How to Use Time Scarcity to Improve Conversion Rates

By Joe Rawlinson
Senior eCommerce Product Manager, National Instruments

time scarcity

Time scarcity is one of the most powerful psychological influences we face as consumers. When we know something won’t be available much longer, we naturally feel compelled to buy it right now. We fear that if we wait too long, we’ll miss our opportunity and won’t get another chance.

As marketers, we can use this principle to great effect with our customers. When we communicate that time scarcity exists with one of our products or promotions, customers will take action.long, we’ll miss our opportunity and won’t get another chance.


Scarcity in Action

I recently bought some tickets to take my family to the local minor league baseball game. While selecting my seats I noticed a countdown timer that you’ve likely seem on similar ticketing websites.

In bold letters, the site proclaimed: “These tickets have been reserved for the next 293 seconds.” The 293 turned to 292, 291, and down it went.

My eye was hooked by the movement of the numbers.

At first I was a bit confused. I wanted to do some mental math. How many minutes is 293 seconds? I figured that I better hurry and get my tickets before time runs out.

I know the ticket site uses this tactic so they can guarantee your seats until you actually purchase them. However, the side effect is a marketing boost. By putting time scarcity front and center, the site pushes people to buy the tickets right now instead of waiting.


When to Use Time Scarcity

You can use time scarcity for special pricing, offers, deals, or deadlines. Any of these situations naturally provides you the opportunity to highlight the scarcity to the customer.

If you have scarcity but fail to notify the prospective customer, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to push customer to take action.

However, be careful with over-using time scarcity. If you constantly have “limited time offers” your customers will become blind to that messaging and will simply buy (or not) whenever they so feel inclined.

About the Author

joe_rawlinson-vJoe Rawlinson specializes in improving online sales, leads, and efficiency through the B2B e-commerce channel. As a Senior e-Commerce Product Manager at National Instruments, Joe defines the strategy of several key e-commerce applications critical to both company and customer success. You can read more of Joe’s thoughts about marketing and customer experience on his blog


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