Scarcity Marketing: Does It Actually Work?

Published: | By Pohan Lin

Scarcity marketing is nothing new, but the big question is, does it actually work? "We only have two units left, so it may be gone if you don’t buy now!”  How often have you seen or heard a variation of that statement? 

You may have heard it from a salesperson, or it may have come in an email or a popup when browsing the internet.

It’s a digital marketing tactic that isn't rooted in the digital age at all. In fact, it even predates traditional media like tv and newspaper, and has likely been around for a millenia. 

Does scarcity marketing create a sense of urgency in potential customers, or do they see it as another digital marketing gimmick? Let's discuss.

What is Scarcity Marketing? 

Scarcity marketing involves conveying to potential customers that they may miss out on a great deal if they don’t buy now. FOMO (fear of missing out) can be a strong persuader for selling products. 



Organizations know that creating a sense of urgency might persuade customers to purchase when they may have waited to buy. 

It is a quintessential form of customer psychology for increasing sales.

Of course, that FOMO may be well-founded and grounded in reality. There may only be X units of a product left, or there may only be that number of units available at the listed price, and when stock replenishment happens, the price point may be higher than now. 

The idea of scarcity marketing is to act as a catalyst for instant purchasing decisions

If it’s not a tactic that you have previously employed, there are two big questions you will likely be asking. The first is whether scarcity marketing works. 

The second is that if it does work, how should you use it to boost your marketing conversion rate and sales rate? 

How to Use Scarcity Marketing 

If you think about it, the answer to that first question is a fairly obvious yes. There have likely been many occasions where you have made a decision based on scarcity marketing. 

It may even have been as simple as a limited number of tickets left for your favorite band–it doesn’t have to be as complex as Gradient Boosting vs. Random Forest

So, the big question is how to use it as a tactic and see better results.



Types of Scarcity Marketing

  • Limited stock
  • Early discounts
  • Exclusive deals and partnerships
  • Limited editions
  • Seasonal offerings
  • Countdown timers
  • High demand

The first thing to consider is what type (or types) of scarcity marketing you will employ and when. 

Although the end goal - instilling that sense of urgency and FOMO - may be the same, you can take several different routes to achieve that goal. 

  • Limited stock 

The most well-known form of scarcity marketing involves informing customers that your inventory is running low. 

Combining the idea of low stock levels with suggesting that any new inventory may be at a higher price often spurs customers into action and ensure they make a favorable purchasing decision.

  • Early discounts 

Early discounts (or early access) can be an excellent way for retailers to stimulate interest in new products. 

People will be enthusiastic to purchase a new product or service when a discount is applied.

You can also use this particular form to offer something ‘extra’ to loyal or VIP customers who have a high value for you. 

  • Exclusive deals and partnerships 

Another good way to use scarcity marketing is to offer exclusive deals or pair-ups that encourage people to buy or sign up. 

For example, consider an impulse purchase of a new TV if you combine it with a renowned surround sound system brand. 

If you specialize in neural networks and convolutional layer operations, team up with another tech specialist.

  • Limited editions 

By offering a product or service only available for a limited period, you are going beyond creating urgency and appealing to a customer’s sense of vanity in many cases. 

It could take the form of ‘branding’ a product with a well-known celebrity or, in the F&B sector, creating a new product that is very much time-limited. 

  • Seasonal offerings 

Of course, seasonal products come with limited availability, but many are also available to buy year-round. 

However, consider offering something different that stands out from the crowd and is only available for a limited period.


Free to use image from Pixabay

  • Countdown timers 

A countdown timer on landing pages can significantly amplify FOMO and lead customers to buy. 

It can be especially effective during sales periods as it can let customers know how long a product is available at a discounted level. 

  • High demand 

When you tell customers that a product or service is in high demand and may soon run out, you help create that sense of urgency needed to help them decide. 

A good example is on travel websites where popups will tell you how many rooms in a hotel are left and how many people are looking at that hotel. You should only use this tactic when there is high demand. 

Identify Where and When You Can Use Scarcity Marketing



It’s not just a case of thinking that scarcity marketing is a good way of boosting your sales and conversions; it’s a tactic you must use wisely and at the right time. 

For example, you may sell hardware agents can use in a cloud contact center. Your inventory of a specific model of headsets may be running low, and you could decide to use scarcity marketing to shift the last of your current batch of stock. 

Scarcity marketing is something you should be using sparingly. Thinking about using the different types listed above can lead to better sales figures, but - unless you offer thousands of products - customers may get tired of seeing scarcity marketing offers daily. 

However, mixing and matching the types of scarcity marketing you employ can avoid potential fatigue in your customer base. 

The other thing to think about is where you will use scarcity marketing. The most obvious answer is on your website and product landing pages. 

After all, that’s where customers are most often browsing your products, and they’re already in your conversion funnel

In this modern era, you engage with your customers across various platforms. While you want to capture customers on your website, you also want to capture customers who may see posts on your social media platforms. 

Posting your scarcity marketing offers can be a great way to boost followers on Instagram and other social media platforms. 

You can also use scarcity marketing as part of your email marketing and lead generation strategy. It’s again the case of considering where your customers will see offers. 

Not all of them will visit your website regularly or even see your social media posts, so you must think about how to communicate with them. 

Scarcity Marketing Mistakes to Avoid 




Scarcity marketing can be a great tactic in many situations. Still, it can also be easy to become blinded by the pursuit of better sales and conversions and to make mistakes that may damage your brand’s reputation. 

  • Overuse

     If customers see you constantly posting that a specific product has limited stock, then they may suspect that you are either deceiving them or that you have poor skills when it comes to inventory management. 
  • Too many products

     If you apply scarcity marketing to fewer products, customers will become suspicious. While a handy tactic, you should use it sparingly and when your marketing teams identify its use as optimal. 
  • Exclusive should be exclusive

     If you offer fewer exclusive deals, mainly when offers are limited to groups such as loyalty club members, then you will exclude other parts of your customer base. It could lead to a decrease in customer retention rates and brand loyalty. 
  • Failure to cope

     Ok, you want to boost sales and conversions, but are you ready to cope with any increase in demand caused by scarcity marketing? You also need to be sure that you have the actual stock and that if you run out, you immediately close any marketing on that product.
  • Extending limited-time offers

    When customers see that a product is only available for a specific time, it can be an irritation. While launching a new, slightly different offer the following week may be acceptable, extending your current offer may make customers look elsewhere. 


There is no doubt that when used correctly, scarcity marketing does work and can help boost your sales and conversions. 

Every ecommerce business wants to grow and have great sales figures, and scarcity marketing is one tactic that can contribute to that goal. 

By identifying which types to use and when and where to use them, you can employ them to their full potential. 

However, be very aware of the caveats listed. Overuse or wrong use can lead to customers growing tired of it as a tactic and may even see them seeking products and services elsewhere.

If you’re not already employing scarcity marketing, maybe it’s time your marketing teams considered it. Done right, it can be highly effective.

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