Using your customers’ innate fear of shortage, scarcity techniques can persuade customers to add extra impulse buys to their basket. These techniques can be used almost anywhere, both online or offline.
What types of scarcity technique are suitable for use in the supermarket?
The most widespread variety of scarcity technique is the limited time offer, where the product price is temporarily reduced. Limited time offers draw customers as although the product will still be available in the future, the price will soon increase. Even if the reduction is minor, shoppers are still more likely to buy.
End of line sales also draw customer attention. If a product is coming off of the shelves, marking it as an end of line product will likely increase sales — even if it is being removed due to a lack of interest. Customers don’t like having choices reduced. If given the choice of buying a product they weren’t sure about and not being able to buy it, many will opt to buy.
Why is scarcity such an effective selling technique?
As a species, we are primed by evolution to fear shortages. When we were hunter-gatherers, food was often scarce, leading to periods of famine. This meant that when food was available, we feasted to protect against the times when it wasn’t.
These impulses to gather and to feast are triggered when shoppers see anything hinting at scarcity. Whether that’s a half-empty sales display or news reports that a particular food is becoming scarce, shoppers will buy accordingly. Under the influence of scarcity, shoppers make purchasing decisions quicker and with far less forethought, buying more products and increasing their level of impulse buying.
The risks and benefits of using scarcity techniques in-store
Shoppers who feel that a product is valued by others are more likely to value it themselves. This was demonstrated in a recent experiment where participants rated product desirability in different situations. When the products were limited due to high customer demand, they were rated as more desirable than when plentiful or limited due to industrial shortage.
As well as benefits to the scarcity technique, there are also risks. If your supermarket seems understocked, shoppers will often consider shopping elsewhere.
If you frequently employ limited-time offers on the same products, you run the risk of devaluation. If these products are available at sale prices half the time, regular buyers will assume that the product is worth the sale price rather than the full price. They will adjust their buying habits accordingly, waiting until the next sale period to buy.
Scarcity techniques can be powerful and should be used with forethought. In-store research can help you to find out how these techniques affect customers and how they think.