When I book a hotel room on a website. I usually see the website uses red colour to emphasise “Only 2 left”, “Last Chance, Only 1 left!” to attract people. Also, when I am browsing the website, there are often some messages popping out at the corner saying “Most recent booking for this hotel was 9 minutes ago from UK” and “There are 5 people looking at this hotel”. I am not sure whether it is true or not (probably not), but obviously they are emphasising that not many rooms left, please book and pay as soon as possible. They use scarcity as their persuasive tactic.
The study by Gierl and Huettl (2010) examined the effects of two types of scarcity on the attitudes of consumers toward products: scarcity of supply and scarcity of demand. They asked the participants to read the retail company’s leaflets which can be scare or not. Then they needed to evaluate the products. The data obtained showed that the appearance of a positive scarcity effect depends on the product's suitability for conspicuous consumption. If a product is used for conspicuous consumption, signals of scarcity due to limited supply are more effective than signals of scarcity due to high demand. On the contrary, if a product is not used for conspicuous consumption, signals of scarcity due to high demand is more effective for product evaluations. In this case, the website makes an illusion to the browsers that this hotel is highly demanded and loads of people are looking at it. Hotel booking is not a conspicuous consumption. Therefore, signals of scarcity due to demand used by this website is effective to attract people to book the room fast.
Gierl, H. & Huettl, V. (2010). Are scarce products always more attractive? The interaction of different types of scarcity signals with products’ suitability for conspicuous consumption. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 27, 225-235.