Human beings are naturally competitive. Whether they will admit it or not, most people love to win. Of course the opposite side of this is most people hate to lose. For this reason, consumers tend to act more swiftly when they think they’re going to miss out on something. This can be used to instill a sense of urgency to motivate shoppers.
Better buy it now, there are only two left in stock! This deal is for today only, if you wait and come back tomorrow, the price will be higher. We don’t hold merchandise; it’s first come first served. If you wait, it will likely be gone at this price. All of our items are one of a kind; if you see it and you like it, you’d better buy it, because this is the only one we’re likely to ever have.
All of these phrases create a sense of scarcity in the mind of the customer. If they really want the item, but were of a mind to procrastinate on the purchase, these statements are likely to move them to make the purchase immediately because they don’t want to miss out — they don’t want to lose. Here, it should be noted this principle only applies when the customer actually has a desire for the product. Scarcity has no bearing on the sales of steaming hot skunk juice—OK? Nobody wants it, so it doesn’t matter how little of it there is.
Buyer procrastination usually stems from the other side of loving to win. In most cases, when someone really wants something, but doesn’t make the decision to purchase, it’s because they’re concerned there may be a better deal out there somewhere and they haven’t run across it yet. They’re actually trying to avoid missing out on that as-yet unidentified better deal.
When you introduce the idea of scarcity, the idea of missing out altogether supersedes the thought of a better deal out there somewhere. The shopper thinks, “I want this thing, they have this thing and they’re telling me I might not get it at all if I don’t buy it now?” The best ecommerce website builders have built-in mechanisms to help you trigger this thought.
Proven ecommerce scarcity tactics include countdown clocks showing when a sale will end; quantity counters showing how few of an item remain; and tallies showing how many other people are viewing a given item at the same moment. This last one also plays into the human desire to belong. If something looks really popular, people believe it must be good because so many other people are considering it too. “How can 20,000,000 Frenchmen all be wrong?” Right?
Now, within all of this manipulation exists a responsibility to be ethical. Lying to customers about the scarcity of an item will come back to bite you. Many people will keep looking around after they’ve made a purchase to reassure themselves they really did get a good deal. If you’ve told them only two of a product are left anywhere in the world and they turn a corner to come face to face with 25 more, you’ve just set yourself up for a return—as well as the loss of that customer’s confidence.
Your goal should always to be to create repeat business. You want to be seen as a trusted merchant to whom shoppers return over and over again. Lie to them once and that bond will be broken forever. The good news is, with these principles, you can be truthful and instill a sense of urgency to motivate shoppers.