In 1994 Bill Clinton passed a law (which has since expired) banning assault weapons in the United States, including the AK47.
Prior to the ban coming into force, an old lady was seen buying an AK47. A reporter covering the story at the time asked her if she really needed it. Her reply? ‘Yes, I’m getting it before they [the government] take it away from me’.
In other words: we want what we think we’re going to lose more than what we could have.
This is the power of scarcity, the next influencing force in our series on persuasion in marketing. Scarcity is often used to create a sense of urgency about a purchase. It’s the difference between:
“Come and buy our sofas: 50% off”
“50% off all sofas. Hurry now, offer ends Monday”
So how can you use the principle of scarcity to make your website more influential and boost sales?
One of the most practical ways is to restrict the offer you’re making to your customers. There are a number of ways to do this:
- Put an expiry date on offers: “40% off all kitchen appliances. Offer ends 24th December.”
- Tie your special offers into seasonal events: “30% off during Christmas only.”
- Limit your offer by the number of customers who will receive the special price: “Special offer only available to the first 100 customers.”
- If you’re launching a new product or service on your website, consider offering an early bird or introductory price. “Sign up now to receive our special early bird price of £49.99.”
- If you provide a service instead of a product (like I do as a copywriter), or you make your product (like a bespoke furniture maker), there may actually be a physical limit to the number of people you can sell to in a day, week or month. Highlight the limited nature of your service and make it more attractive.
But, be careful:
- Don’t create false scarcity. Your website visitors will quickly learn your time limited offers are bogus and you’ll lose all credibility.
- If you’re going to use scarcity as a sales tool, make sure you have a clear reason as to why.
Stimulate sales activity on your website by thinking about ways you can use scarcity to make your offers more attractive.