Robert Cialdini’s Principles – Scarcity Explained

Robert Cialdini’s Principles – Scarcity Explained

What is scarcity? Scarcity basically means that you make your customer feel like tthey’re missing out on something or that the product/service you offer is about to run out of stock or expire.

Currently, there are no laws on how much these claims have to be true. Have you ever booked a hotel with or a flight with Ryanair? They love the scarcity principle!

ryanair plane taking off

Next time you do use their booking platform (it may be a while, I know), pay attention to the small text under the price saying things like:

  • Only 2 tickets left at this fare
  • Hurry! We only have two rooms left in this hotel!

These two are a perfect example of scarcity principle used in marketing. It may be true, it may be far off!

Why many companies choose this approach?

People are more likely to act quicker regarding their purchase if they feel like they might miss out on something.

I am not a fan of these and I think you should only use them if they tell the truth which, most of the time, is not the case.


I suggest creating a sense of exclusivity, limitations and privilege. That said, it may not be applicable to every single business.

Think about what sort of products you offer – can you make some of them exclusive only to a certain group of people? Members only offers perhaps? This will create a sense of exclusivity around your business.

People always want what they can’t have!

If you own a spa or a gym, you can create a special Gold or Platinum Card for members who are willing to pay a little more for extra services. This system is often used in big leisure centres like David Lloyd, Nuffield Health and Virgin. These clubs often have tennis courts, pools and spas and by paying a larger amount, you can access these facilities without any limitations.

lady sitting in a sauna wrapped in a towel

It doesn’t always have to be just about exclusivity though. You can create sense of scarcity by launching a 24h sale, or a flash sale on certain items to drive traffic to your online shop and create more sales. Customers will most likely pick other items that are not on sale too and they will probably buy more, as they are already saving money.

You can also use simple messages such as:

  • 5 people have this item in the basket
  • 1 item left in stock
  • Sale ends in [add countdown]

However, as I’ve mentioned above, try to make sure that these claims are true. If you scatter these messages everywhere across your website or if you use them too often, people will soon realise that you are full of it and they’ll become immune to your marketing strategies.

After all, the tie between a customer and a seller is a relationship and, just like any other relationship, it has to be nurtured and it falls apart whent trust is violated.

red heart broken in half

This way of persuading people to buy is so common now that people don’t really pay attention to messages about the ticket they are looking at is the last one at this fare or that there are only two items left in stock because, more often than not, this simply is not true.

If you are a small business and don’t want to go the salesy way full of lies, launch a small sale occasionally on certain items andmake sure that it states when does it end – if people have a deadline, they will act. So, don’t just say: “On sale!”, but say someting like: “On sale for 48h, act quickly. Limited stock!” This way you are not telling lies – of course you have limited stock if you are brick and mortar shop.

If you run a dropshipping business, you probably shoud stick with just the sale announcement and for how long will it last as your stock most likely doesn’t depend on the size of your little shop on a high street.


Scarcity is a powerful tool and I suggest you not to underestimate it. You don’t have to lie to your customers like some other brands, and there are many, but you can still make sure that the customer knows that this sale is not going to last long and that they better act quickly to get some awesome products from you at a discounted rate.

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