Scarcity: Does It Work With Digital Products?

Scarcity is an amazingly effective tactic used by copywriters.

It creates a “sense of urgency” as one step in the path leading the prospect to the land of the customer.

Why use scarcity?

One of the primary reasons, maybe THE primary reason, is because people put things off. Most people excel at it!

That’s exactly what you do not want.

The fact is, if the person doesn’t do what you what you want them to do there and now the odds of them doing it later aren’t that good.

So the goal of scarcity is stop your prospects from procrastinating.

The problem is that with digital downloads is that it’s pretty hard to say “only 23 copies” left because, well, it’s digital so you can just make another copy.

But, scarcity is still alive an well.

Here’s how to use scarcity with digital products
There are a number of ways to add urgency via scarcity.

While you can’t really limit the quantity (in most cases) you can definitely limit your offer in a number of ways.

Limit the Time

One common way to limit your offer is to make it available for a limited period of time.

So you can say that the offer is available for only 2 days or 15 minutes or whatever is applicable for your situation.

This should be real though, don’t say that something is only available for a limited time if that isn’t true, that is, people can get the same offer after the time deadline.

Otherwise, people will quickly learn that you do that and you’ll lose all credibility.

Note: at the time of writing this the credit card companies have released new rules and guidelines that frown upon the use of countdown timers, an effective way of pushing time sensitivity.

Limit the Actual Offer

This can be an excellent way to use urgency.

How you do this is by taking parts of your offer and make them available for only a certain period or for the first X number of people.

The “parts” can really be anything, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Some or all of our bonuses, be they the products or services that will be included.
  • A “special price”, same sales and fire sales are common examples of this but don’t limit yourself to just those ways.
  • You could offer a longer guarantee for fast action takers.

The thing is that if you do this you need to be explicit in that it will indeed end and be sure to provide a reason for the urgency; it must be a real, believable reason though or it plain won’t work.

Sort of like the digital version of “I only have 12 more on the shelf.”

Unlike a physical product though you can word it so that you “may change the offer” and if they wait it may not be available.

An argument can be made that this treads the line on being deceptive and I personally wouldn’t do it because I think you don’t need it but many, more successful people than I think it’s okay.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if you are comfortable with it and it can help sales.

Just do it right or it will really lose it effectiveness.

Updating The Product

Since it is a digital product you can easily change it or update it; you could even use release or version numbers.

The changes don’t even have to be large changes, a few changes here and there, update a resource page, update to add new information or even add a new chapter.

You may ask though “great, but how do I use urgency with an updated product?

That’s another excellent question.

There are two simple ways to do that. Each are targeted to a different situation, let’s look at them.

1. Urgency With an Existing Product

The way this works is that you say you are coming out with a new version and that the price or other parts of your offer are going to change with when the new version is released.

So the urgency is created by the deadline of the release of new product and the lose of the existing offer.

2. Urgency With a New Product

You do this by having a “pre-launch” or “pre-release” or “early bird” or “introductory” offer that will be changed once the product is finally released.

A simple example using price would be $97 during the 1-week, pre-launch but a lot more during launch.

Time Sensitivity

Please note that I didn’t say time urgency but “time sensitivity”.

What I mean is content that is either very fresh with a short “shelf life” or is really only valuable for a certain period of time.

Maybe because when the information is widely known it loses its value or when an event, season, activity or even a news item occurs then the information loses value.

The information doesn’t even have to be the entire product it could just a part of the product, a chapter or a bonus or something that is time sensitive.

Since the information is time-sensitive, if someone buys after the “event”, then the offer has less value.

Resource Limits

Depending upon the product or service, you can use urgency very effectively using limitations of time and other resources.

Some examples of this would make it easier to understand.

Say you offer a service… the truth is you can only handle so much business because you have only 24 hours in a day and even if you have people to help you there are still limits.

So if you build Web sites, write articles, provide coaching, or plan weddings or whatever, since you can do only so many you have resource limits and these limits can create a sense of urgency.

“This is available for only the first X people because that is all I have the time to handle and retain the level of quality you deserve and I require.”

My friend, Jason Anderson, had, and used, some urgency in a launch he did recently for iFlashVideo.

He and his team creates TV-quality custom videos.

They can only create so many videos and keep the quality.

They made sure they mentioned that on their sales page because …

  • It was true.
  • It was something that people should know.
  • It was good marketing.

You should always, truthfully, point out that after the limit is reached the offer will change go up because you have to cover additional costs and other constraints.

Notice, I said you should ALWAYS point it out.

Sure it’s common sense but that doesn’t mean people are conscious of it so pointing it out bring it to their consciousness and makes it much more effective.

Just be sure to be specific about the date, or number, available for when your offer is valid.

If you have something different than a service type of thing then you can point out resource constraints like disk space or bandwidth as obvious limits with associated costs when those are exceeded.

In fact, I’ve used that for a membership site because if I exceeded a certain number of members I’d have to move to a more expensive server to handle it and hire additional help.


Yes, you can easily use scarcity with digital products in a variety of ways:

  1. Limit the Time
  2. Limit the Actual Offer
  3. Updating The Product
  4. Resource Limits

Making something scarce, makes the thing more valuable and places more urgency on the offer; the basic law of supply and demand.

It’s an very effective technique and something you should always try to incorporate when you are trying to get someone to do something.

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Do you have a great way you use scarcity?

Do you have any problems where you don’t know how to use scarcity?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Talk soon,

David Husnian

The Shameless (Ethical) Marketer

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4 comments to Scarcity: Does It Work With Digital Products?

  • These are great points that stress how and when to use scarcity with digital products. These also add to a product’s perceived value but we should also use this judiciously and make sure that there are no exceptions. When we say that something will no longer be available, it has to stay that way. Otherwise we lose credibility.

  • David Husnian

    You are absolutely correct.

    Once someone finds they can’t trust you in one thing they, even if it is subconsciously, start not trusting you in all things,



  • Hi Julie!This is such a helpful post. I feel the same way about my cltenis. They wait until the very last minute to take wedding dance lessons sometimes. I realize that I, as a consumer, do the exact same thing. I’m afraid that if I make that purchase, it would somehow be a bad decision. So, I wait until the minute before it ends. I agree that the limited quantity technique makes sense. At the same time, am I truly honest when I am doing that? Say, no one has signed up for my 6-couple only class yet. Would it be ethnical to say there are only a certain number of spots left?Thank you!Xixi

  • David Husnian


    Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post!

    While I’m not very familiar with your services I believe there are some things you can do to help; or at least to try to see if they help.

    First though, it is certainly ethical to say how many slots are available. In fact, I would argue that it could be unethical not to mention this and many unethical people don’t mention it to generate interest and then since all the products/slots/whatever are gone try to sell them something else; a “bait and switch” type of thing.

    Some people may word it to be or border on unethical but just stating that 6 slots are currently available is just factual and can be easily update as the slots run out. When you get down to the end you can reword it to say something like “I can only fit in one more couple so sign up now” or something like that.

    I think you could use other ways to instill a sense of scarcity and urgency in your prospects. For example, I would assume that you have these scheduled and they start at a specific date. This can be a powerful motivator… saying “lessons start in only 4 days” or whatever definitely make a difference.

    Another thing you can do is provide something extra if they sign up by a certain date. For example, offer one additional lesson for people that sign up by a certain date.

    For example, say you do these the last week of every month. You could say if you sign up during the first week of the month you get the extra lesson and anyone after that doesn’t get that. Be sure to explain how much difference the extra lesson will do to help them improve their dancing

    In general, the days when products and services sell the best is the first day (or two) they become available and the last day.

    If you provide a link to you site, I’ll take a look at it and see if I have anything extra to add.

    Hope that helps,


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