Developing a Product Scarcity Framework in Marketing: A Systematic Review of Theoretical Foundations

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Prof., Department of Business Management, Faculty of Management and Accounting, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Management and Accounting, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Associate Prof., Department of Business Management, Faculty of Management and Accounting, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.


Market research often begins with two assumptions; first, consumers are able to choose among desirable products, and second, they have sufficient resources to buy them. However, many consumer decisions are constrained by the scarcity of products. In recent years, product scarcity has been used in marketing as a business phenomenon and the issue has received increasing attention from both academics and practitioners. The available academic literature discusses a wide variety of subjects investigated based on various theories, using different research methods in a diverse range of settings. However, this diversity makes it difficult to obtain the core themes and findings and also to recognize the outstanding knowledge gaps. The purpose of this article is to review previous studies on the use of product scarcity in marketing and also to identify new directions for future research. The review was conducted for two purposes: initially, to describe the current state of research on the use of product scarcity in marketing, and second, to identify the present gaps in the current literature to highlight opportunities for future research. In particular, this review sought to answer the following: How can different types of product scarcity help firms improve their marketing performance, and what factors need to be considered in the process?
The present research is conducted based on the systematic literature review method. In the first step, while determining and specifying the subject of study, the research questions were developed in accordance with the research design. In the next step, the research protocol was designed and an appropriate mental model was designed, accordingly. Subsequently, inclusion and exclusion criteria were determined. Accordingly, the comprehensive and systematic search began within the literature and 914 studies were selected. After classifying, screening, and evaluating their quality, 66 studies were finally examined in depth and the required data were collected.
The analysis of the identified papers led to the development of a conceptual framework to describe the key factors of product scarcity and how these factors influence both consumers and the market. The established framework indicated that the use of product scarcity in marketing depends on consumer characteristics, types of scarcity, and types of products. The use has different impacts on consumers. By purchasing scarce products, consumers satisfy their needs for uniqueness, conformity, behavioral freedom, and/or avoiding future regret. All of the above can increase consumers’ perception of the value of products and consequently boost their willingness to purchase.
This paper systematically reviewed a sample of previous studies on product scarcity, with a focus on the use of product scarcity as an effective marketing strategy to improve market as well as firm performance. The analysis of the identified literature highlighted the main findings obtained so far, summarised the underlying theories for product scarcity in marketing, and developed a framework based on the key factors and causal relationships. The analysis of the identified papers proves substantial gaps in our knowledge of this field, opening up new paths for future research. Based on the current review, we see a key limitation resulting from the lack of research uncovering the process black box between product scarcity and performance improvement. This is also largely caused by the lack of high-quality case studies on this issue in the existing literature.


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