Consumers are more distracted — and digitally inundated — than ever before. So here’s the problem: You, as a marketer, still have actions you are trying to motivate from your customers. Maybe those actions include downloading your mobile app, subscribing to SMS, following your brand on social media or adopting curbside pickup. Maybe it’s something different. Regardless, the big-picture challenge is figuring out how to motivate consumers right now. Enter urgency marketing.
In its simplest form, urgency marketing is about crafting promotions in a way that drives immediate response. And I’m not just talking about product promotions — this can include any marketing goal you’re trying to drive. As for the ways you’ll do so, many people associate urgency marketing with tactics like flash promotions and checkout timers or events like Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day.
They’re not off. But it doesn’t stop there.
Urgency marketing doesn’t have to always rely on heavy discounting. Nor should it. And the visceral response you see on Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day doesn’t have to happen only once a year. In fact, you can tap into the same psychology year-round. This is the form of urgency marketing we advocate for at Quikly, because we’ve seen it work. Over the course of working with over 17 million consumers, we’ve seen this psychology increase marketing response rates by an average of 30 percent and lower acquisition costs by as much as 80 percent.
The great news? There are simple ways you can get started. But first, let’s break down the psychology.
Urgency Marketing Psychology
First, my personal favorite: Anticipation. Did you know that anticipating something is actually a joyful, or pleasurable experience? Let’s say you have a piece of chocolate you plan on eating. One consumer neuroscientist, Dr. Matt Johnson, told us the moment before you eat the chocolate is actually more pleasurable than the first bite itself.
Layering this same sort of psychology into marketing activities can drive a fun form of engagement. All you need to do is give consumers something to anticipate. Maybe it’s a reward that’s available sometime in the future. Maybe nobody even knows what the reward is — they just know they can claim it after completing an activity that will help get you to your marketing goals, like signing up for emails or following your brand on TikTok. Maybe you’re dropping a product but nobody knows when. You can play with anticipation in all sorts of ways. You just need to be intentional about it.
Scarcity simply refers to there being a scarce amount of something, like a product or incentive. Before we get too far into it, I’d like to say that you do need to be careful with scarcity. Make sure to use this in honest ways — don’t say you have five dresses left when there are more. You can ruin trust very fast if you use this one incorrectly. But it can also be an exciting, motivating way to engage your audience when you get it right.
It might seem archaic now, but it shouldn’t take much effort to picture large crowds running into stores on Black Friday. They want something that they know won’t be available to everyone. Perhaps you remember Tickle Me Elmo or the Cabbage Patch Riots. While extreme examples, each revolved around scarcity. Even in our current digitally focused world, this phenomenon has come to include things like the latest Xbox Series X and Series S and sneaker releases. It also includes the Playstation 5, which was more difficult to find than toilet paper in 2020. It even made the list of top Google search trends for the year:
As for your brand, you can use smaller methods to drive big-time engagement through scarcity, as well. Think of the best incentive you can — maybe if you’re a restaurant, it’s free burgers, your most popular menu item, for a year. Obviously you can’t afford to offer this to everyone, but do so to a small group. Or if you’re a retailer, you could offer a select number of customers a giant batch of low-denomination loyalty points or point multipliers to drive program engagement and retention. Even opening promotions for a limited amount of time is a form of scarcity in marketing.
Competition oftentimes complements scarcity. It is also something that’s ingrained in us as humans. It makes us act. And again, it’s great at activating consumers. We want to one-up our fellow consumers and friends/family.
When limited incentives are available, consumers know they must compete. For many, this is motivating. If it doesn’t align with your brand to have them compete against one another, you can always have consumers compete against themselves by adding tactics like a timer to whatever action you’re motivating them to perform.
Getting Started with Urgency Marketing
If you’ve never implemented these psychology tactics before, start small. Here are a few simple steps to do that:
- Look at the top goal you’re trying to achieve right now. Maybe it’s driving loyalty acquisition.
- If you haven’t already, identify one key activity or conversion point that will allow you to drive more acquisition. You will have many, but choose one that, if it happens, will help you drive more high-quality loyalty members. (For example, if you know that customers who learn about your loyalty program are more likely to join and become long-term members, your one key activity could be getting consumers to watch a quick video about your program.)
- Look at how you’re currently trying to get consumers to complete that one conversion: How are you ensuring they click to watch the video? After you answer that, take a look at the psychology above. How can you implement one of the described motivators in a fun way to drive more conversions? Of course, make sure to consider what makes the most sense for your specific persona and their preferences.
As you move forward in injecting urgency into your marketing, lean on data. Test using different motivators, both individually and in combination. And above all, of course, stay close to your customers. Not only will urgency marketing get you to your goals faster, but it will give your audience an exciting, new way to engage with your brand, so you can forge deeper relationships.
About the Author: Shawn Geller is Co-Founder and CEO of Quikly, a technology platform that leverages incentives and psychology to immediately increase response around key marketing initiatives. He has spent 12 years studying consumer response and the last 8 helping hundreds of top retail and restaurant brands increase theirs. To date, Shawn and his team have motivated 17 million consumers over 32 million times.