Five Ways to Leverage the Power of Scarcity in Your Store

Friday, March 1st, 2013
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We see scarcity influencing minds and behaviors around us all the time. Paul Cezanne’s original painting “The Card Players” sold for over $200 million in April of 2011.  Although Girl Scout cookie season is short, the adorable green sales army manages to sell hundreds of millions of boxes every year.  And somehow on every single season of “The Bachelor”, out of just 20 women and one man, we get multiple “soul mate” love connections and often a marriage proposal! These are just a few examples of behaviors and situations influenced by scarcity.  Scarcity is a psychological principle based on the concept that people place a higher value on an object that is scarce, and a lower value on those that are abundant. When it comes to scarcity’s effect on buying behavior, people are influenced not only to pay more for scarce items, but also to buy things that they think they might not be able to get in the future.  So, how can you leverage this powerful concept in your store to increase your sales?

Add a low stock message.  Which shirt would likely sell faster: A shirt with a message that says, “Only a few left” or the same exact shirt with no message?  Past research would put the odds heavily in favor of the shirt with the message.  If you’re a Nexternal merchant, you might use your short description to do this (which can be displayed on the list view, product detail view, or both. Adjust this in Layout / Main Layout – Edit / Short Description).

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Display some sold out items. One might question the idea of wasting space, and displaying an item it if it’s sold out and you can’t buy it?  While it’s true that you can’t buy it, the sold out status also shows shoppers that items in your store won’t always be available, and that there is limited supply.

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Activate a coupon with limit on total customers. The first 20 customers who act on this promotion will get x freebie included with their order, or x deal. If you are a Nexternal merchant, this option is available in your coupon setup, called “Total Usage Limit”.

Activate a limited time coupon. People are procrastinators, and limited time offers force people to make decisions quickly on whether or not they want a product. This technique is highly popular due to its effectiveness. If you are a Nexternal merchant, you have the option to set start date and times on each of your coupons.

Advanced tip: Include some highly limited inventory/sold out products in your promotions. You can really crank up the power of this principle during promotions with some careful crafting! Group your sale items into their own category, and direct shoppers right into that category via your offsite promotions, and within your store. Be sure to include some highly limited inventory, or even some already sold out products in your promotion. This not only works as social proof that your items are attractive, but it will also help your other items to appear to also be in short supply. When we feel the supply of something appealing diminishing before our eyes quickly, we feel particularly compelled to take fast action!

Lanette Willis is a Senior Account Manager at Nexternal. Before joining Nexternal she spent nearly a decade working in market research and professional services marketing, before running her own successful eCommerce apparel business. Lanette is passionate about helping people and businesses thrive.