Using Product Scarcity to Increase Urgency, Conversions & Sales

No matter which industry you’re in, human psychology always plays a major role in driving sales. Evidently, our emotional state has a profound impact on our decisions and purchasing behavior. Clever marketers know this, that's why they can influence buyer emotions to drive more sales.

One of the most powerful human emotions for online sales is the fear of missing out. By creating a perceived scarcity we trigger a sense of urgency to act before they miss out. This is the basis of for using product scarcity to increase conversions.

Today we'll cover exactly how product scarcity can be used to influence buyers and why you should start using today to sell more t-shirts.

Procrastination & Delaying Purchase Decisions

In this day and age, it seems procrastination is rising while attention spans are declining. Online shoppers are far too likely to delay purchasing decisions. Then they are distracted and lost to other marketing messages or daily affairs.

Affording to a study performed by Centre De Recherche DMSP, high-procrastination customers had a 73% chance of delaying their purchase. But even the low-procrastination customers still had a 26% chance of delaying their purchase too.

If that wasn't worrying enough, those who have every intention of returning to purchase later are rarely seen to. MarketingSherpa noted that e-commerce companies report only one-third of visitors are returning.

These facts highlight the importance of your visitor's first visit to your store. If we can reduce procrastination and encourage faster decisions, we stand to recapture sales we would have otherwise lost.

Turning Up Urgency To Sell More T-Shirts

The effects of well-executed scarcity/urgency tactics on buyers are devilishly powerful. As a study run by DigitalCommons at the University of Nebraska during 2013 demonstrates:

Retail stores using limited-time or limited-stock offers induced psychological effects on shoppers including urgency to purchase, hiding/hoarding products in store and even competitiveness between shoppers.

This fear of missing out is not to be underestimated, either offline or online. In fact, split tests performed by Behave saw an 8.6% increase in conversion rate by adding a countdown timer to the product page.

Now we don't need to whip visitors up into a terrified, emotional shopping frenzy. Instead, we want to encourage interested shoppers to act quickly using a perceived product scarcity.

There are visitors viewing your t-shirts and products right now. Some of them are interested but w put off the purchase before forgetting about it altogether. If you could get them to act on their first visit you stand to gain them as new customers.

If you’re interested in boosting your product conversion rate with little effort, here are three proven techniques for inducing product scarcity and urgency:

Technique #1 Limited Time Offers & Sales

Putting time restrictions on special offers is one of the simplest ways to ramp up buying urgency. This will encourage visitors to act quickly to take advantage your offer before they miss out.

This strategy uses the theory of loss aversion, whereby people are twice as likely to try and avoid losses than acquiring gains.

Putting clear time restrictions on your special offers quickly triggers this type of psychological behavior. Now here are a number of ways e-commerce brands are already using it this to their advantage. Here are three methods for pulling this off:

1. Flash Sales

Creating recurring flash sales for your products is a well-proven strategy to increase sales. To do this you must clearly display your sale price with a solid deadline.

This must be clearly displayed in your store, or on product pages so visitors are reminded to act quickly to avoid missing this deal.

2. Countdown Timers

Countdown timers use the power of visualization to ramp up the urgency and scarcity further. Visitors can't help but watch the “ticking” countdown while considering missing out.

Countdown timers are can be used as banners for storewide sales, or on product pages for product-specific offers.

3. Limited Time Shipping Offers

Believe it or not, even the chance to get faster shipping is enough to encourage faster decisions. This incentive has worked very well for fashion brands offering express shipping if they act within a certain amount of time. Another tactic is to offer free shipping to customers who act upon deals fast enough.

Again, placing a countdown timer on the product page will further encourage customers to order sooner rather.

Technique #2 Limited Product Quantity

Stock shortages, or even just perceived shortages, drive faster-buying decisions. In a customer's eyes, they don't want to lose out to another shopper.

Limited supplies increase the perceived value of your product and increase the urgency to get their hands on remaining stock. Here are two ways it's commonly done:

1. Displaying Stock Quantity

The easiest way to do this is clearly displaying stock quantities on your product page. For t-shirts and clothing, the sizing selection is the perfect place.

Furthermore, you can tailor your language to further increase urgency. For example:

“Act quickly, only 3 left”

“Only 2 left in stock”

“1 left, almost gone!”

2. Selling in Limited Quantities

Another idea is focusing on limited stock runs, where you tell visitors exactly how many products you intend to sell in total. With the right product, this has a very powerful effect on perceived value and urgency.

This works best if you’re offering something more special, such as “limited edition” products. Make it very clear to customers they can get a piece of something unique if they are quick enough.

Using Scarcity & Urgency In Other Marketing Materials

Product scarcity is often used on product pages to encourage buying at the critical point. However, these techniques can be applied various parts of your marketing campaigns. These may include:

  • Social media adverts
  • Email marketing
  • Graphics and banners
  • Sponsored Promotions

Consider your use of language to increase scarcity to drive new visitors to your store. As an example, consider the following:

Generic marketing message: “Come see our brand new range of retro cartoon t-shirts

Increase scarcity message: “Get your hands on our limited-edition retro cartoon t-shirts before they sell out!

You could even back up claims by referring to past events, such as, “Our last promotion was sold out in 3 days, be quick if you don’t want to miss this one!

Interested customers will hate to feel the pain of regret if they miss out. Take advantage of using scarcity language through all marketing material to remind them to act quickly.

Beware! Too Much Scarcity Can Backfire


When used responsibly, introducing product scarcity can work very well. But you must resist the urge to overuse or abuse this technique. Otherwise, you risk scaring off more customers than you gain.

You don’t want to be seen to instill false scarcity or try to trick people into buying. This will backfire and damage your brand reputation quickly.

To ensure you are using scarcity responsibly, sticking with these 4 guiding principles:

Based on Truth – Whenever you use scarcity, you’ve got to base it on (some) truth. If you can’t explain exactly why your selling a limited run or have a limited time to act, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Don’t Drop the Ball – To stay on the safe side you should always stick to your word. Don't be seen to “let the veil drop” on recurring offers too often. The savvy shoppers will quickly notice this.

You Can’t Turn Losers into Winners – Furthermore, scarcity cannot be used to “fix” poor selling products. There already needs to be demand for a product for this to work. Only then can you can increase the conversion rate by increasing desirability.

Don’t Over Do it – If you turn on too much pressure you risk losing customers. Always remember, perceived scarcity should encourage faster buying decisions, not forcing sales. Getting more sales at the cost of heavy buyer’s remorse is not worth it.

Product Scarcity Applications & Plugins

Ready to start turning the scarcity up on your t-shirts? Here are a number of highly-rated applications and plugins that enable you to add these features to your store:

Shopify Apps

WordPress Plugins

WooCommerce Plugins

Now Over to You

Ready to increase conversion rates and catch more sales? Adding product scarcity to your best products is the simplest way to increase their conversion rate.

To get started, choose whichever strategy suits your brand best and stay true to your word. Small changes done well can have a big effect on your conversion rate. Just make sure you measure results so you can ensure you're making a positive change.

And for those who have experience using scarcity and urgency, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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