It was just before 11 o'clock. I was up on the second floor of the Long Beach Convention Center looking down through the glass at the line outside--a line I couldn't see the end of. All in all, 50,000 people descended upon the convention that weekend for Complex Con, an event without peer in the Millennial "verge culture" sphere.

Attendees included a who's who of pop culture figureheads--Kendrick Lamar and Kobe Bryant were in attendance this year, just to name two--coupled with scores of limited edition releases from major brands like Reebok, Nike, Puma, Adidas and others.

If there's one feeling that was omnipresent at Complex Con, it was fear of missing out. All weekend long, flash sales and exclusive releases sprang up, only to disappear just as quick as they came. Attendees would just be casually strolling along until, suddenly, you'd hear a whirring buzz of phone notifications go off. Dozens of faces dropped like robots whose power cords just got pulled out, looking down to see what just released.

Then running. Lots of running. To this booth. Then that booth. This line. Then that line. Nobody wanted to miss a single product release. According to fashion-industry trade journal WWD, Complex Con ended up generating between $20-$25 million in product sales in just two days, a staggering amount for such a niche event.

How? Partly because the exhibitors all tapped into the power of scarcity and exclusivity.

The Study

A 1975 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology detailed just how powerful scarcity is, after a 200-person experiment revealed that people rated items scarce in supply as more desirable compared to items in more abundant supply.

The research done by Stephen Worchel, Jerry Lee, and Akanbi Adewole also found that scarcity increased a person's perception of value and satisfaction with the item (unless the item suddenly became extremely abundant in supply afterwards).

How to Apply It

Some creative ways to implement scarcity into your sales and marketing include:

  1. Display a countdown timer with your shipping cut off times (a la Amazon).

  2. Display low inventory counter ("Only three left in stock, order soon").

  3. Display a purchase counter on your product page (a la Groupon deals).

  4. Make your next product an exclusive, collectable or limited release.

Frenzy, an application made by Shopify, is another way to do this. Used by brands like Billionaire Boys Club and platinum rap trio Migos at Complex Con, the free application allows you to easily set up limited edition releases and flash sales. 

Scarcity-driven marketing can turn a banal shopping experience into something more visceral and exciting. Such is the power of scarcity: It turns the curious into the raving. It turns the commodity into the oddity.

It will allow you to earn more by selling less. Plus, your customers will value your product more after purchasing it, too.