Have you ever had the feeling that you are missing something exciting or vital? For instance, do you remember how miserable you were when you couldn’t go out with your friends and imagined how they were having fun? Or when eating your lunch in the office, you looked through Instagram pictures of famous bloggers and thought they lived a much more colorful life than you?

From time to time, we all experience the same feeling. This is a psychological phenomenon called FOMO – fear of missing out. It triggers when you lose (or think you lose) a great opportunity. At this moment, we all become worried, anxious and try to take all possible actions not to miss it. 

Of course, e-commerce marketers have been using this psychic setup “bug” to prompt consumers to buy more. But how exactly does the FOMO effect impacts customers?

  • They spend more because of social pressure as they don’t want to be left outside something worthy that everyone has already tried. 
  • They make more purchases because they don’t want to miss the bargain.
  • In case they’ve already missed the deal, they feel unhappy and take action to stay tuned and be the first to grab products or services at the best price. E.g., newsletter subscription.

What is a “while supplies last” offer?

When talking about FOMO in e-commerce, most marketers think of the “while supplies last” offer. This is a discount or a special price that automatically expires when a shopper runs out of stock. In other words, if potential customers don’t convert now, they won’t get one more opportunity.

Hence, the tactic is aimed to highlight the product’s scarcity to motivate shoppers to buy it right away.

However, numbers speak louder than words. So, take a look at some recent statistics provided by Trustpulse.

FOMO Statistics:

  • Almost 70% of millennials confess they experience FOMO.
  • More than 35% of respondents have a fear of becoming outsiders.
  • 40% of people assume they spend money on unnecessary purchases at least once per year just boast of in social media.
  • 14% of people responded consumers are afraid of missing something cool staying at home or working in the office.

In this article, we’ve collected the 11 proven ways how you can use scarcity and urgency to increase your sales. So let’s delve into the details.

1. Use stock counters 

The fastest yet most effective way to use the “while supplies last” effect is to demonstrate the number of products available in stock. There is a great variety of 3-d party solutions for Shopify and other e-commerce platforms that show how many products are available and how many have been bought.

Important. Unfortunately, sometimes merchants, trying to take advantage of this approach, show fake stock numbers to create urgency. But this gimmick is easy to crack by returning to your store and checking the numbers once again. So to build long-term relationships with your audience, we recommend showing precise quantities. 

It means that the counter works better for products that are really limited in stock. As the closer the stock number gets to “0,” the more desirable the product becomes.

Example: The NET-A-PORTER store informs their customers when one item is left.

2. Show custom product statuses 

This tactic creates the sense of scarcity not by providing the exact inventory volumes but by persuading the audience that the product is popular and will be sold out soon. 

For example, statuses like “25 visitors are watching this product now” or “limited quantity available” affect customers’ purchase decisions even without any additional info.

Example: Wolf&Badger marks their goods with a special label on the product page to urge visitors to hurry up and make the purchase immediately.

3. Display limited supply warnings on the shopping cart

Sometimes online customers use their shopping carts as wishlists. They add products to the cart but don’t complete orders. The longer shoppers put off the purchase decision, the fewer chances they will ever buy these items.

To get the most out of “forgotten” products, online merchants add “limited quantity available” warnings right to the shopping cart area. This way, the warnings effectively appeal to FOMO and ensure increased sales.

One more scarcity tactic that helps convert abandoned carts is triggered emails. Show customers that products they left in the cart are about to sell out. Here you can use the whole range of marketing tools, from special offers with countdown timers to limited supply warnings.

Forever 21

4. Sell Limited Edition products

To induce a sense of scarcity, retailers use the “limited product edition” tactic. How does it work? You create a “limited quantity available” product and clearly highlight it on your store pages and promo copies. Then, when store visitors see the product that they won’t be able to buy tomorrow or next week, they are urged to take immediate action.

Another psychological trigger that prompts shoppers to grab such products instantly is the desire to possess something exclusive, which is unavailable to mass consumers. Therefore, you can deliberately drop your goods in small quantities warming up your target audience with corresponding ads, site banners, and emails.

For instance, Converse rolls out different shoes in small volumes weekly. And, of course, the fact that the drop is limited works as the most powerful purchase trigger for their brand fans.

Example: Sephora offers many Limited Edition products and provides discounts to intensify customers’ purchasing desire maximally.

5. Add some urgency to your marketing copy

Besides adding “while supplies last” notes to your product, category, or shopping cart pages, consider using the loss aversion phenomenon for the whole marketing strategy. It’s a proven fact that the fear of losing something valuable is stronger than the desire to gain something valuable. Therefore, by practicing this trick when creating your copy, you will squeeze more from marketing activities.

Pay careful attention to the specific language you use. Is it effective enough to convey a sense of deficiency and scarcity? Let your customers know that your products sell like hot pancakes, and they risk missing something really great.

Where you can implement scarcity strategies:

  • Facebook and Google ads
  • Retargeting campaigns
  • Email campaigns
  • Offline ads
  • Social media content

Example: Promo emails by Grammarly are a brilliant illustration of trendy design and clear copywriting to spark a sense of urgency and drive more sales.

6. Try flash sales to maximize scarcity effect

You open your inbox and see the following subject line from your favorite store: “25% off everything + free shipping. 5 hours only!” What do you feel? O’K, there is no time to think about it. After you’ve caught those items you’ve been dreaming of. A few clicks and you can relax: your order is complete. Congrats! You’ve fallen a “victim” to a flash sale.

The long story short – flash sales set a fixed time limit on special offers, which drives shoppers to order now at a bargain price or lose this opportunity forever.

One of the secrets of a flash sale is that merchants start preparing the fertile ground for future sales in advance so that when the day X comes, customers rush to add products to their shopping bags. The key with flash sales is that you build up tension before the event.

Another tactic is to enrich your flash sale with new discounts right during the event. This approach sparks interest and motivates buyers to return to your online store to check out the new deals.

Once you’ve done your best to promote your flash sales with emails and paid ads, make sure your website is prepared as well. While visitors redirected to your store from ads or emails already know about your flash deals, others may miss your special offers. That’s why it’s essential to highlight them properly.

Example: The Forever 21 apparel store uses catchy labels and Limited-Time warnings for their weekend steals to convert more guest visitors.

Flash Sales types

There are different variants of flash sales formats. Thus, they can be easily adapted to any marketing strategy:

  • Flash sales for members
  • Mistery flash sales
  • Flash sales with tires
  • Flash sales on a daily/monthly basis

Example: AliExpress is famous for its flash deals that are being updated every month.

7. Increase tension with countdown timers

Countdown timers added to your webstore and emails are probably the most powerful purchasing trigger. Thus, never miss the chance to promote your limited-time offer. “Why supplies last” tactic works here the same way. When you see that the time to grab the sneakers of your dream at a discounted price is literally running out in front of you, you are more likely to buy them immediately.

Let customers believe they’ll lose the wonderful chance if they put off the purchase decision till later.

8. Add Time-Limited Shipping Offers

Who doesn’t love fast or free shipping? Attract your visitors by displaying a limited-time shipping offer on product pages, shopping carts, or a home page banner.

In addition, using special fast shipping offers is very effective before the holiday season when consumers want to ensure their gifts arrive on time.

Example: Forever 21 offers free express shipping on orders $75+ during the weekend sale only. This way, the store motivates purchasing and increases the AOV by setting the minimum order value to unlock the free shipping option.

9. Exploit the potntial of your Thank You page

After shoppers have just completed the order, they see a Thank You page. This is the perfect place where you can promote your upsells and cross-sells. So, why not add some scarcity to your product suggestions to increase the chances of conversion?

Useful Info: The Recom.ai app lets you easily add the post-purchase upsell block to the Thank You page to help you continue increasing your AOV even after the purchase completion.

10. Reward first X buyers

Besides the fear of missing out, we also fear that someone will get a valuable thing before us. This is where the “reward for first X customers” principle gets into the game. Add the competition element to your special offers campaign to intensify customers’ desire of being the first to get your products at the most beneficial price.

Define the number of participants and set a tempting discount – this is the killer combo that customers won’t resist. For example, when you show there are only a certain number of vacant seats, people reserve them much faster.

This very tactic works with time limits too. Just announce a special price for early birds, specify the time limits, and there you go!

Example: “Act now to save!” – this is a classic slogan used by NILD for their email campaign that can be easily modified and used for any retail niche.

11. Use the power of Social media

While millennials are the biggest consumer segment influenced by FOMO, social media platforms seem to be the perfect place to hook them. But it doesn’t mean that social networks won’t be of any use to promote your limited-time offers to people of others ages.

Actually, about 45% of all consumers who confess that they experience FOMO check their social media profiles at least twice a day. Brilliant! Depending on your target audience, you’ll easily determine the most popular platforms for each customer group and plan your social media campaign accordingly.

Conclusion

“While supplies last” is one of the most powerful scarcity strategies that induce a sense of urgency. But make sure to use it responsibly. By creating false scarcity to mislead your audience, you may generate a few quick sales, but this approach won’t work in the long run. Moreover, it can even ruin your brand reputation. Therefore, the scarcity you highlight should always be based on genuine reasons.

Remember that the main goal of using the FOMO effect is to hurry up procrastination-prone customers to take action. And it’s obviously not about pressing users to buy products they don’t want.