What to Do (And Not to Do) When It Comes to Using Scarcity Tactics to Increase Profit

Discover how straightforward and beneficial scarcity tactics are to increase sales, and learn what mistakes to avoid to guarantee high sales.

Antavo’s cover about scarcity examples

Do you ever wonder why you feel a sense of urgency to buy something when you know the offer won’t be available for long? This feeling often arises when scarcity tactics are at play behind the scenes.

People are naturally drawn to scarce items because they perceive them as more exclusive and valuable. This perception stems from their temporary nature or exclusivity to a select group of loyal customers. When time or resources are limited, customers are encouraged to make quicker purchase decisions, leaving less time for contemplation.

The Top 5 Scarcity Marketing Tactics

Below, we provide examples and explain how they can help generate more customer purchases by creating a sense of urgency, while also covering some common mistakes to avoid when using these tactics.

Speaking of creating special moments in your customers’ lives, here’s an ebook on how to come up with the perfect reward ideas:

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1. Use a Countdown to Create FOMO

Using a countdown is a popular and effective example of scarcity in action. A countdown establishes clear scarcity parameters and encourages prospective customers to act quickly before the countdown expires.

Furthermore, if a countdown ends and a customer misses out, they may feel left out. To avoid having that feeling again, customers will be extra aware so they don’t miss out on future countdowns that the company releases.

Countdowns can come in many different forms but they all have one thing in common: they create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to make a purchase before they miss out. 

Scarcity example on an Amazon product page in the form of a countdown.
Amazon uses countdown tactics to create a sense of urgency in the customer to purchase the Samsung TV before the timer runs out and the deal of the day disappears.
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Tactics to Try:

  • Include an interactive ticking timer that dynamically updates while customers are on the website, encouraging them to make a quick purchase.
  • Maintain email marketing strategies to inform your customers when a countdown begins and ends.
  • Clearly communicate the potential savings for customers who make a purchase within the specified timeframe.
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Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Deceiving customers by suggesting the deal will expire after the timer ends, only for them to discover the deal is still available the next day, erodes trust between the brand and the customer.
  • Releasing a new countdown every day can become repetitive and diminish its effectiveness in motivating customers to make purchases, as they will anticipate another countdown soon.
  • Avoid putting excessive pressure on customers to make quick purchases, especially for more expensive products, as this may deter them from rushing into a decision they might later regret.

2. Release Interactive Same-Day Limited Time Flash Sales to Loyal Customers

Often, when companies launch a flash sale, they include a button to redeem the sale code, which then prompts customers to provide some information about themselves. This is an effective way to collect customer data while also offering something in return.

It is especially effective when the sale appears mysteriously and is only around for a short period of time. Furthermore, when a sale is only available for customers who are part of a high tier in your loyalty program, they will feel more loyal to the company and want to shop with you again. 

Loft’s interactive flash sale with gamification elements.
Loft released a flash sale in combination with gamification tactics to create an interactive experience for its customers while also encouraging them to shop while the sale lasts.
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Tactics to Try:

  • Offer seasonal sales that customers can count on coming back year after year to generate loyalty and excitement about the next round of seasonal deals.
  • Use gamification tactics to encourage customer excitement as they get to spin a wheel or play a game to see what percentage discount they will receive.
  • Send out an email right when the flash sale begins and include the amount of time left for the sale to generate a sense of urgency.
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Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Releasing flash sales too often, customers will become acclimated to it and react less to future flash sales.
  • Only attracting one-time sale-only buyers. It is important to advertise primarily to existing customers who also are willing to purchase products when they are not on sale. 
  • Flash sales create a lot of website traction, which can make the site slow down — or even crash. Make sure your website can handle it and have customer service agents on standby for easy transactions.

3. Share Promo Codes to Spark Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Promo codes are another effective scarcity example because they reach a specific group of people, which creates the element of exclusivity that customers desire. Many brands have realized the power of the upcoming generation of influencers and have used that to foster a relationship with certain influencers in order to create promo codes and generate a new customer base. 

Promo codes also generate word-of-mouth advertising because when one person hears about a promo code, they immediately want to share it with their friends and family after making their purchase. 

Scarcity tactic example of a promo code on a Tiktok influencer’s profile
Influencers on TikTok can promote their partnership with brands like Casetify and give their followers a 15% off coupon code at checkout.
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Tactics to Try:

  • Reach out to an influencer to collaborate with them and create a discount code that their followers can use.
  • Take it a step further and make the promo code more scarce and exclusive by only offering it to the first 500 customers who use the code.
  • Make sure the people who release your promo code have similar values to your brand to foster trust and loyalty between you, the influencer, and the customers.
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Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Making the promo code too easily accessible takes away the customer’s excitement about finding and using the code.
  • Advertising a promo code to customers that seems accessible to all when in fact they get to checkout and the code is only for certain customers.
  • Releasing too many promo codes to too many influencers that never expire and lack exclusivity will eat into your profits.

4. Offer Free Express Shipping to Customers Who Purchase Within the Next Few Minutes

Offering free express shipping to customers is another exclusivity and scarcity example. This tactic motivates customers to make a purchase right away instead of stepping away and possibly forgetting about the order they were going to place. This is especially true for non-essential brands. 

Customers often peruse websites for pleasure and add things to their cart without the intent of buying the items right away. However, when there is an incentive added that the product could be at their door in the next few days with free shipping if they order now, that provides a big incentive to place their order immediately. 

Edible Arrangements scarcity example: free shipping.
Edible Arrangements offers same-day free shipping if their customers order within an hour and 30 minutes of being on the website
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Tactics to Try: 

  • Prominently feature free express shipping on the front page of the website, as shown in the example above. This way, customers will be excited to order and won’t have to wait until the last moment to discover the shipping deal.
  • Consider offering an additional incentive: if customers provide their email and phone number and join the loyalty program, they can receive free or discounted shipping for all future orders.
  • Display the free express shipping promotion in large, bold, and eye-catching letters to capture customers’ attention.
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Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Avoid promising express or same-day shipping when the product ultimately takes the standard 3-5 days to arrive. This can frustrate customers and erode trust in your company’s future promises.
  • Don’t feature the express shipping deal on the website at all times. Instead, occasionally have it pop up to maintain scarcity and exclusivity.
  • Be transparent about regular shipping costs. It’s important for customers to see the amount they’re saving, which might even encourage them to spend more on their order, knowing how much they’re saving on shipping.

5. Highlight When Items Are Almost Out of Stock or Have a Limited Supply

Letting customers know that supplies are limited is a proven method to prompt them to purchase goods or services more quickly. This consumer behavior, where people tend to buy a product faster and in higher quantities when they’re aware of limited supplies, has been a long-standing trend.

Moreover, this scarcity example is highly effective because it taps into customers’ fear of missing out (FOMO) on something that may not be available when they want it next.

Booking.com scarcity example. 
Booking.com uses a scarcity tactic of reminding customers that supplies are limited and if they don’t book now they might not have a hotel room available later.
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Tactics to Try:

  • On retail websites, when an item has less than 10 left in stock, show that information so customers can see when supplies are limited. 
  • Send loyal customers emails notifying them when items that they have been looking at are running low.
  • Be honest with customers about how many products you have left and whether or not they will be restocked in the future. 
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Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Over-pressuring customers with too many alerts about limited supplies might aggravate them and make them choose a competitor. 
  • Combining a limited-time sale with alerts that only two items remain in stock can potentially overwhelm customers and deter them from making a purchase.
  • Overusing this scarcity tactic by repeatedly displaying low stock counts across multiple products might not convey exclusivity to customers. Instead, it could create a perception that your brand is disorganized or unable to meet demand.

Use a Scarcity Marketing Strategy Sparingly

Employing scarcity tactics is a savvy approach to capturing customer interest and stimulating spontaneous purchases. Customers appreciate feeling special, and the opportunity to acquire a product before it becomes unavailable can increase satisfaction and potentially foster long-term brand loyalty.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to exercise caution when using these strategies, as an excessive use of scarcity and exclusivity tactics can inadvertently alienate customers. In summary, integrating these scarcity strategies into your marketing efforts is a dependable way to elevate your game, generating customer enthusiasm and fostering loyalty.

Would you like to learn more about using scarcity tactics in conjunction with a loyalty program? Our loyalty experts here at Antavo can help you. Send us an RFP or book a demo today and our team can help you develop a plan. 

Speaking of creating special moments in your customers’ lives, here’s an ebook on how to come up with the perfect reward ideas:

A banner recommending to download Antavo’s ‘The Ultimate Guide to Loyalty Program Rewards’ ebook.
Headshot of Barbara Kekes-Szabo Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo

Barbara Kekes-Szabo

Barbara is a Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional - CLMP. She is also a writing expert with several years of experience in marketing and also in the information technology industry. In her free time she likes traveling the world, reading crime stories, and doing crossword puzzles.

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