We’ve all been at that point.
Mother’s Day is in a few days and you need to buy a nice gift before it’s too late.
But the thing is, you don’t know when you should place an order and who you should order from. You’re browsing a couple of websites and you see a gorgeous flower bouquet. You scroll down a bit and promptly read “Mother’s Day: Order now for on-time delivery.”
That’s it: 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 and scarcity are widely used across marketing campaigns to increase engagement and boost conversions because it works.
Look at Black Friday: according to TechCrunch, that day 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. (Read more about purchase anxiety here.)
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 faced with a limited-time offer (e.g. a discount), we start to automatically evaluate if we’re comfortable letting this opportunity get away (or if the fear of missing out is too great).
Understand the Psychology Behind Scarcity
Similar to urgency, scarcity is a psychological trigger that uses quantity to compel us to act quickly.
According to 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 of showing pictures of a man to a cohort of women from a dating perspective. Half of the cohort was told that the man was taken and the other half that he was single.
The results? The majority of 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.
When everything is on sale, your customers realize that nothing really is and you’ll lose credibility.
As a rule of thumb, only display genuine offers and don’t abuse them: occasionally is enough and is 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—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.
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
5 Real-life Examples of Scarcity and Urgency Tactics Used to Increase Conversions
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.
On top of that, Booking.com uses messaging to enhance this sense of urgency 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 is a smartphone company that got famous in a matter of months by playing solely on scarcity: 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.
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, 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 lunchtime 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.
Being the largest ecommerce company in the world, Amazon is an obvious choice when it comes to scarcity and urgency examples.
Their product listing cleverly displays your savings in order to highlight the price difference.
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 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.
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.
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.