It’s a retail gimmick companies love to play, and it works because people hate feeling like they miss out on things.
Instead of focusing on items they actually need, or making product and price comparisons, folks jump at the chance to buy something they think will be swiped off the shelves in hours.
It’s a crafty little game of consumer psychology. As one Target executive told ABC News the “limited time only” stunt helps break the customer cycle of waiting for the next sale.
Similarly, one McDonald’s exec told the AP that trotting out the McRib, for example, helps renew excitement about its products. No one wonder the bbq pork sandwich has such a cult-like following with its very own Facebook page, a McRib locator website, and even a Twitter account with hashtags that say “Lucky me, the McRib is back.”
Disney used the same strategy when it released The Lion King in 3D back in September for only two weeks, or when it trots out its limited edition DVDs and videos from the “Disney Vault,” which are often digitally fixed-up edition of its classics. Warner Bros.’ multi-million dollar Harry Potter franchise also serves to foster a “scarcity” mindset in consumers through its own set of DVDs, which makes for greater demand and more sales.
The system is great for retail companies, but bad for you. So before you jump on the “limited time only” bandwagon (which includes shopping those flash sale sites), ask yourself whether the purchase is truly worth it. We suspect it won’t be, but then again, supplies are only available a limited time.