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The Effect of Scarcity on the Purchase Intentions of Prevention and Promotion Motivated Consumers


Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to: Hsuan-Hsuan Ku, Department of International Business, Soochow University, 56, Kwei-Yang St., Sec. 1, Taipei, 10048, Taiwan (


This study investigates the influence of consumers’ motivational orientations (“prevention” vs. “promotion”) on their susceptibility to demand-based versus supply-based scarcity, measured by purchase intention scores. Prevention-focused participants were more inclined to adopt a product when it was perceived to be demand-scarce rather than supply-scarce, while those who were identified as promotion-focused responded positively to scarcity attributed to supply shortfall. In addition, products that could be associated with a prevention motive enhanced purchase intentions when presented as demand-scarce but not if perceived to be supply-scarce; conversely, products associated with the promotion motive scored better if the scarcity was seen to be supply-generated rather than demand-generated. Lastly, messages focused on prevention were more effective than those focused on promotion in the case of perceived demand scarcity, whereas the converse holds true for supply scarcity. These findings highlight the importance of understanding the motivational differences underlying the effectiveness of scarcity appeals. They furthermore suggest the strategic implication that improved intention to purchase occurs when the regulatory focus evoked by a scarcity-related message is compatible with the appeal it communicates.