Nikos Pappas • Crafting Impactful Digital Experiences
Nikos Pappas • Digital Product & Service Designer


This digital notebook is about documenting interesting ideas, opinions and findings around user and customer experience, product design, strategy, processes and tools.

The art of persuasion & the role of Scarcity

In 1984, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini wrote a book called “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” Since then, it’s been widely hailed as a seminal book on marketing, something everyone who’s doing product development should read.

The book is quite revealing, as it is effective in outlining the various tactics used to affect people through influence and persuasion. In this book, Cialdini also reveals for first time the Six Principles of Persuasion (Reciprocity, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority & Scarcity), a collection of very effective “shortcuts” that someone could employ in order to persuade individuals or groups.

Over the years, these tactics have found their way into digital interfaces too.

Source: - by  David Teodorescu

Source: - by David Teodorescu

David Teodorescu wrote really interesting article reviewing the use of Scarcity on the modern web.

“It [Scarcity] makes things desirable. Scarcity is the psychological bias that makes us place a higher value on things that are scarce than those in abundance. Basically, we tend to like things that are harder to obtain,” he writes in order to explain Scarcity effect. ”You know how it works,” he continues. “Casually watching a review on Unbox Therapy about this mug that apparently is unspillable. I’m having a laugh but by the end of the video I’m also intrigued what people ask for it. There it is on Amazon! On sale at $14.99 from $24.99. For a limited time only. Only 3 left in stock for the stainless steel version. It’s a bargain and it will soon be gone,” he explains.

Then, he analyses some real cases of use:

Lightning Deals on Amazon: Good

They last a few hours and show the deadline. They are accompanied by the percentage claimed by other people to highlight the urgency.

Source: - by  David Teodorescu

Source: - by David Teodorescu

Courses on Interaction Design Foundation: Smart

Present the time until enrolment ends. Fully booked courses are still displayed to show people what it’s like to miss the opportunity.

Source: - by  David Teodorescu

Source: - by David Teodorescu

Buying things on eBay: Bad

Time limited products are marked with a red icon and a vague “Almost gone” tag. Not showing when the offer ends is unthoughtful and manipulative.

Source: - by  David Teodorescu

Source: - by David Teodorescu

He continues with even more examples on his article “Scarcity in UX: The psychological bias that became the norm” that you can find at the following link:

Right before summing his article up, Teodorescu highlights the following paragraph:

”Some might argue that this forces them to make a decision, but as long as the numbers are real, what’s the alternative? Isn’t the sense of regret or frustration caused by us failing to tell them about the scarce product in time just as bad? Aren’t we offering an awful user experience if that happens? Rushing people into making a decision seems rather fair as long as we’re presenting them the facts.

Then, he ends the article with some interesting DOs and DON’Ts, for who are interesting in keeping a balance between a fair, ethical and sincere use of this tactic:

”Below are some suggestions for making the best out of scarcity and actually improve the UX:


  • use scarcity to increase perceived value and expedite conversions

  • use time scarcity to promote products that are time sensitive

  • use quantity scarcity to make people aware of stock shortages

  • use access scarcity to highlight the advantages of the restricted features

  • use A/B testing to test what scarcity message works best for your audience

  • use usability testing to test the impact of messages on credibility and trust

  • use animated elements to emphasise urgency (e.g. showing a glowing red icon to highlight the real-time status)


  • do not use scarcity without testing it first with users

  • do not use scarcity if stocks are not reliable

  • do not use scarcity if the messages are not bug free

  • do not use fake numbers to create artificially scarce products”


#artofpersuasion #scarcity #cialdini #productdesign