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As I wrote in a recent post in my Persuasive Web Design series, scarcity is a great motivator: as things become less available, they become more desirable. Never is this more true than in the weeks leading up to Christmas, when the added pressure of an imminent deadline gives scarcity even more power. From Cabbage Patch dolls to Wii consoles, examples of scarcity leading to holiday feeding frenzies and profiteering abound.

In this post, I’d like to outline a few ways online marketers can use the power of scarcity to scare up sales.

1. Low stock indicators

This is scarcity in its simplest form: just indicate that stock is running low. Particularly when combined with messaging to the effect that time itself is scarce, it’s a powerful motivator. To increase both credibility and urgency, it’s a good idea to show that several similar items on your website have already been sold out.

Those marketing services rather than goods can also benefit from this. Simply indicate that there are only so many “seats available” or that a limited number of services will be offered at a special pre-holiday price. “Lock it in now!”

2. Exclusive Supply

Where appropriate, include messaging that you have access to an “exclusive source” of goods. Or perhaps you offer a custom-branded version, or sizes and colors not offered elsewhere.

3. “Last of Breed”

We love banned, forbidden or otherwise hard-to-obtain items. Therefore consider whether any of the following reasons why products may no longer be available can be communicated credibly:

  • Product is about to be discontinued.
  • A service will no longer be offered in the new year.
  • Product is the subject of litigation.
  • Imminent legislation will make the product illegal.
  • Product is being squeezed off the market by zealous and well-heeled competitors.
  • Manufacture will be moved overseas in the new year (and it’s your last chance to buy the American-made version)

4. Last at this price

If prices are expected to rise in the new year, ensure this messaging is prominent.


The above list is not meant to be exclusive. The important thing is to consider whether there is any way to position your products as scarce. If you can think of additional methods, please add a comment.



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