Which one tastes better: drinking coke from a large bottle (2,5 L) or from a small one?
Would you care more of your online representation if you got only one like per day from Facebook to spend?
And what if you got only a small portion of food in a restaurant?
How do these limitations effect your experience?
I don’t know whether it’s true for everyone or it is just me, but I love drinking from those small soft drink bottles. And at the same time, I find it quite difficult to value the things that I have a stockpile of…
Let’s call this weird effect the scarcity principle.
This effect comes from the assumption that something is rare because it is popular and everybody wants to get hold of it. And we know that if something is popular, that’s a good indication of its quality.
That’s the same case why you prefer a Porsche more than a Volkswagen, even if they both have the same specifications: mostly because those sport cars are rare. If everybody drove a sport car, I bet nobody would really appreciate them.
I think it is the main reason why so many expensive restaurants only serve a small portion of food. This way they can really make you appreciate the dish you ordered.
So our hypothesis is that if you state or imply that something is rare, it will appear as a more attractive option.
Does it mean the same in real life as it is in social psychology experiments?
In fact, it does. If a buyer in a supermarket was told that the supplier couldn’t produce enough beef, they would give orders for twice as much as others. If they have been told that this information is not yet accessible for others, then they bought five times more of the beef (Knishinsky, 1982).
By the way, you don’t even have to limit your inventory to exploit the scarcity principle. If you show a fewer number of the same product (for example, on a supermarket shelf), that can increase not only its sales potential, but the price that buyers would pay for it (Worchel, 1975).
What about the one like per day idea?
Do you see any reason why it can be effective? Limiting functionality, quantity or any limitable feature don’t seem to be necessarily a bad idea. Take Twitter for example: 140 characters, and that’s it. That’s what you’ve got to express yourself.
There’s no technical reason to limit the length of the message, this is purely a psychological consideration (and of course it is also necessary to keep the service flowing).
Think about it: how much more time would you spend on Facebook account if you were limited to like only one page per day? In this case, it can become easily a serious decision, a self expression tool people really care about, exactly because in this case “likes” are limited resources.
This is what LinkedIn should do with the skills & expertise feature: limit the number of items one can have at any given time. This would not just clear up the glitter but actually it will make people think about themselves and get more engaged in the process.
Let’s see how this principle works in another context: in the airline ticket ecosystem. What are these companies doing by pricing the demand and the remaining time in to the tickets? They want to ensure that you will be more inclined to buy a ticket as soon as possible because the price you see now is limited by time and it is increasing at an unknown rate. There’s no way to calculate the costs caused by your hesitation.
How does it feel? Are you getting nervous? Do you feel that blood is rushing to your head?
Honestly, I always do.
Despite the fact that marketers create a lot of “fake” scarcity to improve sales, this principle also has its upsides: I’m talking about the fact that the scarcity effect also applies to information. For example, it is the reason why censorship is mostly ineffective: people go a long way just to get the banned, scarce information, thus promoting freedom of speech unintentionally.
Next time if you want to ban your child from somebody, keep it in your mind that there is a fat chance you’ll only arouse him or her curiosity more in that person…