How to Use Scarcity in Your E commerce Store

How to Use Scarcity and Urgency in Your E-commerce Store

Have you heard of the new app that will boost your E-commerce sales by at least 4 times? You are very sure that it will help you achieve your goal of increasing sales, but it’s just too damn expensive. So are you holding off buying it for now? Did you just receive the email that the price is going to increase in a few days? Well, you better buy it before the price increase. Do you want to miss out on the discounted price now? If you were in such a situation when you receive the email that the price is going to go up, would you feel pressurized to buy it? That is called urgency, the seller of the app just created it out of thin air and pressurized you to buy it.

How about when you were shopping online for that new pair of wireless earphones, did you just hold off buying them until the next paycheck? But then all of a sudden you see “Only 3 left”. You then go ahead pull out your credit card and purchase it. If the stock ran out you would not have been able to buy the earphones that you loved. Why did you purchase this product? Because only 3 were left and you felt pressurized to buy it. That is an example of scarcity.

Why do you need to use scarcity and urgency?

Scarcity and urgency are two age-old selling techniques. They help boost conversions and increase engagement. Urgent situations require us to act fast and scarcity initiates anxiety. This causes us to act quickly. The number one thing that kills E-commerce conversion rates is hesitation. When a customer thinks “I’ll get it later” and navigates away from your store, he is gone. There is a minor chance of the customer coming back but you have most likely lost the battle. The customer will probably have a change of heart, get targeted by ads from competitors or get a better offer from elsewhere. To avoid this “I’ll get it later” attitude you need to add urgency and scarcity to your E-commerce store.

Here are 4 ways to add scarcity and urgency to your online store.

1. Free shipping for a limited time

Customers hate getting surprises and it is important to inform customers clearly of the shipping charges. If customers get surprised with a shipping charge during the checkout process, your cart abandonment rate will shoot up. However, you can use shipping to create a sense of urgency. If you can offer free shipping for a limited time, it can prompt customers to act fast.

How to Use Scarcity in Your E-commerce Store - Free shipping for a limited time

Notice how this store has a notice at the top saying “FREE SHIPPING THIS WEEK ON ORDERS OVER $14.95”. That creates a sense of urgency for visitors.

2. Display low stock notifications

Displaying low stock notifications on your product page is a great way to create scarcity. It makes customers act quickly and keeps them interested in the product. This technique can also be helpful if you find customers are adding items to their wishlist and not purchasing. If you are low on stock you can email customers who added the product to their wishlist saying the stock will run out soon.

How to Use Scarcity in Your E-commerce Store - Display low stock notifications

On this product page, you can see only 6 of these are left in stock. If a customer is willing to buy this product it will not give them a chance to leave your website. Also at the bottom, you can see 14 people are looking at the product. Both of these messages will create urgency and scarcity, thereby forcing customers to act fast.

3. Use countdown timers during sales

Often E-commerce stores tend to run sales during certain periods. Letting your customers know that the sale is ending soon is a great way to add urgency to the situation. However, if you put a statement such as “Sale ends on a certain date” it may not be as appealing as a countdown timer. Countdown timers help customers visualize the urgency, by reminding them of the time left and ticking it down with every passing second.

How to Use Scarcity in Your E-commerce Store - Use countdown timers during sales

On this sales page, you can see the sale ends in 17 days. It is advisable to add timers when the sale ends in less than a week to create a sense of urgency. There is no point in having a timer if there is a lot of time left for the sale to end.

4. Create FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

People tend to follow the actions of others because they think those actions are correct. A good example is if there is a newly opened coffee shop in your area and you see long lines outside it. You probably start thinking you need to try it out. This is called the fear of missing out or FOMO. This technique can be applied to E-commerce stores as well. FOMO tends to create a sense of urgency. We can do this by adding some social proof to our store. You can display recent sign-ups, purchases, page views as people visit your website.

How to Use Scarcity in Your E-commerce Store - Create FOMO (Fear of missing out) - Social Proof

In the above example, you can see in the bottom left of the screen someone from Arizona purchased this product. A great example of social proof and creating the fear of missing out.

How to Use Scarcity in Your E-commerce Store - Create FOMO (Fear of missing out)

This is another example of social proof. Notice how the 22 sold in the last hour stands out in red.


While it is important to use these two techniques, you don’t want to use false urgency and scarcity on your website. For example, there are online stores that run a countdown timer for an item that is on sale. But the timer resets every time it hits zero. You might get a few extra sales with false urgency and scarcity but in the long run, it will be damaging to your brand. You can also kiss repeat customers goodbye.

Another thing to keep in mind is to display urgency and scarcity prominently on your website. If, for example, you are offering free shipping for a limited time and you do not mention that clearly on your website, how will your customers find out?

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