The Influence of Sold-Out Products

Sold-out products create “information cascades” where we infer that the next-best item must also be of a similar high quality and value for money: sold-out items ‘validate’ similar products, persuading us to purchase more readily.

“Sold-out products create a sense of immediacy for customers; they feel that if one product is gone, the next item could also sell out. […] Research shows there’s also an information cascade, where people infer that if a product is sold out, it must have been good and therefore a similar available product will also be desirable.”

The study […] found 61 per cent of shoppers would buy a particular five-hour ski pass for $20, but that figure rose to 91 per cent when they thought a 10-hour ski pass for the same mountain slope for $40 had sold out.

A similar study of merlot wines found 49 per cent of consumers would buy a bottle if they had one choice, but when they thought a similar wine had sold out next to it on the shelf, nearly twice the number of shoppers would take home the available bottle.

The researchers note that for common ‘stock’ items a sold-out status breeds contempt, whereas new and sold-out products signal an unanticipated demand for a quality product.

It goes without saying that the sold-out items didn’t necessarily have to exist, right?