Guest Post: "The Strategy of Pushing False Inventory to Create a Sense of Urgency"


Let’s pretend you’re shopping online for a particular widget.  Have you ever had this train of thought?  “Let’s see… it’s available from three different sellers, but seller “A” has it cheaper than everyone else. Okay, that sounds good so maybe I’ll just put it in my cart and continue shopping… but, wait a minute. Only three left in stock! Why, those could sell out at any second! Do I even have enough time to complete the checkout process before they go out of stock? Stop thinking and order!”

Sound familiar? Been there before? Sure, we all have. With the merchant playing to a buyer's fanatical lack of reason that the product in question is possibly the last on earth, we find ourselves feeling an urgency to purchase that may not otherwise exist under “normal” circumstances. The name of the seller’s game is: Don’t offer time to think, get them to BUY NOW!

Your average online shopper has become savvy to the fact there are multiple places and ways to purchase a product. With such a high percentage of shoppers using sites like Amazon and eBay, and many others using business and manufacturer websites to find what they want, shoppers have become like prey, targeted by the competitive sellers of online goods and services.

The Tools of Trapping Prey and Getting Them To Buy


The latest tool of the trade has become the creation of “false demand”, where a shopper is made to believe there’s almost no inventory left of a particular product. It sounds like an easy impression to make, but many shoppers are becoming wise to this practice.  If a store is selling a product that’s incredibly common and readily available both online and offline, the seller won’t get much traction by using a remaining inventory marker of “Only Three Left! Act Now.”  

Let’s assume you have an eCommerce website using the Shopify cart platform. Linking up that system with an inventory management tool like Skubana allows you to adjust the levels of displayed inventory to the shopper based upon predetermined rules that you have set based on as many factors as you deem relevant. This Skubana: Multi-Channel Inventory Management & ERP Software feature allows you to create this “false inventory” to help create demand within its inventory allocation rules.


Skubana-specific features: Using “Channel Allocation” and “Auto-Reorder” rules are perfect ways to ensure that you don't run out of stock of your product and oversell. By setting up Channel Allocations for your products, you can tell Skubana how much of your available stock to show in each of your sales channels. This is not only a great way to avoid overselling, but also a great way to give customers a sense of urgency to buy. Strategically limiting the available quantity can create a perception of scarcity, causing the customer to buy now.

Allocation rules can be set up for products individually or in bulk on a global level.

Why does this work? Conversion conversation.


Why and how does this manage to work with online customers? Well, for the same reason it works with customers shopping in a brick and mortar store. When perusing the shelves of your favorite store, your selection of products on the shelf doesn’t necessarily represent what is actually available for sale. The entire inventory is warehoused and ready to be restocked on shelves after closing or, if your particular store is open 24 hours, restocking takes place in the late or wee-hours of the early morning. If you see two items left on the shelf, you may subconsciously get the “urgency” to purchase that product because with only two left, there may not be any remaining later on, despite there being another 100 units “in the back” that you don’t know about.

Savvy Shoppers


But there is another side of this story to consider. Sometimes creating false demand can backfire. A constant barrage of act-now, limited quantity, rush-to-order, don’t-miss-out, pounding of a customer’s shopping experience can lead to an attitude that if a particular product is so popular that it cannot be kept in stock, the customer can probably find a close but alternative product at a cheaper price. This generally does not happen with name brands, but more often happens with generic items sought by more frugal shoppers.

Inventory allocation and management systems, theories and practices can be a fickle yet extremely valuable part of your eCommerce initiative or long term plan. Getting customers to “Buy Now!” takes ever-changing strategies as shoppers fight to find the best deal, as sellers strive offer the best price while also finding a perfect balance between the urge to buy, and the capturing of the end user through the gentle manipulation of the perception of availability.


This guest post was contributed by the Skubana team. Skubana is an all-in-one ERP system that seamlessly integrates with most e-commerce marketplaces, 3PLs, warehouses, provides state-of-the-art profitability and multi-channel inventory management. Skubana compiles all of your marketplaces on a single page to intuitively control and understand your entire business. Try Skubana free for 14 days.


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Chad Rubin

Written by Chad Rubin

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