How To Use Scarcity And Urgency To Boost Ecommerce Conversions

Last updated November 15, 2018

Imagine this.

You’ve been drooling over a new app for your ecommerce business.

Seriously – you just know it’ll help you solve a major problem you’ve been facing and increase your sales.


The app is just so expensive.

So you’ve held off on buying it.

Then, one day, you get an email notification that the price of the app is going to majorly increase in one week.


The email says that if you buy now, you’ll be locked into the lower rate forever.

Suddenly, you feel like you need to buy.

I mean, you don’t want to miss out on the lower rate.

That pressure you’re feeling?

It’s called urgency, and it’s something the company created when they let you know that you urgently need to buy before the price goes up.

Let’s think about another scenario.

Say you’re shopping online for a birthday gift.

You come across the perfect item for your loved one.

You want to hold off on buying until your next paycheck… but then, you see this bit of copy next to the product:

“Only 4 left!”

You really don’t want to miss out on this product. If it sells out, you won’t be able to buy it for your loved one!

So, you go ahead and make a purchase.

Why did you end up buying the product?

Because of scarcity.

You felt like you needed to buy the product before it became unattainable.

And you know what?

This “Only 4 left!” example actually used urgency too.

By letting you know the product was scarce, the ecommerce store put pressure on you to buy quickly. Suddenly, the decision couldn’t wait any longer.

Crazy how that works, right?

Use scarcity and urgency the right way, and you can encourage your customers to buy more products from your ecommerce store. You might even end up increasing your sales by 332%!

But before we talk about tactics, let’s discuss why scarcity and urgency work so well for improving ecommerce conversion rates.

Why Use Scarcity and Urgency?

The psychology of scarcity

The scarcity principle states that humans place a higher value on something that is seen as rare of difficult to attain.

Researchers Worchel, Lee, and Adewole conducted a psychological study to see how people would react to cookies in two identical jars.

One of the jars contained 10 cookies, while the other jar only contained 2.

Based on the scarcity principle, which cookies do you think participants placed a higher value on?

If you said, “the cookies in the almost-empty jar,” you’re correct.

Because those cookies appeared to be more difficult to attain, they were seen as more desirable.

When your ecommerce business positions a product as difficult to attain, there’s a good chance it’ll look more desirable too.

The psychology of urgency

According to marketer Oli Gardner, urgency is “a psychological principle whereby you try to increase the chance of conversion by letting people know there’s not much time to do so.”

In other words, you place pressure on the customer to make a purchase by putting a time constraint on them.

And make no mistake – urgency works.

One A/B test published by WhichTestWon showed a 9% increase in revenue for an ecommerce website – simply because they added an element that created a sense of urgency.

A word of warning

Avoid using false urgency/scarcity on your site. The extra sales you might see aren’t worth the harm that being dishonest will do to your brand.

Seriously – if your customers find out you’ve been lying to them, they’ll run off to your competitors right away.

Don’t believe it?

Check out this blog post, where a consumer explains how false urgency killed his customer loyalty.

You never want to damage your reputation by doing something so unnecessary.

Okay – now that we’ve covered the basics of scarcity and urgency, let’s look at some specific strategies you can use to boost your ecommerce conversions.

How to Boost ecommerce Conversions with Scarcity and Urgency

Showcase your “Sale Ends” date

This is one of the best ways to encourage shoppers to take action fast. It lets them know that if they don’t buy now, they’ll miss out on a great deal.

Here’s how Groupon showcases a “Sale Ends” date on their site:

1 1

Not only do they have a countdown timer – they have copy under the product price that says “Extra $10 ends 9/27.”

On top of that, they’ve used a bright orange font color to draw the reader’s eye to the copy that creates a sense of urgency.

But wait a second…

Maybe you don’t have just one product you want to create urgency for – instead, you want to run a sale for an entire line of products.

Here’s how World Market does it on their website:

2 1

You can see that they don’t shy away from letting customers know that their sale ends today – that information is featured front and center on their home page.

And they even have a “Shop Now” button so customers can act immediately.

See how that works?

Whether you’re running a sale on one product or an entire line of products, you should be able to create urgency using this strategy.

Let customers know that product stock is low.

You might be pleased to have a product that’s low in stock – that means it’s selling!

But if you want the product to go out of stock, you need to let customers know that it’s low in stock so you can use the scarcity principle to your advantage.

Simply add some copy on your product pages letting customers know the product stock is low.
You can say something like “Hurry – almost gone!” or go more specific by saying something like “Hurry – only 3 left!”

You should also let customers know when a specific variation (size, color, etc) of your product has sold out.

Here’s how Forever 21 does it:

3 1

You can see that they’re out of medium and large tank tops in this color.

Not only does this let customers know what size/colors are available – it uses scarcity to let them know that the product is selling out, which can make them feel like they need to act fast if they want to order it.

Create a “Deal of the Day” offer/page

Do you have a special “Deal of the Day” offer on your ecommerce site yet?

If not, you may want to consider adding one.

Limited-time offers like Deals of the Day help you create a sense of urgency and convince customers who are on the fence about buying to take action.

Amazon has an entire “Today’s Deals” page on their site dedicated to showcasing limited-time offers on their products.

Take a look:

4 1

And you can see that they include a countdown timer under each product. That way, shoppers know exactly how much time they have to take advantage of the deal.

Here’s another example from Musician’s Friend, an online ecommerce store that sells gear and instruments for musicians:

music equipment scarcity marketing

They don’t just show the product prices – they let the customer know exactly how much they’ll save by taking advantage of the deal.

On top of that, they include “Limited Quantity While Supplies Last” to let potential customers know that the item may sell out.

And of course, they incorporate a countdown timer to create a greater sense of urgency and make customers feel like they need to make a quick purchasing decision.

I don’t know about you, but if I was considering buying the guitar on that page, I’d be convinced to buy the second I saw the special offer.

I mean, it’s a $400 savings – that kind of deal is hard to come by!

And your customers think the same way – they’re looking for the best deal possible. You just need to put a little pressure on them (in the form of a time limit) to get them to hit the “Buy” button.

If you’re ready to try this out, create a new page on your ecommerce website dedicated to your “Deal of the Day.” Update this page with a new product or set of products every day.

If you don’t want to update the page daily, you can do a “Deal of the Week” page – whatever works best for your store.

The most important thing is that you create urgency by clearly showing how much the customer will save and including a countdown timer that lets them know when the deal will expire.

Encourage customers to buy now for faster shipping

If you’ve ever shopped on Amazon, you’re probably already familiar with this tactic.

When you select an item to purchase there, you’re presented with the date you’ll receive the product… if you buy fast enough.

Here’s what it looks like:

By letting you know how soon you can receive your item if you order within the specified amount of time, this countdown timer makes you feel like waiting is a bad idea.

You know that if you don’t order before time runs out, you’ll probably end up waiting at least an extra day to receive your item.

No one likes the idea of spending extra time waiting for an item they ordered online, so consider using this strategy to make your customers feel like they need to buy fast.

Use social proof

Imagine that a new restaurant just opened up near your home.

You’re thinking about going to the restaurant, but you’re still not 100% sure yet. You decide to drive by to see what it looks like and how it’s doing.

As you pass the restaurant in your car, you notice that there’s a long line of people waiting outside to get in.

You think:

Wow, that many customers already? This restaurant must be GOOD! I don’t want to miss out on eating there.

That feeling is called FOMO, which stands for the fear of missing out.

You experienced FOMO due to social proof, which is a psychological phenomenon where people conform to the actions of others because they assume those actions are correct.

In other words, you saw a large group of people who approved of the restaurant, and that made you feel like you needed to try it out too.

Now, your online ecommerce shop won’t actually have long lines, but you can still use social proof to create a sense of urgency to win more business.


Use Fomo, a social proof app built specifically to increase ecommerce conversions by creating a sense of urgency.

Fomo displays recent purchases, reviews, sign-ups, or page views as they happen, like this:

7 1

By doing so, it turns your ecommerce shop into the equivalent of a busy store and makes customers feel like they need to take action.

Tip: Check out this in-depth blog post to learn more about how to increase your ecommerce sales with social proof.

Keep experimenting!

If you’ve been a marketer for a while, you probably already know that the slightest change to your website can result in a massive conversion rate improvement. And even the smallest conversion rate improvement can increase your profits – big time.

So, make sure you test everything.

For example, you could try different locations for your countdown timer. Or you could try a few variations for the copy you use to let customers know that product stock is low.

Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the power of using scarcity and urgency. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the increased conversions you can see as a result.

Do you use urgency and scarcity to sell more ecommerce products? Share in the comments!

giles thomas


Hi, I’m Giles Thomas. Founder of AcquireConvert, the place where ecommerce entrepreneurs & businesses go to learn how to increase conversions & profits. I’m also the founder of ecommerce growth agency Whole Design Studios. I’m a head marketing mentor at the Google Launchpad Accelerator & Google Marketing Expert. Ps. Check out my new blog


4 Responses or Pingbacks

  1. Very good article. I try email notification to my shop. And I want try some timer for limited offer, but must search some modul to prestashop.

  2. Codingplex says:

    Very nice and informative article and very nicely explained through perfect examples. The stategy of utilizing scarcity and urgency so cleverly to boost up the ecommerce business is indeed very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Hope to see more such articles from you.

  3. I read out this blog. This blog is very useful for everyone. keep it on.

Speak your mind