Let’s begin this post with a short marketing lesson narrated through history.
In 1774 King Frederick II of Prussia, locally known as Old Fritz, issued an order for his subjects to grow and consume potatoes. The King’s subjects, however, were prejudiced against the vegetable.
Instead of convincing them to eat potatoes, he planted a royal field of potato plants and stationed a heavy guard to protect it. The guarded field made people feel that potatoes were precious, because “anything worth guarding is worth stealing.” This led to people breaking into the field and stealing the apparently scarce spuds only to grow fields of their own and reap, sow, and consume the vegetable in abundance.
In the end, King Frederick II got his way.
Letting people know that there is only a limited amount of an object — or a limited time to get it — makes them motivated to get it because soon they won’t be able to. That’s just how the human brain functions. According to Psychology Today, “Scarcity orients the mind automatically and powerfully toward unfulfilled needs.”
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What Is Scarcity?
To understand the role of scarcity in landing page optimization, it’s important we discuss the definition from both the psychological and economics points of view.
In economics, scarcity is defined as “limitations—insufficient resources, goods, or abilities to achieve the desired ends.”
Robert Cialdini defines the principle of scarcity as the desire to want something we’re afraid we can’t have: “Fear of losing out on something can be an extremely powerful motivator.”
This is how the definition combines on your landing pages: When you convince your visitors that your offer has limitations (either in time or quantity), the fear of missing out urges them to click on the call-to-action button.
There are essentially two tactics of implementing the scarcity principle on your offer:
- Quantity: When the offer is in short supply.
- Time: When the offer is only available for a certain period.
Let’s explain how scarcity works for your offer. This is a pop-up promoting Single Grain’s free SEO guide in exchange for your contact details. It’s a limited time offer, and may not be available again:
This is another pop-up that offers free marketing tips in exchange for your e-mail address:
The time limit on the SEO resource lets the visitor know that it is precious. If the visitor doesn’t act now, he or she may not get this chance again. The time constraint inspires visitors to complete the form and enter Single Grain’s marketing funnel.
Using scarcity on your landing pages works to your advantage — you just need to know how to implement the principle on the pages to increase your conversions. This is exactly what we’ll do today.
In the following paragraphs, we’re going to discuss how you can use both of these scarcity tactics on your landing pages to generate conversions.
Learn More: How To Create CTAs that Actually Cause Action
How to Use Scarcity of Quantity on Landing Pages
Steve Worchel conducted an experiment on the effect of supply and demand when rating the value of an object. Participants were shown two jars, one with ten cookies and the other with two cookies. When participants were allowed to select the cookies they wanted, it was found that the cookies in scarce supply had higher demand because they were more desirable. So, we place more value on things that are less available to us.
When it comes to landing pages, scarcity of quantity can be used by telling your visitors exactly how many discounted items are left before the stock runs out, or how many seats remain in your workshop.
Here’s a Groupon promotion that offers 70% off of thousands of Chicago deals:
The offer also specifies that there are only limited quantities available — letting the visitor know he or she must act now if he wants the discount.
An A/B test case study featured on ConversionXL reported that including scarcity on a landing page almost tripled their conversion rate.
This is variation A:
The page shows a clear discounted price, but the page doesn’t include any elements of scarcity.
Here’s variation B of the landing page:
Not only does the variation include time scarcity (urgency) by letting the visitors know how much time remains to download the bundle, but it also tracks how many bundles have been purchased, and that the bundles are almost gone. Amazon is notorious for using this tactic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
This is what the conversion rate jump looked like for variation B:
You can use scarcity of quantity in your headline, CTA button copy, body copy, and images. If you do, just make sure the quantity you showcase in your ad is the same quantity as on your landing pages.
It’s vital that you establish message match and relevancy between your ad and the corresponding landing page. If your ad headline says 20 items left in stock, your page headline should say the same.
How to Use Scarcity of Time (Urgency) on Landing Pages
Time is a valuable asset for all of us, so telling visitors that “time is running out” to get something that they need inspires them to make a decision faster. The e-book featured in this article gives some examples of how marketers can write landing page copy that conveys urgency, especially when you highlight the urgency with countdown timers.
We do this on Instapage’s webinar landing page:
The ticking time counter is a great way to persuade visitors that they may not get the opportunity to get this great offer again.
Merlin’s Pest Control home page also showcases urgency with copy:
Not only does the copy instill urgency by telling visitors that if they call by 1 pm, they will get same day service, but the copy next to the phone number tells the visitors to “call today.”
Urgency can be conveyed by using specific terminology such as “final chance,” “last offer” or “don’t miss out.” This is what Cosmopolitan does with their promotion e-mail and landing page.
Here’s a screenshot of the e-mail:
The e-mail subject line proclaims, “Final Notice: Cosmopolitan for $5.” And the e-mail copy follows through by confirming that this is the last chance you’ll get to purchase a 12-month subscription of the magazine for $5.
Read More: 7 Emails to Add to Your Conversion Funnel
And, here’s the landing page connected to the e-mail:
The landing page reinforces the urgency initiated in the e-mail by using words like “hurry,” “order now,” and “last chance” to motivate the visitor to convert on the CTA button.
Free trials are also a way to illustrate urgency on your landing pages. When you make visitors aware that there are just 30 days of a free trial and that they need to sign up now to sample the free account — they are more inclined to do so. The same isn’t true if you announce that your product is free forever, which is what Intercom does.
In contrast, the Moz Pro landing page tells the visitor that they can sample the tool free of charge for 30 days:
Using the word “now” on your landing pages also helps add urgency to your offer because it inspires action. Urgency can be very persuasive for time sensitive campaigns, e.g. Christmas sales or Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. You can also use urgency for special occasion sales, such as a company anniversary promotion.
Finally, Julep used urgency to promote their end-of-season sale by offering up to 85% off on their inventory. The thinking here is that since the discount is so big, that inventory will go fast — and for consumers to “act now” before it’s all gone:
Scarcity Creates High-Converting Landing Pages
Landing pages with time scarcity and urgency can be very persuasive at getting prospects to click your call-to-action button. However, when implementing scarcity, you must be honest about your offer.
Don’t create artificial scarcity. For example, if there are hundreds of seats remaining for your writing course, don’t lie to visitors that there are “just a few seats left” because when the truth comes out, your credibility will take a hit and you may lose future customers as a result.
Only promote scarce offers with scarcity and you’ll find that your visitors are ready to take advantage of what you’re offering.