Scarcity in Marketing: What It Is and Why It Works

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Marketing is all about convincing people to take the desired action, and scarcity is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s toolkit. So what is scarcity in marketing, and why does it work so well?

One reason to use scarcity is that 45% of people say the principle makes them more interested in the courses you sell.

In this article, you’ll learn what scarcity marketing is, and you’ll explore ways you can use it to convince people to buy from you. You’ll also look at some common mistakes marketers make when using this strategy.

What Is Scarcity Marketing?

Scarcity marketing is a type of persuasive strategy to build the perception that something is in limited supply. It works because scarcity creates a sense of urgency. It increases demand for the product you offer. By making people act quickly, scarcity can increase your sales significantly.


The primary benefit of scarcity marketing is that it can help you to persuade more potential customers to buy from you. It can also increase the perceived value of your product. Many people will pay higher prices if they think there’s a limited supply. Finally, using scarcity effectively helps build your brand and create customer loyalty.


One of the main disadvantages of scarcity marketing is that it can lead to customer frustration if not used responsibly. If your customers feel you have misled or tricked them, they will likely decide to unsubscribe from your marketing funnel. Additionally, using scarcity too often could lead people to become desensitized and ignore it altogether.

Why Does Scarcity Marketing Work?

The reason scarcity marketing works is that human nature kicks in. People don’t want to miss out on things. Creating a sense of urgency makes your customers feel they should take action before the offer runs out. Here are the main reasons you should successfully sell more using scarcity marketing:

Chart showing 3 areas with reason why scarcity marketing works.

The Product Comes Across as Popular & High Quality

When customers see a product is scarce, it gives them the impression that it’s popular and in high demand. The perception increases the perceived value of the product and makes people more likely to purchase it.

Further, scarcity makes your product stand out from the competition. For example, people are more likely to take advantage of a limited-time offer than if the same offer remains available indefinitely.

Prospects Like the Idea of Getting an Exclusive/Rare Product

Having access to something that nobody else can be exciting for prospects. By offering exclusive access to items in limited supply, you can create an opportunity to give people something they cannot get elsewhere. In addition, it helps to cultivate a sense of excitement during the buying process.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

The fear of missing out is one of the most powerful motivators in digital marketing. When prospects see that your course offer will end soon, it makes them feel like they will miss out on an excellent opportunity. As a result, they feel the need to make the purchase sooner than later.

Scarcity Marketing Examples

Are you ready to use scarcity marketing to increase your online course sales? Let’s look at all the ways you can utilize this strategy:

Chart with examples of scarcity marketing listed out.

Limited-Time Offers

A limited-time offer is one of the most common types of scarcity marketing. By offering a short-term promotion, you create urgency and encourage people to take advantage of the offer before you bring it to a close. You can use this strategy to sell more courses or products in a specific time frame.

Times to consider using this strategy include holidays, anniversaries, special events or occasions, and the start of a new season. A famous example that occurs every year is on Black Friday. Keep your limited-time offer messaging clear and direct. Make sure your audience knows exactly when the deal ends.

Countdown Timers

Using countdown timers to display scarcity is an effective technique to motivate customers to make a purchase quickly. It’s like setting up a ticking clock inside customers’ minds that encourages them to make decisions faster.

The tactic works exceptionally well for launching new products or services. You might even use a countdown timer on a thank you page after a new prospect signs up for your email list. Use that page to provide a countdown timer with a one-time-only discount on your core course offer.

People are typically the most excited about you immediately after joining your list. Use that time to put your best foot forward as you work to get the sale.

Flash Sales

Flash sales can help to create urgency. The tactic works well if you want to clear out old offers quickly. Flash sales are short-term offers that provide discounts on specific items, usually for no more than 24 hours.

You can also use flash sales as part of a more extensive marketing campaign. For example, you can use one to promote the launch of a new course. Create a limited-time offer that lasts only a few hours and makes people feel like they need to act now.

Next-Day Delivery Offers

Another way to use scarcity is by offering next-day delivery on your products. Can you think of a physical product to offer alongside your online course? For example, you might send them a physical workbook. Offer next-day delivery so they get excited about holding the workbook in their hands tomorrow.

Limited Stock

People want what they can’t have. They are more likely to purchase when there’s limited stock available. You can also use this tactic for special edition releases.

You might wonder how to use this with an online course your customer knows remains “in stock” on the Internet. Use a different bonus that you only offer for a limited time. Yes, they can get the course later, but they won’t get the special bonus again.

Cart Reservation

You can create a “Reserve Your Spot” page where prospects can reserve their spot for a course before the launch date. You might also use this tactic when offering a limited-time discount.

Seasonal Offers

Consider creating scarcity via seasonal offers. It might include an end-of-summer sale or a holiday promotion. This type of offer works well for digital products. You can deliver the product instantly, and it does not require extra shipping costs.

Popular or High-Demand Products

If you have popular courses, placing limited-time offers on them may be the way to go. You can limit the offer to a few days and see results quickly. People are more likely to act fast when they know other members of your audience will buy your in-demand bundle or bonus offers.

Special Edition Products

Finally, consider offering special edition products. These include exclusive collections of courses or bonus offers only available for a limited time. People want to be part of something exclusive and unique, which can spur sales.

Scarcity Marketing Mistakes

While scarcity marketing increases course sales, it’s essential to remain mindful of some common mistakes. As with all marketing techniques, test which scarcity method produces the most effective results for your business. Each target market will respond differently. It’s up to you to find what works best inside your niche. Here are a few common mistakes when it comes to scarcity marketing:

Chart showing 4 areas with mistakes often made when using scarcity marketing.

Using It Too Much

Use scarcity marketing sparingly. If you use it too often, people won’t believe you mean what you say when you offer special deals. Here are some tips for adequately planning when to release scarcity offers throughout the year:

  • Use a content calendar. Most marketers consider a content calendar necessary for releasing social media or blog posts on time. You can also use a content calendar for sales promotions. Look at the year and ask yourself the best times to use scarcity marketing.
  • Plan your scarcity campaigns around significant holidays. These may include Christmas, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Independence Day, or other holidays that make sense in your industry. You might identify the end of specific months or quarters when a last-minute deal will work well. Try to offer discounts at the end of the week, such as Fridays and Saturdays.

Overly Pushy Sales Tactics

No one likes to feel pressured into buying something. Overly pushy sales tactics will turn away customers. Implementing a successful scarcity marketing strategy requires subtlety and care.

Don’t make unrealistic promises or appear overly aggressive in presenting your offer. Balance sales messages with educational and informative content. Ensure each offer is honest and relevant to your target market, and avoid making it sound too “salesy.”

Extending the Offer

Always stick to your promised dates and time frame when launching your scarcity offer. Don’t extend an offer for too long, or people won’t take it as seriously. Regarding promotions, remain firm with your start and end date. Your brand will create more anticipation and trust if you stick to your word.

You might want to invest in software that helps end scarcity campaigns automatically. You can tell this software redirects visitors who click on offers after they end. Through the redirection process, tell them the offer came to its finish while giving them something new to consider purchasing. Deadline Funnel is one of the most popular scarcity marketing software that you might want to look at.

Products That Don’t Deliver

When you offer an exclusive deal, ensure it delivers on its promise. People will quickly lose trust in your business if they don’t get the expected results when buying a course from you.

This includes creating top-notch content that provides value for their investment. You need to ensure that customers can attain the promised transformation or goal. Honor your guarantee. Show up if you offer to coach them through the course content.

FAQS on Scarcity in Marketing

What is artificial scarcity in marketing?

Artificial scarcity in marketing is a strategy companies use to create a false sense of urgency and limited product availability. It involves limiting the availability or accessibility of goods, often through artificial means like artificial caps on how many goods are available, release timing, and promotions.

This technique plays on people’s natural inclination toward FOMO (fear of missing out) and impulse buying. While artificial scarcity can be successful for specific marketing tactics, it’s essential to distinguish artificial scarcity from real product shortages caused by factors like supply chain disruption or demand exceeding supply.

If you’re offering a digital product, you need an actual reason for the scarcity, or your customers will likely see right through this tactic.

Is scarcity marketing ethical?

The concept of scarcity marketing has been used in businesses for centuries. There’s still a lot of discussion surrounding whether or not it is ethical.

The basic argument is that scarcity marketing creates a false sense of urgency among consumers. It can pressure them into buying something they may not have intended to buy or could have bought at a lower price elsewhere.

On the flip side, scarcity marketing can also be beneficial in terms of consumer demand stimulation and creating excitement around specific products, which ultimately drives up sales.

Ultimately it comes down to what type of scarcity marketing strategy is being employed because some techniques are more predatory than others. The key is to use these tactics very carefully, focusing on what works best for your business without violating consumer trust.

What are the three types of scarcity?

When faced with scarcity, we must decide how much of these resources to use and our alternatives.

There are three types of scarcity: scarce natural resources, scarce artificial resources, and human-created products or services.

Natural scarce resources are those resources that are naturally limited, like air, water, and land.

Artificial scarce resources refer to items created by humans in finite quantities, such as cars or jewelry.

Lastly, human-created products or services such as education, healthcare, or technology come with a certain amount of scarcity due to the limited availability of individuals or organizations who can provide them.

What are the two principles of scarcity?

Scarcity is a key concept that refers to our finite resources.

There are two primary principles associated with scarcity: that resources are finite and that people’s wants exceed what those resources can provide.

How does scarcity affect price?

Scarcity is an issue that almost always affects price. Essentially, the less of something there is, the more it is worth.

When something becomes scarce due to a limitation in its availability, consumers have to compete for it and are willing to pay more for such a product. If something is plentiful, on the other hand, demand decreases which result in lower prices.

Scarcity also applies to how quickly an item sells – if something goes fast, its price will go up since customers want to purchase any remaining items they can find before they disappear entirely.

Does scarcity increase value?

When something is scarce or in limited supply, it can increase how valuable something is perceived. This phenomenon is known as the Scarcity Principle. The Scarcity Principle recognizes how people tend to place a higher value on things that are harder to acquire and how the small availability of a product or item increases demand, which drives up its value. Similarly, the availability of resources can also mean people will pay more for a product with fewer competitors, driving up overall value in the process.

Lisa Parmley
Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of After gaining a Master's degree, she worked in research for about seven years. She started a training company in 2001, offering a course helping people pass a professional exam. That course has earned multiple 7 figures. She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 22+ years of experience in the trenches creating and selling online courses. Get help starting and growing your online course business here.

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