Cialdini’s 7 Principles of Persuasion Review (part 2)

Scarcity: When You Believe Something Is in Short Supply…You Want It More!

Scarcity is defined as the perception of products seeming to become more attractive when their perceived availability is rather limited.

In my personal experience, this can be *very* effective when the scarcity is authentic (e.g. last 30 days to buy a product, and then it will be taken off the market for good).

There are two elements of scarcity that you can use:

  1. Quantity (only 2 items left!)
  2. Time (last 5 days to join!)

Examples of Execution

Scarcity is one of the most popular Cialdini principles that various companies use over and over again in order to boost conversions and earn more money from people.

Airlines, travel sites and hotels do it all the time:

“Only 1 room left!” Or “just 2 tickets with this price left”. The beauty of scarcity is that it works even if people are fully aware that it’s being used on them.

A great example of time-limited scarcity is provided on Monetate’s website. Note how the same jacket sells on a particular retail site, yet in one instance, it’s accompanied by a blurb that reads “Offer Ends in…” with a countdown to when it’s no longer available. The use of this time-limited scarcity resulted in an average order increase of 0.07 percent — while a tiny increase, for this large online retailer, even such a small margin of improvement in AOV proved to be a “million-dollar campaign.”

Finally, never use fake scarcity because your site visitors will see right through you! Fake scarcity is when a site claims that supplies are limited or that a price won’t last for long, but it’s flagrantly obvious that it’s not true.

Unity: “We are just like you.”

What do you have in common with your customer? The Unity Principle is the shared identity that the influencer shares with the influencee. Have you ever been at a party or conference and met someone that went to the same University as you did? Or maybe you two previously worked at the same company. You felt an instant connection, didn’t you?

According to Cialdini, the Unity principle moves beyond surface level similarities (which can still be influential, but under the Liking principle). Instead, he says, “It’s about shared identities.”

So, how can you use the unity principle for optimization?

1. Use Specific and Unique Jargon: What’s one of the most cohesive groups around today? Crossfit junkies.
It’s the perfect unity, as it is a relatively meaningless group identity (centered around working out in the same place at the same time), but invokes tremendous pride and self-esteem (as will be exemplified by the fact that I surely angered at least one crossfitter by calling it “meaningless”). They have their own language and practices. They have a WOD (workout of the day), AMRAP (as many reps as possible), T2B (toes to bar), and many more terms. To the outside, they can sometimes look like a cult. But on the inside, it’s certain that CrossFit has accomplished unbridled loyalty and passion among its members. Of course, their unique vocabulary helps with group cohesion, but they also have shared goals and shared values. All in all, the group homogeneity allows deeper trust among members.

2. Convey Exclusivity: In Pre-Suasion, Cialdini talks about how Unity can be embodied by both a “join the group” and a “be one of the few” way. CrossFit would fit more of the former, but conveying exclusivity or some sort of specialty can be effective as well. When I think of “the few, the proud,” I think of the US Marines and what a cohesive identity and pride they have.

3. Define the “Out-Group”: Often, companies try to position themselves against whatever the status quo is (or seems to be) in their industry. For instance, Planet Fitness takes a hard stance against loud, aggressive, bodybuilder types by putting up signs that say “judgment free zone” and installing “lunk alarms” that go off if you drop your weights or make too much noise. Defining the out-group can be incredibly effective, or it can fall flat because you alienate more people than you bring together (remember Ted Cruz’s denunciation of “New York Values” and the ensuing backlash?).

4. Invoke Family Ties: For many people, family is their strongest tie. One example Cialdini gave in the book was particularly telling. Here’s Roger Dooley from Neuroscience Marketing summing it up:

“In one of his college classes, Cialdini wanted to compare attitudes of students and their parents by having both fill out questionnaires. Student compliance was always very high — one ignores homework assignments at one’s own peril! But, parents typically responded at a far lower rate, often below 20%.

One small tweak to the assignment increased the parent response rate to 97%. What was the simple intervention? Cialdini said he would give the students an extra point on one test if their parents completed the survey.

One point on one test in a semester-long course is an inconsequential benefit. It would be unlikely to have any impact at all on the student’s final grade. But, by invoking the concept of helping a family member, Cialdini increased the response rate fivefold, from poor to nearly perfect.”

5. Co-creation or Sharing an Experience: Finally, in a section all to its own in the book, Cialdini explains that Unity can be conveyed by shared experience or co-creation. This sort of builds off the Ikea Effect, but there’s also another neat creative way you can execute on this principle (as optimizers, you’ll like this). It starts with a simple question, “can I get your advice?” In the book, Cialdini gave the example of a restaurant known as Splash!. Consumers were shown a description of the concept and then asked for one of the following: “advice,” “opinions,” or “expectations.” They were then asked how likely they were to visit the restaurant. Those that were asked for “advice” were much likelier to answer that they’d go to the restaurant. According to Dooley, “They were helping create the new concept, not just commenting on it.”

The Unity Principle is all about appealing to a “We” — a cohesive identity that is shared by a group. You can do this in many ways — family, location, religion (or CrossFit), or co-creation. Of course, as is true with most social psychology, results may vary. Appealing to these ties will generally put your probability of persuading (converting) your audience a bit higher, but your site also has to be usable, functional, intuitive, etc. That is to say, that using the Unity Principle is no silver bullet. But if you use it judiciously and authentically, and especially in conjunction with other methods of persuasion, it can be very powerful.

Subscribe for more content like this:

This is the 9th post out of 12 for the mini-degree in Conversion Optimization I’m doing at CXL Institute.




Creativity is just connecting things. I publish a weekly newsletter with some thoughts, side project updates and weekly findings:

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

What’s it like to intern at a Nigerian Bank.

Outsourced team? 4 points to expect when hiring one for your web development

8 Smart Strategies For Your Future Ready Career

Choosing an RPO Provider: How to Avoid the HiPPO — Talent Works International

How to become an iOS developer?

The Silicon Forest Should Lead The Way On Gender and Diversity Issues in Tech

People Make the Difference — Serbia is Europe’s Next Tech Talent Hotspot

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Rinaldo Ugrina

Rinaldo Ugrina

Creativity is just connecting things. I publish a weekly newsletter with some thoughts, side project updates and weekly findings:

More from Medium

My Journey with UI/UX Design

YOU GOT THIS: An app designed to connect, educate and empower people through their loss.

The Google UX Design Review

Google UX Design hero image. White text on blue background.

User-First Design for Digital Well-Being