Using urgency and scarcity to sell more

scanners-left1At, we regularly send out special offer emails to our customers, giving them a special discount deal on a new product, a software upgrade or a barcode scanner.

We have been using urgency with our offers for quite a while, but last week we tried adding some scarcity.

Creating urgency using offer end-dates and reminder emails

All our offers are temporary and we clearly mention the end date in the emails. Giving the offer an expiry date results in urgency, a reason for customers to act now. They will be less inclined to postpone their purchase, which will reduce the risk that they forget about it entirely.

Reminder emails
To increase the urgency, we always send out at least two short reminder emails about the expiry date getting closer, e.g. 5 days before the end date and a final “24 hours left” email. It’s amazing how many extra sales you can pull in with that “24 hours left” reminder. We have seen cases where we sold more on that final day than on the first day.
Worried about annoying your customers with those reminders? I can understand, I had the same fears when we started doing this. But this doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. Just keep your reminder emails short and to the point. Repeat the offer, state how many days are left, then give em the buy link again.

Increasing the urgency by adding scarcity

Last week we tried something different. We were able to buy a large quantity (850 units) of laser barcode scanners from Opticon, at a very good price. We decided to offer them to our existing customers at a discount. For this specific offer stock was limited, so I tried to use that scarcity to our advantage.

I created a special page about the promotion on our website. In the top right corner of the page, I added a live counter, showing how many scanners we still had in stock (or to be more precise, showing 850 minus the number of units sold).

Then last Thursday, on October 22, I sent out the following email to existing customers:

Subject: Get Your OPR-3201 Laser Scanner Before Stock Runs Out

Hi ~Contact.FirstName~,

Alwin here, with a special, and temporary(!) barcode scanner deal:

The high quality, super robust Opticon OPR-3201 laser scanner.
Retail price: $114.95, price: $99.95, NOW ONLY : $79.95
This offer ends November 15, 23:59 or when stock runs out (835 left)

Here’s what happened:

A few weeks ago, my friend Margaret from Opticon called me and asked if I
was in any way interested in buying 850 OPR-3201 laser barcode scanners at
an extremely low price. But I had to decide quickly because this batch had
to go before the end of September (something with the end of the fiscal
year, crazy Americans…).

I quickly ordered a sample unit to check it out… And we all love it!
This pistol-grip scanner feels great in your hands and it scans very well.

After some negotiation, we decided to buy the entire batch of 850 scanners.
They’re in our warehouse in Portland now, ready to be shipped out to you.

The OPR-3201 scanner has been available in the shop for a
couple of days, and we have already sold 15 (for $99.95).
Of course we can just continue to sell them for that amount and make some
extra money, but I figured it would be nice to offer it for an even lower
price to our loyal customers. (I want everyone to experience the joy of
cataloging stuff by scanning barcodes.)

So here’s the deal:
For the next 25 days, up until November 15 – 23:59, I will let you buy this
scanner for only $79.95. This is a ridiculously low price for this
professional barcode scanner, which means that there’s a good chance we
will run out of stock before that date.

To take advantage of this temporary offer, secure your OPR-3201 scanner here:

This robust laser scanner can only be purchased for the $79.95 price
through the link above, it will not be available on our regular website.
Please don’t give the above link to anyone else, it is for YOU only!

Again, don’t miss this opportunity, because when these 850 units are sold
out, the OPR-3201 scanner will never again be available for this price.

Tip: At the top right of the offer page you will find a live stock counter.
Keep an eye on it so you don’t miss out. Hit Refresh in your browser to update.

Currently there are 835 units left …


The results

We have done a similar scanner offer last year in August and in that month we sold almost 500 units (at $114.95). So I was expecting to sell roughly the same amount now.
(BTW: that August 2008 scanner promotion is a story in itself, now known as the “Cable Crisis”. I will tell you the full story later 🙂 )

This time, with more urgency and a bit of scarcity, we sold 341 units on the first day. Today, 5 days after the offer announcement email, stock is down to 231 scanners, over six hundred sold.

Of course, I couldn’t resist using the increased scarcity to generate some more urgency. So in today’s October issue of the newsletter, I started with the following news item:

** Get your OPR-3201 laser scanner for only $79.95 **

I was able to buy 850 units of this high-quality and super robust scanner,
for a very low price. And because I want all of you to experience the joys
of cataloging stuff by scanning barcodes, I will let you buy this scanner
for only $79.95 (regular retail price is $114.95).

This offer ends on November 15 – 23:59 or when stock runs out,
whichever comes first.

HOWEVER: since announcing this offer last Thursday, we have already sold
over SIX HUNDRED units. Currently, there’s only 231 scanners left.

So… if you want one too, you will have to act NOW. Go here, fast:

At the time of writing, we’re down to 196 scanners left. So it’s likely that stock will run out before time does 🙂

Quick tips for using urgency and scarcity

  • Always have an expiry date on your special offers
  • Be clear about the expiry date in your emails and promotional pages.
  • Stick to the end date. Resist the temptation to keep the promotion running and catch some more sales. Your customers will learn that you are serious about your end-dates, which will increase the urgency next time.
  • Send out reminders. At least 2 or 3, maybe more if the promotion is running for a longer time.
  • Don’t forget the “24 hours left” reminder, as it can pull in a lot of sales.
  • Use scarcity to add urgency. Use fake scarcity if you have to (I know most of you are not selling stuff for which you may have limited inventory). Just tell your customers you will end the offer after 200 copies sold.
  • If you can do it, display a live “items left” counter on your promotion page. This will not only increase the urgency, but it will also give your offer some credibility, as it shows that other customers are taking advantage of it already.

UPDATE (October 30, 17:42)

They’re all gone. 850 OPR-3201 laser barcode scanners sold in 8 days 🙂

One thought on “Using urgency and scarcity to sell more

  1. Your blog is amazing. Great stuff…!

    We used to be reticent about using scarcity for our campaigns… but it seems to work. It helps people focus.

    Now that I think about it… a collector is quite often someone who’s chasing “scarce” object with passion (in other words: good business for the one who is selling, it is a win-win situation).

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