Using scarcity and urgency to get more Shopify sales

4 min read
created May 31 2017
Using scarcity and urgency to get more Shopify sales

This past weekend my wife and daughter went on a mission to try to find an elusive fidget spinner like the ones shown here:

You see, fidget spinners are pretty hard to come by around here. As soon as a store gets them, they end up selling out almost immediately.

Why are these fidget spinners so popular?

I personally don't quite "get" this fidget spinner trend. Social proof definitely plays a part since lots of kids have them and like to show them off to one another. I'm sure another factor in their popularity has to do with how hard they are to come by.

My wife and daughter tried a few different stores, but each of them was sold out of fidget spinners. Each time, the staff was happy to supply other rumored stores that may have some though. These fidget spinners are in short supply.

Just when my wife and daughter were about to give up they decided to try one last store. They went to our local Toys R' Us and asked one of the staff if they had any fidget spinners in stock. Unfortunately, they were told the same sad news, "Sorry we're sold out".

Just as they turned to leave, another employee came out of the back with a box. They had found one remaining box of fidget spinners buried somewhere the back storeroom.

So now, I am now the proud owner of a whole box of fidget spinners.

Just kidding - we only bought the two featured in the image above. However, the way this scenario played out nearly set the perfect stage for us to end up with a whole box of fidget spinners. I'm honestly surprised my wife didn't come home with the whole box - she has much better will power than I do.

Using scarcity to increase sales

This is what's known as scarcity in e-commerce. Scarcity is based on a limited quantity of an item available in your store. When that quantity of items sells, that's it.

Scarcity is so powerful because it helps people that are on the fence decide to purchase right now. It is human nature to put off decisions and procrastinate when left to our own devices. Scarcity can overcome this tendency because of the perception that this offer won't last for long so you better act now.

Scarcity plus urgency - a powerful combination

In the case of the fidget spinners, in addition to scarcity, there was a healthy dose of urgency baked in to make it even more powerful. Whereas scarcity involves a limited quantity, urgency involves a limited time.

All of the other stores were sold out of fidget spinners. This store had a single box. As a result, there was an implied count down timer running before these spinners sell out. This creates a natural sense of urgency, which helps convert more sales now.

Don't overdo scarcity and urgency

Scarcity and urgency work so well, in fact, that it is tempting to use it all the time. You've seen this before, the store that has the perpetual countdown timer that never hits 0. Or the perpetual "limited time sale" prices that run 24/7.

If you create fake scarcity and urgency within your Shopify store, you may be hurting your store in the long term.

If you create fake scarcity and urgency within your Shopify store, you may be hurting your store in the long term. While these techniques may work in the near term, you may end of sacrificing the long term relationship with your customers. False scarcity and urgency is easy to spot, and will not be appreciated.

Instead, you should find a way to incorporate natural scarcity and urgency into your Shopify store:

  • Show remaining quantities available for items almost sold out
  • Run flash sales or promotions
  • Offer limited edition runs of products

If you use scarcity and urgency wisely within your store, you should see much better results, without sacrificing the trust of your customers.

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Scarcity and urgency are two powerful product marketing techniques that can help your Shopify store convert more sales. To recap:

  • Scarcity involves limited quantities available
  • Urgency involves a limited time offer

Using scarcity and urgency together can multiply their overall effect. This should lead to more sales as your customers will not want to miss out.

Use caution with how often you apply these techniques. False scarcity and urgency can instantly ruin the trust between you and your customers.