While Supplies Last: 3 Methods to Create Urgency and Scarcity on Your Store


Chris Rausch


April 19, 2024

Shopper psychology is a tool you can use to drive more sales on your online store. You already leverage psychology through conversion rate optimization strategies like social proof and eye-catching web design. But are you inducing a fear of missing out (FOMO) in your store with scarcity and urgency?

Giants in online commerce like Amazon, Walmart, and Expedia use scarcity and urgency to help drive impulse buys, and you can too. They instill the fear of missing out on a product or deal by creating deadlines or limitations that force your customers to make a decision immediately. 

Achieving scarcity and urgency is made even easier with Shopify checkout apps like Checkout Extensions Plus and UpsellPlus. These tools let you customize your checkout process and build tempting upsells that customers can’t resist – especially when you create urgency and scarcity with them.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about FOMO, scarcity, and urgency for Shopify stores.

What are scarcity and urgency?

Scarcity is when the shopper feels there is a limited amount of a certain product available. Phrases like “limited stock” or “almost gone” make the customer pay attention and take action quicker because the product might be gone soon. Fortunately, they have the chance to buy one right now.

Here’s an example of Booking.com using scarcity to entice visitors to book a room.

expedia scarcity and urgency

Urgency is when the customer is urged to make a decision by limiting the time they have to do so. This is usually done with a timer or message that says ‘this order has been reserved for the next 5 minutes!’ It motivates the customers to take immediate action before it’s too late.

Here’s an example of how Amazon uses urgency to motivate shoppers to complete the checkout. They show when you will receive the item if you order before a specific time.

amazon urgency

Why use scarcity and urgency?

Customers have a lot of options for online stores. Your competition is only a few clicks away, so you have to encourage your customers to make a decision while they’re on your site. With scarcity and urgency, customers will feel like they’re missing out if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity you’re presenting them. 

Demonstrating a scarcity of your product or services makes them feel more exclusive and desirable. Only a certain number of customers will be able to take advantage of the deal you’re offering, which forces them to make a decision quickly without considering other factors like price or competition. 

A scarce product also creates an urgency for customers. If there are a limited number of items produced, you need to buy one before they’re gone – forcing you to quickly decide whether to buy it while you have the opportunity.

Scarcity is a strategy that has been mastered by brands like Supreme, whose entire business model is to drop limited runs of merchandise regularly. Fans wait for these drops, buy every product within a few minutes, and then eagerly await the next drop. The demand even creates a lucrative secondary market where products are sold for higher prices to anyone who missed the drop.

Supreme also creates urgency with their scarcity. Customers know that they’ll have to buy the product instantly if they want a chance, so they’ll pay less attention to the price.

How to create a ‘while supplies last’ and ‘limited quantities available’ effect

We discussed what urgency and scarcity can do for your store. If you’re using Shopify or Shopify Plus, there are a couple of ways to implement this for your customers. 

1. Add urgency with a checkout countdown timer

The faster a customer moves through the sales funnel, the more likely they are to convert because they won’t second-guess their decision or have time to check your competition.

Add a countdown timer to the checkout page to urge customers to complete the checkout they’ve started. We don’t want to overwhelm customers, so ideally this timer is shown only once. 

Here’s an example of a leading Shopify Plus brand, Ekster, using this tactic well. Note they also offer checkout cross sells using UpsellPlus Checkout Smart Upsell offers.

ekster.com checkout timer to create urgency

You can add some custom code to the checkout.liquid file or use Shopify Functions to implement a timer or other urgency feature.

2. Create urgency on the post-purchase page

Urgency is helpful before customers complete their orders, but it’s even more helpful after.

When you use post-purchases pages, another screen appears after an order is placed but before they reach your “thank you” page.

Once a customer completes their order, they only need to click a single button to order again. You can use features like one-click upsells to encourage impulse buys after the sale, not just before.

Post-purchase sales are a great way to grow AOV with minimal risk because the order was already completed. Rejecting your offer won’t cancel it.

post purchase upsell countdown timer to create urgency

3. Add scarcity with a limited stock available counter

You can show a counter on the cart page using a simple Shopify app. This will show ‘Limited stock available’ or ‘While supplies last’ badges on the product pages.

This app seems like a great option.

‍4. Run a Limited Time Deal and Set a Deadline on It

Setting a deadline can be just as effective as a countdown. You can create a deal that ends at a certain time, like 11:59 PM the same day, to stop customers from considering coming back later to decide whether they want to buy a product.

5. Create Urgency with a Free Shipping Offer

Customers hate paying for shipping, but 78% of consumers are willing to spend more to earn free shipping.

If you offer free shipping for a limited time, those savings may be enough to convince a customer to complete their order.

You can also offer free shipping with order minimums as an upselling strategy, which can raise your average order value by two to three times.

6. Create Urgency on Your Cart Page

Cart pages and cart drawers can also be used to encourage FOMO. Offering free gifts, free shipping, and product recommendations, and other cart upsells with limited quantities or limited time can encourage customers to complete their order and even spend more.

UpsellPlus lets you craft your cart drawer and page with trust elements, urgency tools, and upsells.

7. Use Popups to Highlight Special Offers

Capturing your customers’ attention isn’t easy. But, it's hard to ignore a popup message that appears on their screen.

Popups will help highlight upsells, cross-sells, and other promotions you’re running that use urgency or scarcity features like countdowns.

8. Send “Don’t Wait” Cart Abandonment Emails

Nearly 70% of carts are abandoned. You need a strategy that brings them back and expedites the sale process so you can minimize their odds of leaving again.

Cart abandonment emails that warn customers that a product is selling quickly or a deal is coming to an end can encourage them to come back and finish their order. They’re especially effective if you create pre-built carts for their order to save time or offer a limited discount code to add more value.

9. Show How Many Products Are Left in Stock Along With How Many People Are Viewing It

Highlighting competition for products adds a social element to the urgency and scarcity you’re creating in your store. 

Customers may not be worried that you’ll run out of products based on a limited stock notification. But, if you show how many are available and the amount of competition there is for that product, customers will be more worried about missing out.

10. Promote Your Upcoming Sales Whenever Possible

Demand is one of the easiest ways to drive urgency and create scarcity. The more people want to buy your product, the higher the risk that customers are going to miss their chance to buy something if they wait.

You should highlight your sales, promotions, upcoming releases, and any other FOMO-inducing announcements to drive more interest while using other strategies like limited-time offers or limited stock to drive even stronger FOMO.

Examples of Companies Creating Urgency and Scarcity With Their Store

Creating FOMO with urgency and scarcity isn’t a new concept, but it’s highly effective. Many companies use these strategies, but the specific approach they take and the way they present their offers varies. 

Here are three enterprise corporations that do urgency and scarcity well.

Adidas: Getting Users to Take the Next Step

Adidas implies scarcity to create urgency. They don’t specifically say that the product is running out of stock or that there’s a certain time limit for checking out.

Instead, they let you know that unless you’ve completed your purchase, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get the products in your cart. It’s a subtle strategy that’s unlikely to upset customers but acts as a good motivator to not wait around.

Bed Bath & Beyond

Bed Bath & Beyond instills urgency throughout the catalog as opposed to a single checkout step.

Each product has a different offer, a different deadline, or a limited supply that’s included in their listing. They’re able to create both urgency and scarcity with different offers. Plus, with offers being different, it individualizes each deal and makes multi-product purchases twice as urgent.

Amazon’s Trending Deals

Amazon combines personalization with urgency and scarcity for their highly effective “Trending Deals” that they offer constantly.

They use your customer data and history to feature the deals that are likely to be the most interesting to you, each with a specific discount that’s only available for a limited time. In many cases, they don’t even tell you when it’s ending, which prevents you from being able to decide later just in case the deal expires between then.

Apply "Until Supplies Last" Sales Tactics With Care

It’s important to keep in mind that customers still prioritize a pleasant shopping experience. They don’t want to be stressed. 'Until supplies last' is a powerful phrase, but should be used with the customer in mind.

These methods can help nudge shoppers in the right direction, but shouldn’t be abused to ‘push’ customers into buying. The more aggressive your sales tactics become, the more you’ll cater to a specific audience.

The value of a good product that is good value for money and a brand that resonates are still the core of doing good business.

How Will You Use The "While Supply Lasts" Effect For Your Brand?

Do you have a product in mind that is already low in stock which you could highlight with a ‘until supplies last’ or ‘only 10 items left’ badge? Using scarcity and urgency, you can motivate your customers to complete a purchase or grow their cart total.

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