When browsing through products deciding what to buy we are often confronted with a sign on the product saying ‘limited edition’. Regardless of the type of product (food, cosmetics, beauty products, etc) I am persuaded to buy it, even if I do not necessarily need it. This is due to the fact that I know the product is available for a limited time only and so I may only have that one chance to buy it before it goes off sale. The use of limited edition products is an example of the scarcity effect.
The effect of scarcity in influencing consumers has been researched by Gierl and Huettl (2010). Participants were given leaflets advertising products which were scarce (“limited supply”) or not. Following this, they were asked to evaluate the products. It was found that those products limited in supply, and hence scarce, were rated as more attractive to buy. Therefore, if the product is scarce people’s evaluation of the product improves and their subsequent likelihood to buy it increases.
In addition, Ku, Kuo, and Kuo (2012) looked into the effects of scarcity whereby participants read a scenario of a buying situation. The wording was varied to manipulate the scarcity of the product where the scenario included that the product was low in stock due to limited supply (scarcity condition), or that there was plenty in stock (no scarcity condition). They found that purchase intentions could be increased by supply-generated scarcity.
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.
Ku, H. H., Kuo, C. C., & Kuo, T. W. (2012). The effect of scarcity on the purchase intentions of prevention and promotion motivated consumers. Psychology and Marketing, 29, 541-548.