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Email Marketers: How To Use Scarcity To Increase Response Rates

You’ve shopped on Amazon before, right? If so, you’ve seen the green line of copy next to the price that says something like: “Only 13 more in stock.” Like this one:

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Even as a savvy marketer, I bet you’ve still thought: “Hmm, better buy that before it runs out.” I know I have. This is how scarcity works, and it’s very popular with marketers because it’s so effective. Essentially, it involves increasing demand for a product or service by making it scarce. But selling products on an e-commerce store is just one way to make use of scarcity. You can also use it in your email marketing to great effect. Here are few ways to put it into practice.

Use Scarcity in the Subject Line

The first and most obvious place to make use of scarcity is the subject line. As you know, half the battle is in getting subscribers to open the email in the first place. By using scarcity, you can encourage more opens. Don’t go over the top, and—as always with email marketing—keep it natural. You can get some great results by using a few simple phrases like “24 Hour Sale” or “Ending Soon” to get people interested enough to open the emails.

Make Emails Ultra-Urgent

One of the best things about emails is that you can send them out at a specific moment in time. This makes it the ideal option for marketing a special offer that is only available for a day or less (which you might integrate with a social media campaign). A “Today Only” offer that lands in your subscribers’ email inboxes can have the desired effect of getting more people to take action right in the moment, rather than coming back to the email a few days later (or never). If people see that this offer is not something they can sit around and think about, the urgency is increased.

Utilize the Humble P.S.

The P.S. has long been a favorite for copywriters. Used in sales letters for generations, it is still a popular technique, especially in marketing emails. Not only are people often more drawn to the end of the email to see what that P.S. is all about, but they are also more likely to remember the information it contains. You can use the P.S. to quietly mention your special offer or time-limited price right at the end, rather than shouting out about it at the start of the email. (e.g. “By the way, the course is still only $100, but it’s going up next week. Check it out here.”) If you’ve already pushed highlighted how great your course (or product) is in the email body, this can give subscribers the final push they need to click on your CTA.

Follow Up with a Reminder

If you have a special offer lasting just one week, send a follow-up email to all those who have not bought it yet. Make it super short and straight to the point, and just use it to highlight the fact that it is the last day and will be closing in hours. Literally just a few lines are all that you need, and you could find that it gets you a few more sales that you would have otherwise missed.

Plan for the Holidays

The holidays are great opportunities for using scarcity. Days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday make use of scarcity simply because special offers only last a day or a weekend, so make use of these. You should absolutely send out an email on the day in question to remind subscribers about your offers. But rather than just sending out one, why not send a few in the days running up to the sale? You could then suggest a few of the offers that will be coming up in the days ahead so that your subscribers can start planning for their purchases in advance.

Target New Sign-Ups with Your Introduction Email

One great time to use scarcity is in your introduction email. As soon as someone has signed up to be on your list, get in quick with a limited-time offer. Introduction emails are some of the most opened emails [up to four times higher open rates] when it comes to email marketing, so don’t miss out. Turn yours into a thank-you for signing up bonus. Not only will you make them feel rewarded for signing up, but you will also stand a good chance of making some early sales.

Use Transactional Emails

Transactional emails boast some of the highest open rates because they provide useful information. So why not make use of these? Add in some details of a special offer that you are running for three days following the purchase, and you can get more business out of your existing customers.

Warn of an Impending Price Hike

If you’re planning to put up your prices, use this as a strategy in your emails to get more signups.  Perhaps you’ve had people on your list for months or years who are getting access to all your free content, but for some reason have not bought anything. So send out an email warning them about the coming price hike, and let them know that they should get in quick before the price goes up. Send two or three emails about it over a few weeks and encourage them to take action.

Focus on One Goal Per Email

As always, emails should only have one goal. Don’t highlight lots of things in each email, like lots of products they can choose from, and instead, just focus on one particular product (or special offer) per email.

Don’t Forget the Landing Page

Once you get subscribers to click on your CTA, make sure the landing page also encourages them to take action. Use scarcity in the headline, and consider adding a countdown timer to really crank it up. Focus your whole page around the fact that they must act quickly to take advantage of the offer.

Don’t Fake It, Don’t Overdo It

However you use scarcity in your emails, don’t fake it—this will only discredit you. Don’t tell people that the offer only lasts a day, only to send them the same offer next week, otherwise they will stop believing you. And also make sure you don’t overdo it. Scarcity is effective when used sparingly. Do it every week, and it’s going to lose its power.

Use Scarcity for More Powerful Emails

Scarcity is one of those sales tactics that’s so effective you wish you could use it all the time. Don’t do this, but do put it to use when it makes sense to do so. Use any of the above ideas to get you started, either on their own or in combination. Then start getting more subscribers to react to your emails for fear of missing out, and ultimately you can make more sales.