the item positive qualities to justify our desire.
Put scarcity to work!
Fast shipping and other services that indulge the “I want it now” side of the market have actually increased the effectiveness of scarcity marketing. People simply aren’t used to limited supplies or having to wait for something, so scarcity has an even bigger impact than it used to.
This is good news because it means that you don’t have to be a giant company to make scarcity marketing work. Here are a few ideas.
Create high-quality products!
Anyone who’s ever tried a DIY project knows that quality takes a lot of time and effort. As a result, we all naturally recognize that quality and quantity have an inverse relationship: the higher the quality, the less you can produce. Whether or not that actually plays out at scale, that’s how we all believe things work.
Brands are fueling scarcity with limited-edition products and the appearance of limited inventory, this way creating a sense of urgency and driving demand. The most in-demand pieces often sell out almost instantly.
The appeal to consumers is clear: buy now or forever miss out. If something is available and in front of you, it’s less desirable. Scarcity is what defines it. One of the ways to create scarcity is to reduce the supply curve. The more demand there is, the more desire it creates.
Create a sense of exclusivity!
Another reason why scarcity marketing is so powerful is that it creates a sense of exclusivity. Essentially, scarcity marketing creates “haves” and “have-nots.” This creates a sense of social superiority or inferiority, depending on which group you’re in, and allows you to put some primal social instincts to work for your business.
For example, some of the most effective online platforms got their start by using this scarcity marketing approach. Gmail and Pinterest both originally started as invitation-only platforms. If you had an invite, you were part of an elite crowd with exclusive access to something new and exciting.
Whether or not Gmail or Pinterest was actually better than any other similar platform at the time wasn’t important. What mattered was that the exclusivity around the platform made the platform feel superior, so people were eager to get in on the action.
Although the current consumer mindset could probably be best described as “Give it to me NOW,” you can still use scarcity to get more out of your marketing. If anything, recent changes in consumer expectations seem to have amplified the effectiveness of scarcity marketing.
However, scarcity marketing only works if you do it right. If you try to create scarcity around a product or service that is widely available or does not have an element of uniqueness or quality to it, you’ll just end up driving potential customers elsewhere.
But used properly, scarcity marketing can significantly increase the perceived value of your offer and turn something that could be commonplace into something people will fight for.