shop sign to demonstrate scarcity in copywriting

Copywriting and scarcity: How to be the last shop on the journey

Tamsin Henderson Copywriting, Uncategorised

shop sign to demonstrate scarcity in copywriting

They say scarcity in copywriting heightens the appeal of what you’re selling.

What do you think?

Have you tried it?

I say bloody right it does.

Last week, while driving to the Isle of Lewis, we passed a sign. It said: SHOP >>>> LAST BEFORE ULLAPOOL.

The “fight or flight” chunk of my brain, the lizard brain, hissed: “If you do not stop at this shop — THE LAST SHOP BEFORE ULLAPOOL — you and your family are going to die a slow and painful death – probably from dehydration and malnutrition”.

My rational brain sighed, and said: “It’s less than an hour to Ullapool. You have enough food for the entire (13 hour) journey home. YOU DO NOT NEED TO STOP AT THIS SHOP.”

But… as any armchair neuroscientist will tell you, a lizard brain’s game is strong.

Stronger, often, than logic.

Which is why I hit the brakes, and… stopped at the shop.

And stocked up on extra snacks.

Just in case.

Which is to say: this innocuous looking sign CHANGED my behaviour — persuading me to buy stuff I didn’t need.

All in the space of four tiny words.

Hello, copywriting!

And congratulations, Contin Stores! Your clever sign suckered me in and spat me right out again.

Power of scarcity, right?

The digital version of scarcity also ups your roadside appeal, flagging down your readers and steering them towards action.

So you might use words like “instant”, “hurry” and “last” in your copy — to snag their attention and chivvy them along.

And you might cap quantities of whatever you’re selling.

“Only 10 deals left, grab yours while stocks last!”

Though you don’t have to be quite as obvious — if a more subtle approach works better for your audience:

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  • Course full. Get notified when a space opens up.

Or, you can get other people to do the work for you…

Ever noticed how companies like ebookers and Ryanair use social proof to create urgency?

“5 people are viewing this flight.”

“There are 2 people looking at this hotel.”

Puts a spring in your step, doesn’t it?

You can also ramp up conversions by slapping deadlines on your offers.

“Last chance! This offer expires at noon.”

“Limited time remaining!”

“Today only!”

Whether it’s an email subject line or a web page, there are few situations where a scattering of scarcity won’t increase your open rates, downloads and click-throughs.

Because the less the supply? The greater the demand.

The trick is to make what you’re offering a bit like the last-chance saloon.

Or at least the last shop til Ullapool.