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How to use Scarcity in Digital Marketing to Elicit a reaction

By Snap Agency September 20, 2016

Apple recently sold out of it’s ‘initial quantities’ of certain colors of it’s new iPhone 7. It seems that this happens every single time Apple starts selling a new product? Why? The Apple watch really didn’t sell that ferociously but still seemed to be in limited quantity. It seems that Apple has mastered the art of using the psychology of scarcity to elicit a reaction in consumers.



Yesterday I was looking on Orbitz.com with my wife because we were considering visiting Cancun during Thanksgiving, and the website was touting “4 left” at this price. 

After we both kind of convinced each other “we should just go for it,” we were pretty excited about it and I’m happy we made the decision. I go back to screenshot the checkout indicator with the number of them left and low and behold – 4 are still left. A very sneaky indicator indeed. 

4 left at this price

Scarcity is used all over the web to help companies sell more, and encourage immediate action

A recent e-mail I received from excellent marketer Sean McCabe gave me this inviting but firm ultimatum:


August 31st is the deadline


Some really clean ways to bring people to make a decision now instead of later?

  • Let them know before the price is going to increase and allow them to lock in the rate.
  • Let them know there’s only a certain number left at this rate before it increases.
  • For clothing – let them know there are certain sizes left and indicate which sizes you are out of.
  • Indicate seasonal specials that only come around once a year.
  • Let people know that you are doing clearance specials on items and when they are gone they’re gone.
  • Do a special collaboration with another business for limited time items or service packages.
  • Only create a single item of the type and do a promotion around one-off items.
  • Use a pre-order sale to give a special price to people who buy before the item is even available.


Next level scarcity: exclusivity

What if like social media platform Facebook in it’s early days your product or service is only available to the few, the proud and the brave of some particular niche. How could you target a vocal minority to receive your products and hold everyone back for a time, just far enough that they could see all of the desirable details but not be able to experience it for themselves yet?

Making your product or service exclusive to a smaller niche – while you perfect it, and hone the implementation for the broader public might be a great way to increase the feeling of scarcity. But don’t wait too long to open it to the public either, it’s a matter of getting the desire to own or experience to a fever pitch and then making sure most of the people do indeed have a chance to give you their money. Good luck and godspeed – feel free to comment with any examples of great instances of people stoking the feeling of scarcity below.