Increase Sales in OpenCart Using the Scarcity Principle

Is your OpenCart store struggling with generating enough orders? Are you interested in increasing the desire of customers to make a purchase, instead of leaving with an empty cart?

This post will introduce the scarcity principle which states that goods in a limited supply appear more valuable and have higher demand than goods that are in abundant supply. This theory can be put to action in OpenCart with a crafty extension called SmartNotifications.

"The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics." - Thomas Sowell

The principle of scarcity in marketing is defined by the urge of customers to purchase a product that will no longer be available soon, before other people get it.

This is a powerful technique that is derived from social psychology and it is one of the most popular methods for store owners to increase orders. Consider the scarcity principle as a sales technique that helps you stimulate customers to take advantage of limited offers or other special promotions with a predefined time limit.

During some research described in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it became obvious that the human perception of value is significantly affected by the scarcity or abundance of goods.

The journal describes an experiment with 200 female undergraduates and cookies. It showed that the cookies that were in abundance were rated lower than the once that were scarce.

Why does Scarcity Work so Well?

There is a very fine line between the scarcity principle and fear. The fear that something you want might be impossible to obtain soon. And let’s be honest, if there’s one thing that sells the most - it’s fear. The common fear of missing out on something that you might regret later.

Fear is a psychological trigger that forces a person to take action. There are a few methods you can try out with the products in your OpenCart shop:


Create special promotions or discounts with a time limit. Create tasty offers that will spark the desire in customers to purchase items they might not buy if they are not on sale.

Notice the small clock icon suggesting something time-related is in the notification. SmartNotifications comes with a large archive of icons you can use in each notification you create to make it unique and simpler for customers to comprehend.

Stock Levels

Products that are running out of stock are another way to urge customers to take advantage of the stock while it lasts.

The extension allows you to create two separate types of text - a small title and body text that completes the message. In this case, letting customers know that the stock is running out is both an indication of scarcity as well as quality due to the interest and desire from other people.

Limited Products and Promotions

Have you heard of the McRib from McDonalds? It’s a sandwich that periodically appears and disappears from the fast-food chain to spike sales. Once it’s announced people go crazy about it. This is the scarcity effect in action for a product that will not be available soon and its stock will not be replenished in the near future. Or in some cases - never.

For this example, we used the bomb icon which suggests the end of something. Obviously, we show customers that the item they are viewing is a limited product and will no longer be available for purchase after 15.05.

Does Scarcity Always Work?

No, so tread lightly. If a customer detects that the scarcity claims are not so real, the result of your efforts might become more negative than positive. This means that you should not just come up with a fake reason to deceive customers a product is scarce, just to spike the sales. Things don’t work so easily.

Online shoppers are much smarter and educated nowadays, making it almost impossible to deceive someone.

Use the scarcity principle responsibly and don’t overdo it with all your products. Such techniques work best for products that already have some demand and the trick is to maximize the potential sales.

If a product is generally low on sales, the chance for the scarcity principle to work is much lower. Basically, you shouldn’t make up a false sense of scarcity if there’s no real reason to force people to buy.

The Right Moment to Use the Scarcity Principle

Product Launch

When launching a new product, you have already hyped up the crowd. The expectancy and interest is already there. You can use that opportunity to maximize on the conversion rate by announcing a limited product quantity upon launch.

People are a competitive bunch and everyone wants to be the first of something. Combine your product launch with a notification that the stock will be limited, so people should hurry up and get ‘em while they last.


Discounts are always a great way to spike up the sales, but it’s important to let customers know they don’t last forever.

Whenever you have a discount running on one or more products, make sure that all your customers know when it ends. This way, conversions increase due to the discounted prices as well as the urgency that you create using SmartNotifications like in the screenshot below:

Notice that you can also add direct links to a product or any other page you want customers to visit.

How to Gently Notify Customers About Scarcity

Letting customers know that you have offers that will expire soon should be obvious, but at the same time not too intrusive and distracting. After all, not everyone will be interested in the discounted products or taking advantage of an item that is low on stock.

Using SmartNotifications is a clever way to convey small messages that can push people to take action. The notifications look attractive and the valuable information they carry can be instantly comprehended.

As a marketing tool, this OpenCart extension raises your customer retention and conversion rates by quickly showing important information that leads to spontaneous and impulsive action.

Let’s see how the module is configured from the Control Panel.

First, you can see that multiple notifications can be created. They can run on different pages, at different times, for different purposes.

Each notification can be individually enabled or disabled.

  • Showing method: notifications can be shown on your home page, all pages, specific pages (URLs) or specific categories. This means you can create individual notifications that will be personalized for the category or product you want to share information about.

  • Excluded URLs: paste the URLs that you want to exclude from any notifications.

  • Position: you can choose between 11 different positions on the page to place your notification. Choose the one that looks best for the message you want your customers to see.

  • Show on: when should the notification appear? When the window is loaded, when the page is loaded or when there’s a click anywhere on the body?

  • Repeat: should the notification appear again after the customer has seen it? Should it appear every time a page is loaded? Or you want the notification to appear after X days? This option lets you choose the repeat details.

  • Hours interval: if you want the notification to appear at specific times, enable the hours interval and set the exact time.

  • Delay: when should the notification appear when a user opens a page? Set 0 seconds for the notification to appear right away.

  • Timeout: when should the notification disappear from the page? Set 0 seconds for a sticky notification.

  • Template: there are 10 predefined colored templates you can use to make the notifications stand out. You saw some of them in the examples above.

  • Show icon: enable the icons next to the text in the notification.

  • Type of icon: what type of icon do you want to use? Vector images or a custom image you want to upload? Use this option to choose.

  • Icon: There is an archive with a large variety of vector icons you can choose from for your notifications. Small visual effects always add to the effect of the notifications.

  • Open Animation: choose from the 24 open animations to give your notification the perfect entrance.

  • Close Animation: there are 24 closing animations that make your notification disappear with style.

  • Random value: use this option if you want the notification to show a random number by setting the limits on the bar and including %random_value% in the description.

  • Customer Groups: prepare personalized notifications and only show them to specific customers from the customer groups you can choose here.

  • Title: the title is the main purpose of the notification. Make it short, clear and to the point.

  • Description: help customers understand what you want to say with a short description. Using the rich text editor, you can add styles, links and everything nice.

Take the Next Step

Overall, SmartNotifications is surprisingly easy to use and it can be put into action to spark desire in your customers to take advantage of limited offers quickly. You can also use the extension to share other valuable information or useful links with your customers.

Check the demo and get started!

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