Scarcity is a psychological influence principle that demonstrates that if a potential buyer goes to two different websites offering the same service, then the website that is offering limited availability or will shortly sell out will be more popular.

Simply put, we place a higher value on an object that is scarce, and a lower value on those that are abundant. This is because potential buyers, people like you and me, worry that if they wait and think about it or wait until the price drops that it might be gone and they might never get to access the service. It’s also known as ‘Takeaway selling.’

Scarcity is a copywriting principle that lots of copywriters like to use, if possible, because by making things scarce or seemingly scare then it adds another element to the persuasive writing.

There are two social psychology principles that work with scarcity that increase its powerful force. One is social proof. This contributes to the effectiveness of scarcity, because if a product is sold out, or stock levels are extremely low, we interpret that to mean the product must be good since everyone else appears to be buying it. The second contributing principle to scarcity is commitment and consistency. If someone has already committed themselves to something, then find out they cannot have it, it makes the person want the item more.

But how do you add scarcity to your writing?

First you need to start with your unique selling point (USP). If you know your USP then you’re already on your way because you’ll be able to use this to explain to your potential buyers why you are the only solution they need. This in itself adds an element of scarcity as your buyers will feel that they won’t be able to get your service anywhere else.

Secondly use a graphical element on your website to show the number of products available. Amazon does this very well when it tells you there are only two left in stock. Alternatively you can use a countdown to show how much time is left, counting down the time remaining in days, hours, minutes and seconds.

For example if you’re selling just 1,000 copies of an e-book the first time a potential buyer comes to your website they might see that there’s 500 copies left but a few hours later there’s just 200 copies left then it increases the potential buyers motivation to purchase because they realise not everyone is going to be able to get a copy of the e-book, so they better get one before it sells out.

Of course you have to back up your scarcity copywriting by actually closing down the sales once you’ve sold the advertised number of copies or time has run out. Don’t mislead people by keeping your sales page open for more sales.

There is however a way around this. You can tell visitors to your web page that they’ve missed out this time but if they would like to be notified when this offer opens again then they can enter their name and email address here. This also gives you the opportunity to use your email marketing system to build a relationship with them so that when you do open the offer again they are more likely to buy from you as they already know you.

At the end of the day using scarcity in your copywriting is not about scaring people into buying it’s about preventing people procrastinating.

Over to you
Have you used scarcity to help you sell a product or service? How did you do this?