We’ve all been at this point.

Mother’s day is coming in a few days and you just know that you need to buy a nice gift before it’s too late.

But the thing is, you just don’t know when and from whom you should order.

You’re browsing a couple of websites and you suddenly see this gorgeous flower bouquet.

You scroll down a bit and promptly read “Mother’s Day: Order now for on-time delivery.

That’s it: you know that you need to order now for the bouquet to be delivered before Mother’s Day.

That pressure you just felt?

It’s called urgency.

Urgency is widely used across marketing campaigns to increase conversions

Urgency and scarcity are widely used across marketing campaigns to increase engagement and boost conversions: we just know they work.

Just look at Black Friday: according to TechCrunch, that event alone racked up more than $5B dollars in online sales for November 2017.

Basically, urgent situations push us to act fast and scarcity triggers anxiety which also forces us to act promptly. Learn more about purchase anxiety.

Put into the right hands, these tools can help ecommerce and online businesses boost their conversions and increase sales.

Before we look into the best practices, let’s take a quick look at the psychology behind scarcity and urgency.

Understand the psychology behind urgency

Urgency is a psychological trigger that is deeply rooted inside our brain: it relates to the human loss aversion or the so-called Fear-of-Missing-Out (FOMO).

Scientifically speaking, urgency is a time-based concept that prompts us to act quickly.

Similarly to the scarcity principle, FOMO is a kind of social anxiety defined by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing” (source).

When something (an offer, a discount…) is running out of time, we’re automatically evaluating whether or not we’re ready to let this opportunity go away – because we fear missing out.

Understand the psychology behind scarcity

Similar to urgency, scarcity is a psychological trigger that uses quantity to have us act quickly.

According to the scientific literature, scarcity simply means that we place a higher value on objects that are scarce or rare (source).

Likewise, scarcity also triggers our FOMO instinct: if something was running out of stock, we’d also consider the pros and cons of buying it before it’s too late.

Interestingly, scarcity plays all kinds of roles in our lives: a 2009 study consisted in showing pictures of a man to a cohort of women in a dating perspective. Half of the cohort was told that the man was taken and the other half that we has single.

The results were uncanny: most single women leaned towards the engaged man.

Now that we covered the psychological basis behind urgency and scarcity, here are the best practices to apply them in real-life marketing cases.

Scarcity and Urgency Best Practices for Marketers

Scarcity and urgency are undoubtedly powerful techniques to increase conversions.

However, they should be used with caution because pushy methods can rapidly become risky for your brand loyalty.

Avoid Fake Urgency and Scarcity

Creating urgency is good, abusing it is bad.

Some stores just go all in and put everything on sale all year long, creating the feeling that everything is a bargain.

However, that method doesn’t work.

According to recent research, scarcity tactics don’t perform well when perceived as manipulative.

Fake urgency doesn't work
Looks like everything is on sale (source)

When everything is on sale, your customers realize that nothing really is and you’ll soon lose some major credibility.

As a rule of thumb, only display genuine offers and don’t abuse them: once in a while is enough and are generally more powerful.

Use the Right Vocabulary

We’re exposed to sales and promotional offers all the time: it’s hard to distinguish fake sales from real bargains.

To avoid sounding too pushy, try not to use too many flashing banners and highlight real bargains with compelling copy.

Your visitors should be able to sense a real bargain at first glance.

Create Powerful CTAs

Similarly to the copy, your call-to-action should state a real benefit and emphasize the urgency/scarcity.

For example, it’s a common practice to indicate the remaining stock in order to trigger the scarcity instinct.

Add urgency or scarcity message to your CTAs
Source: Walmart

Personalize your messages

Crafting personalized messages is a major digital marketing trend in 2018.

Whether in B2C or B2B, personalization yields major benefits and overall better conversions.

Because it’s so efficient, adding hints of scarcity and urgency to your personalized messages could dramatically increase your sales.

Here are a few tips that you could use to implement scarcity-based personalized messages:

  • Additional personalized product suggestions
  • Dynamic text insertion
  • Email campaigns using marketing automation
  • Contextual Targeting

Want to know more about these? Check out our marketing campaigns and personalization solutions to deliver powerful messages to your audiences.

5 real-life examples of scarcity and urgency tactics used to increase conversions

Booking.com

How Booking.com is using urgency marketing How Booking.com is using urgency marketing

Booking.com is good at triggering a sense of urgency amongst its visitors: it indicates how many times a given hotel was booked in a 12 or 24-hour period.

As a visitor, you’re forced to witness the popularity of a given hotel: it makes you book faster.

Besides, Booking.com displays clever messages to enhance the urgency effect such as: “Don’t Miss This” or “In High Demand!”

Using scarcity methods, Booking.com can boost internal competition in order to provide a superior service to their customers.

OnePlus

OnePlus is a smartphone company that got famous in a matter of months by playing solely on scarcity.

Simply put, OnePlus came up with one brilliant idea: creating a smartphone that you could only buy if you were invited.

That’s right, you couldn’t buy it from any store and you could only order it from their website.

By creating a sense of exclusivity, OnePlus triggered a massive fear-of-missing-out effect that spread within the tech-savvy community.

Their daring marketing campaign was mostly based on the scarcity principle and led to a massive 1M units sales and 25 million visits on their website.

Sushi Shop

Sushi Shop

In the food delivery industry, avoiding late deliveries is a tremendous challenge, considering that the average worker only dedicates half an hour for lunch breaks (source).

Marketers at SushiShop (a French leader of home and office sushi delivery) wanted to try out urgency marketing to see if it could yield any positive results.

Having this in mind, we (AB Tasty) helped the brand introduce a stress marketing tactic based on the urgency principle.

In order to do so, we implemented a sticky banner at lunch time on their mobile app to urge customers to pre-order: the idea was that they could pre-order to guarantee a satisfying delivery time and avoid late deliveries.

The results were very positive: it yielded a 3% increase in cart order confirmations.

Amazon.com

Source: Amazon

Being the largest ecommerce company in the world, Amazon is an obvious choice when it comes to scarcity and urgency examples.

On top of their nearly perfect product pages and listing pages, Amazon also has a “Today’s Deals” section where limited offers are displayed.

Their product listing cleverly displays your savings in order to highlight the price difference.

Source: Amazon

Last but not least, some products come in a limited quantity: Amazon uses this scarcity method to display the remaining stock.

In this case, 33% have already been claimed.

Using this, Amazon manages to create a real sense of scarcity and urgency while not being too pushy in the process.

Basecamp

Basecamp is a famous communication and project management software known for making teams’ lives easier.

Besides its fancy visual identity, Basecamp uses clever urgency tactics to make you feel like you’re missing out on something if you don’t use Basecamp.

Urgency marketing example from Basecamp

By quoting real numbers from clients’ statistics, Basecamp makes you feel like you could gain from using it.

They even mention how many businesses have signed up in the last week.

Social proof example from Basecamp

On their “Real Results” page, Basecamp displays a huge number of customer reviews; so much that you feel like the whole planet is using it: it surely triggers your FOMO.

That’s it for our scarcity and urgency tactics.

If you would like to know more about digital marketing, we’ve also recently talked about shopping cart page optimization and ecommerce product pages.