Persuasion techniques: Scarcity and social proof

empty shelvesYesterday I was at the grocery store shopping for necessities, under strict command to buy "just what's on the list". As I walked by the peanut butter shelf, I saw one last jar of Smucker's creamy peanut butter. Not on the list, but I bought it anyway. What's going on here? Fear of running out? No, we had a full jar at home. Righteous independence? Maybe. Scarcity? Definitely.

Human psychology increases the value of an item when there are few left; that's true whether on the shelf or on-line.

Many sites use inventory to trigger a scarcity response. It's common to see "Only 3 left in stock" proudly declared with an item's description. It also appears on the search results.

Here's another psychological technique used to encourage sales – social proof. If others are buying something, then we are persuaded that we should, too. We see this clearly when hundreds of others have written customer reviews for a product, and we think to ourselves, "Everyone likes it, it must be good!"

Used well, these encourage browsers to become buyers. And it helps them finish their shopping in time to enjoy the holidays.


"Deal with the world the way it is, not the way you wish it was." John Chambers
"We need some ability which allows us to envision the objective from afar, and this ability is intuition." Henri Poincare
"In order to have judgment, you have to have knowledge and experience." - Nancy Pelosi (D, California)
"If you're building a product or delivering a service that solves a real problem, you can do well and grow fast." Marina Hatsopoulos
"You already know the answers. You just don't want to hear them from yourself." - Sunny Vanderbeck
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