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Deficits in user experience: the psychological bias that has become the norm

You know how it works.

Casually reviewing this mug’s review on Unbox Therapy, which apparently isn’t leaking yet, I laugh. But by the end of the video, I also get curious about what people will say about her.

Here it is on Amazon. Its discounted price fell to $ 14.99 from $ 24.99. But only for a limited time. There are only 3 pieces of stainless steel left. I like stainless steel. This is a great price, but it will soon disappear from sale, and I will have to drink coffee from my leaking mug. It will be very disappointing to miss this chance. Damn it.

Thanks to this products become more popular.

Scarcity is a psychological bias that forces us to pay more attention to things that are in short supply than in abundance. Basically, we tend to like things that are harder to get.

This method has become the norm
Like most tactics, the deficit method began to be used in normal real life. In expensive restaurants, small portions of food are served on large plates, thus hinting at the rarity of the ingredients used, and in prestigious universities, educational places are limited to preserve a sense of exclusivity.


But as technology companies have become more sophisticated and online assortment more refined, the deficit method was quickly adopted by the online regime, and it is now one of the most popular techniques for increasing demand.

We have come to a point where people are so used to seeing and expecting some deficit when viewing online that applying it to your product is no longer a competitive advantage, but a starting point for any goal aimed at satisfying the needs of users.

It combines a lot of biases
The deficit method has become popular because this mechanism is extremely powerful and fairly easy to implement. And the reason it’s so effective is because it combines a few more biases:

1. Fear of loss

If we don’t buy a scarce product, this basically means that we lose both the product itself in the short term and our freedom of choice in the long term. Double loss = double the pain.


2. Social approval

As a rule, goods become scarce when demand is high. As soon as this happens, it means that other people have already bought this product in the past, so it should become valuable, and we should take advantage of this opportunity.

See also: the revelation of the customers: what do they really want?

3. The expected regret

In making a decision, we expect not only the upcoming events, but also the associated regrets that we may experience. By deciding to act now, we are trying to eliminate this possibility.


This technique manifests itself in various forms
Although the scarcity method can be applied to non-quantifiable parameters, such as quality or experience, it is much more effective when evaluating measurable resources, such as items or places. This is the reason why Amazon and Booking.com, and similar sites accept it and use it widely.

Based on these measurable resources, there are three main forms of scarcity:

1. Time limit

When time is limited, a deadline appears that forces people to act before time runs out. When the deadline is unknown, people are not sure that they will be able to purchase the product at any time other than at the moment, which increases the pressure, but demonstrates a lack of empathy in terms of user experience.


Last-minute deals on Amazon: Good


They last several hours and show the deadline, accompanied by the percentage of people who want to take advantage of this offer to emphasize the urgency.

Courses on the basics of interactive design: Resourceful


Show the offer after registration ends. Fully booked courses are still displayed to show people what it means to miss this opportunity.

Buying things on eBay: Bad


Limited-time products are marked with a red icon and a fuzzy tag “Almost gone”. Not notifying users when an offer ends is a ridiculous and manipulative action.

Search for accommodation on Airbnb: Fair


People are shown how limited the offer is by displaying a low percentage of remaining ads and a “Rare find” tag so that they feel lucky to find what they want.

2. Limiting the number of

Limited or rare items are perceived by people as a threat to their freedom of choice, causing a reaction to fight the threat and maintain their access to the resource.

Quantity constraints are considered more effective than time constraints because the end of supply is unpredictable because it depends solely on demand, not on time.

Read also: The best sites of architectural offices in 2017

Search for hotels on <url> Booking.com: Impressive


Booking is just the king in using the method, and it is probably a big part of their success. They show the number of rooms left, as well as a lot of tags and labels that make you feel like you’re about to make the deal of your life.

They make reasonable use of the huge amount of data they have, and even though the overall picture looks pretty overloaded, this information is useful.

Booking flights on Ryan Air: Good


They take advantage of the fact that cheaper seats are sold first and use this to highlight the limited number of seats left at the lowest price.

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