From FOMO to Conversions The Power of Scarcity in UX Design

Craig Barber
September 16, 2023
mins read

Today, we’re going to explore a fascinating psychological phenomenon called the Scarcity Principle and its ingenious application in the realm of UX design.

Prepare to dive into the captivating world where scarcity meets user experience, creating a powerful combination that keeps us engaged, intrigued, and eager for more.

You won’t want to miss this one ; )

Understanding the Scarcity Principle

Understanding the Scarcity Principle​

The Scarcity Principle, first introduced by social psychologist Robert Cialdini, revolves around the simple notion that people value things more when they perceive them as scarce or limited.

It taps into our inherent fear of missing out (FOMO) and triggers a sense of urgency, leading us to act quickly to secure what’s on offer.

Scarcity Principle video explainer:

The Scarcity Principle and UX Design

Now that we have a grasp of the Scarcity Principle, let’s explore how it can be ingeniously incorporated into the world of UX design to create captivating user experiences.

Limited-Time Offers and Discounts

Limited-Time Offers and Discounts​

One common application of the Scarcity Principle is the use of limited-time offers and discounts in e-commerce websites.

When users come across a product with a countdown timer indicating that the deal is about to expire, they feel compelled to take action immediately.

This tactic not only drives conversions but also adds an element of excitement and exclusivity to the user experience.

Stock Availability and Inventory Indicators

Stock Availability and Inventory Indicators​

Have you ever noticed how online marketplaces display the number of items left in stock for a particular product?

This strategy leverages scarcity to create a sense of urgency.

Seeing a low stock or limited availability triggers the fear of missing out, compelling users to make a purchase decision swiftly before the product runs out.

Invitation-Only Exclusivity

Invitation-Only Exclusivity​

Another way scarcity is applied to UX design is through invitation-only access to certain platforms or services.

By making something exclusive and limited, it creates a sense of prestige and desirability.

Think about the early days of social media platforms like Facebook or Pinterest, where gaining access required an invitation.

This scarcity-driven strategy not only increased user curiosity but also fueled the desire to be part of an exclusive community.

Limited Editions and Pre-Orders

Limited Editions and Pre-Orders​

Brands often release limited-edition products or offer pre-orders to create scarcity. By announcing that only a specific number of items will be available, they tap into our innate desire to possess unique or rare items.

This scarcity-driven marketing tactic elevates the user experience by making users feel special and rewarded for their early engagement.


The Scarcity Principle is a powerful psychological tool that, when thoughtfully applied to UX design, can captivate and engage users in remarkable ways.

From limited-time offers and stock availability indicators to invitation-only exclusivity and limited editions, scarcity leverages our innate fear of missing out and compels us to act swiftly.

When integrating scarcity into your UX design, it’s crucial to strike a balance. Overusing this principle may lead to distrust and disengagement.

Instead, aim for an authentic and transparent approach, ensuring that scarcity is used to enhance the user experience rather than manipulate it.

By understanding and harnessing the potential of the Scarcity Principle, designers can create experiences that not only captivate users but also drive conversions, boost engagement, and leave a lasting impression.

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