How to Add Urgency and Scarcity to Your Shopify Store (And Why?)

Stopwatch in a hand

How do you add urgency and scarcity to your Shopify Store?

What do these terms mean exactly as they relate to getting your visitors to become buyers?

And better yet, why the hell should you care?

A lot of store owners think that having a beautiful looking store equates to better sales

“If my store looks pretty then they’ll want to stay and buy things!”

It’s a notion that sounds logical enough, right? But the research proves the opposite.

In fact, after analyzing 6,700 split-tests, Qubit found that cosmetic changes have a far smaller impact on sales than methods grounded in behavioral psychology.  (That’s why we focused s many of our features on urgency and scarcity to make the Shoptimized™ Theme the best converting Shopify theme.)

As a marketing psychology nerd, I have to internally cheer.


Roughly 2,600 experiments were sorted into 29 categories measuring a few statistics, such as the average uplift.

Top-Performing E-commerce Personalization Techniques

Categories that performed best in terms of average uplift are

  • Scarcity (stock pointers) +2.9% uplift;
  • Social proof (informing users of others’ behavior) +2.3% uplift;
  • Urgency (countdown timers) +1.5% uplift;
  • Abandonment recovery (messaging to keep users on-site) +1.1% uplift;
  • Product recommendations (suggesting other products to purchase) +0.4% uplift.

Simple UI changes to websites are ineffective

  • Color (changing the color of elements on a website) +0.0% uplift;
  • Buttons (modifying website buttons) -0.2% uplift;
  • Calls to action (changing the wording on a website to be more suggestive) -0.3% uplift.

Qubit goes on to say “We think that these changes alter the users’ perception of the product’s value.”

So what does this mean for you?

We’ve talked about all the features you’re going to want in a Shopify dropshipping theme.

Today, we’re going to look at ways to add urgency and scarcity to your Shopify store. But even if you aren’t as big of a fan of the Shoptimized theme as we are, we’ll still be explaining the principles.

Get-it-By Timer

Have you ever made sure you ordered something before a cut-off time so it would get to you before a certain day?

I certainly have. And Amazon makes sure to take full advantage of this urgency principle.

Delivery day estimation
Amazon’s secret weapon: Delivery day estimation

This is confirmed by The Baymard Institute’s Checkout Usability Study which shows that what users really care about is not “shipping speed” but rather the date of delivery, as in: “When will I receive my order?”

During their usability testing, the subjects frequently had trouble comparing shipping options that displayed shipping speeds rather than delivery dates. The test subjects also often ended up misinterpreting shipping speeds and frequently miscalculated the arrival date.

Delivery day estimation
Being able to give your customer the heads-up on their product’s arrival could make or break your sale

What does this all mean?

Amazon built its business on certainty. And when it wasn’t certain and made errors, they made up for it to their customers. They raised the standard for everyone in the world of e-commerce.

Find a way to increase trust and leverage urgency by telling your customers when they will receive their purchase if they order before your daily shipping deadline.

The Shoptimized theme has the Get-it-By Timer feature that does just that.

You’ll begin to level the playing field and create the same kind of amazing buying experience.

Quantity Remaining

Use your stock shortages to your advantage.

Shortages aren’t a limitation of the sales you can make.

Look at this way instead: Shortages show how scarce your product is because other customers know it’s good and want to buy it.

The easiest way to put this into practice is to show how much of a product you have in stock on the product page itself. Not just that, but bring attention to it.

Showing the quantity of a product
Showing the quantity of a product left in a unique way is a surefire eye-catcher

The sample above is a much better way than saying “In stock: 1 left.” The combined effect is even more powerful. Showing the quantity remaining and the number of people who are viewing the item or have it in their cart.

How can you employ this in your Shopify store?

The Shoptimized theme has this feature allowing you to openly display your remaining quantities. Use social-proof to encourage customers to buy one or more of an item.

Another point to mention, you can also create scarcity by selling a limited amount of an item.

Maybe for a “limited run” edition of a product line. Everyone likes to have something they know not everyone else has.

Researchers Worchel, Lee, and Adewole asked participants to rate two jars of cookies. Initially, both jars contained 10 of the exact same cookie.[*]

But they upped the ante, from one jar, eight cookies were removed (making them more scarce).

Jars with cookies
Which do you perceive as more valuable? The cookie jar that is more abundant? Or the more scarce one.

Now participants had to choose between two different jars: the one with 10 cookies or the one with only two cookies left.

Can you guess which one people chose from more often?

The jar with only two cookies.

Businesses like Groupon, Woot, and others have built their entire business on scarcity and urgency.

Deal of the day websites exists solely to advertise one product at a discounted rate with no promise of ever selling it again.

Countdown Timer

A split-test done by WhichTestWon showed that when a countdown timer was placed on a product page, it converted nearly 9% better than a variation of the product copy without a countdown timer.

Keep in mind, you probably want a legitimate reason for why you’re counting down on your product page. What are you tying it to?

  • Availability? Are you only selling the item for a limited time?
  • Shipping cut-off? Do you only offer free-shipping before a certain time of the day?
  • Supply based? Do your discounts vary based on the availability of the item?
  • Extra value? Are you willing to add something to the offer if they order in a certain time frame?

The Shoptimized theme allows for a countdown feature for your product page

Countdown timer
Using a countdown timer on your product page can be effective, but take caution…

A final note on countdown timers:

Even though you could rush a sale with false scarcity, don’t.

It gives scarcity a bad name for the rest of us.

Yes, customers buy with emotion, but they use logic to justify their purchase afterward.

If there’s no logical value of your product after the sale, they’ll be more likely to return it.

Cart Reserved

Have a scarce supply or high demand? Let your customers know that their cart will only be reserved for a limited amount of time.

You see this all the time with concert events.

Ticketmaster reserved cart
Ticketmaster has been using this method to effectively get people to buy event tickets for fear of losing their seats to another shopper.

After the time expires, the customer has to re-add the product.

It seems like a pain, but it creates a serious motive for the customer to act. And remember, scarcity is the #1 proven way to uplift your conversion rate.

Even if you don’t anticipate your products flying off the shelf like concert tickets, this is still valid.

Cart expiration timer
Having a cart expire lets your customers know that they need to make a decision as you can’t always guarantee the product’s availability.

It’s not uncommon for high-ticket dropshipping suppliers to not be able to keep up with demand on their stock levels on certain items. It’s just not feasible in most businesses to be 100% in stock all the time.

So let your customers know the reasoning behind the cart timer.

Forgive my crude analogy, but it lets your customer know to essentially “shit or get off the pot”. Buy or you lose out. The fear of missing out.

The Shoptimized theme lets you harness this effect by letting you place a cart timer on your product pages.

The Conclusion of Urgency and Scarcity to Your Shopify Store

Hopefully, you’ve gleaned some valuable insights on how to add urgency and scarcity to your Shopify store.

A final note on scarcity and urgency. Always have the two built into each one of your promotions, it will amplify the response you get.

  • This weekend only
  • While supplies last
  • The price goes up for each 100 we sell
  • Valentine’s Day special

What’s more, combining social-proof with urgency and scarcity creates the ultimate combination for selling. The Shoptimized theme has live stats that help you achieve this by:

  • Showing the number of people viewing a product
  • Showing the number of people who have the product in their cart
  • Showing the quantity of the product sold in the last 24 hours

In summary, using scarcity and urgency have some the highest chances at increasing your conversions according to research backed by Qubit.  And that’s why we packed the Shoptimized™ Theme full of urgency and scarcity envoking features to make it one of the best converting Shopify themes.

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Bradley Long

Bradley Long

Bradley is a Conversion Rate Expert and store owner since 2005. He’s helped some of the world’s most sophisticated brands to double and sometimes triple their conversion rates. He architected the #1 unofficial Shopify theme, Shoptimized™ and is also CEO of Funnel Buildr, the perfect tool for massively growing your store’s Average Order Value.

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