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Published on 22/02/2023

The psychology of urgency in e-commerce: Five tactics for triggering purchases

Have you ever heard of FOMO(1) , or Fear of missing out? FOMO(1) is a marketing technique, based on the fear of missing out on an opportunity. This approach specifically targets the “psychological” aspect of customers, giving them the feeling of anxiety: “it’s now or never!”

As the old saying goes, “You don’t know how much you want something until it’s gone ...or was sold to the person before you!”

By using and combining a variety of FOMO(1) tactics, you can leverage the power of urgency, in order to strengthen product appeal and increase conversion rates. In this article, we'll explore five FOMO(1) marketing tactics, to create urgency and attract more buyers.

The psychology of urgency in e-commerce The psychology of urgency in e-commerce

Tactic n°1: displaying limited stock to highlight rarity

Leveraging product scarcity is a relevant tactic in the psychology of online shopping, helping to convince undecided buyers. Showing them that the item they have been thinking about will soon be unavailable has an impact on their buying behaviour.

When stocks of a product are low, display that on the product page. You can display the exact number or the state of stock (e.g. “last few items available” or “stock will soon be gone”).

displaying limited stock to highlight rarity

Tactic n°2: displaying views and/or sales of products so as to reinforce Social Proof

Social Proof(2) is influencing the choices of one or more people, via the choices and behaviours of the maximum number of other people.

For example, person A is highly likely to buy product X, if person B and C have already done so before them. This demonstrates social influence on people’s purchasing decisions.

Consumers value the opinions of other consumers. Even the mere mention of a product’s popularity is enough to make other purchasers flock to that product, to try it out for themselves.

A quick way of leveraging FOMO(1) via social proof, is to display the number of other customers who have purchased or viewed a given product on a given day.

displaying views and/or sales of products so as to reinforce Social Proof

Tactic n°3: displaying limited-time/free shipping options on product pages

The majority of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase if there is free delivery.

While discounted or free shipping is a common tactic in marketing, there are ways of extending this experience beyond a pop-up notification, in order to amplify FOMO(1) and increase conversion rates.

An effective example of FOMO(1) marketing is displaying limited-time free delivery options. It’s also an excellent way of clearing inventory of less well-selling products.

displaying limited-time/free shipping options on product page

Tactic n°4: accelerating sales via limited-time discounts

Your customers are more likely to finalise purchases if they know they can save a little money in the process. Who doesn’t love a “good deal”? Even more so, if it’s a time-limited opportunity.

Display discounts with a countdown, in order to stimulate purchases.

Countdown timers are a classic example of FOMO(1) marketing, creating a clear visual indication that time is running out for a particular item. The sense of urgency created affects buyers, and pushes them to make faster decisions about purchases they are considering.

Another advantage is that they’re impossible to miss. New and returning visitors are constantly aware of countdown timers as they browse your site.

accelerating sales via limited-time discounts

Tactic n°5: offering the BNPL option for a limited period

Instalment payment services (BNPL, “buy now, pay later”), are increasingly popular, as they offer several advantages for your customers:

• Spreading out expenses over several months;

• Being able to buy immediately, so as to possibly benefit from promotional offers, while paying for their purchases later on.

Most of the time, this option has an associated cost for consumers, who might be resistant to the idea. To speed up sales, or to sell off certain stock, it’s a good idea to offer payment in instalments for a limited period, with, for example, a countdown timer (see above). Your customers will be delighted not to miss out on the opportunity.

Some of our clients are using this tactic, with positive results: Center Parcs - a no-fee operation for increasing sales.

offering the BNPL option for a limited period

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