The master of the scarcity technique is Rolex. Within horology, Rolex never used to be the number one mid-tier watch brand, that mantle used to belong to Omega, since their inception in 1848.
However, during an upheaval in the watchmaking industry in the 1970s Rolex overtook Omega and Omega has struggled to regain the crown ever since, even though their watches are better finished and much more technically proficient.
What holds Omega off from Rolex and what makes Rolex more desirable is the simple fact that it is somewhat counterintuitively, extremely difficult to purchase one.
This, of course, goes against all logic. How can you create and retain a successful business by not actually selling your product? And when we say ‘successful’, outside of Silicon Valley, Rolex is one of the most valuable brands in the world.
Rolex has two main watch lines. Their typical diamond encrusted gold bling watches and their much more popular stainless steel ‘sports’ watches.
As a usual potential customer, if you were to go into a Rolex dealer, anywhere in the world and ask for a sports watch of any model, (after being laughed at) you would be put onto a waiting list, where you would sit for around two years. This is even true for brand-new watches which have just been unveiled – a two year waiting list for you Sunshine.
You can check this out yourself. Just glance in the window the next time you happen to walk past a Rolex store and see how many empty spaces there are or ‘display-only’ watches. You will never see a stainless steel sports watch looking back at you that is available to actually purchase.
This drives the watch community nuts. We all want things we cannot have and even though anyone could nip next door into Omega and walk out immediately with something technically better, well, its just not that Rolex is it? This leads to the purchaser never truly being satisfied with his Omega and the lust becomes stronger for the watch which is just out of his reach.
Rolex isn’t the only company that uses this technique. Try purchasing a Birkin handbag too.
And this translates powerfully into the digital space as well.
The most powerful method to sell an online course is to not let anyone purchase it!
Again, unless you are a well established and trusted brand, evergreen online courses (courses that are available to purchase at any time) often perform poorly. The reason being that the potential customer can always buy said course tomorrow, which, of course, they never do.
Creating scarcity in this environment adds an extra dimension to the buying process and just like Rolex, the user now wants something they cannot have. Instead of being able to immediately purchase a course, the user now has to register to a ‘waitlist’.
After a particular amount of time, the waiting users are informed that the course will be open for registrations for the next 24/48 hours and by doing so, everyone jumps on and registers at once, not wanting to miss out.
Of course, with an online course being digital, it actually makes no difference when a user enrols and there is no real reason to make anyone wait, except for the simple fact that they are much more likely to act if made to do so.
Perhaps Rolex is onto something after all!