Nov 9, 2020 . UX Tools . 3 min read

Intelligent ways of using scarcity in UX

Scarcity is basically an economic terminology that denotes a condition of having insufficient resources to match with existing demand.

What is Scarcity?

Scarcity is basically an economic terminology that denotes a condition of having insufficient resources to match with existing demand. When consumers have limited resources, they effectively choose one over the other by making important decisions. This post discusses how UX designers can influence these decisions.

We have all bought something not immediately necessary just because it was on sale. That is how marketers use scarcity to increase the consumers' attention to the immediate problem through increasing cognitive processing of the relevant information. Consumers then make effective usage of available resources, and businesses manipulate human behavior by implementing scarcity tactics.

The following are some of the ways in which UX developers can use scarcity tactics in designing so as to make consumers respond quickly to the call-to-action.

  •      Time-Limited Scarcity:

In this case, the user needs to avail of the offer before a deadline, which adds urgency to the decision-making process.

  •     Implementation in UX:

Many e-commerce websites and their newsletters feature count-down timers indicating the end of the limited period offer, therefore influencing the users to grab the deal before expiry.

  •     More Examples: 

Dates of coupon expiry, set days for sale, lightning deals

  •     Quantity-Limited Scarcity:

More powerful than the time-limited one, here availability depends on either popularity or supply or both and therefore becomes unpredictable.

  1. Limited Supply:

Items that have limited supply get valued and desired even more.


Many e-commerce websites showcase “only 3 left in stock”, to highlight limited availability of the concerned product, propelling the consumer to arrive at buying decision quickly.

  1.    Popularity: 

The popularity of any item affirms the social proof of it being good and having value. It also triggers the consumers towards grabbing the deal.


Many e-commerce websites showcase “19 people added this item to their cart” on the product or cart page, thereby pushing the user to make a purchase decision soon.

The two points mentioned above are even more effective in unison. Consumers want a scarce item, and they also love to compete for it.


Booking websites showcasing “only 5 rooms left” along with “7 people are eyeing this".

  •     Access-Limited Scarcity: 

When there is limited access to information, the same is found to have higher and exclusive value, attached to social status. Example: 

OnePlus mobile phones had implemented a sales strategy that is invite-only, creating a great market buzz. Since people felt "lucky" to be invited, they also felt privileged -- resulting in around 25 million site visits and almost a million product sales in less than twelve months after launch.

More Examples:

Club Mahindra Holidays, VIP passes, and loyalty programs like Myntra insider, Amazon prime, Paytm First, Titan Encircle, etc.

  •     Special Events That Are ‘Now or Never’:

We seek to experience ‘once in a lifetime opportunities’, because of their unavailability later on.


Reliance Jio's free data and call services in the introductory period, as well as cheap service, plans when payment opened attracted a lot of customers in India.

More examples:

Anniversary offers in e-commerce websites, launch offers of new eCommerce websites, introductory pricing of new products, etc.


When the consumers have to choose between multiple scarce items, according to research by Meng Zhu and Rebecca Ratner, they choose more of what they prefer more. They turn less experimental, as scarcity polarizes preference. Nowadays, a lot of online businesses use psychological maneuvering to pull in more users and maximize profit. Understanding how scarcity works let the UX designers design their products and services with this pattern in mind.


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