The Scarcity Heuristic

When an object or resource is less readily available (e.g., due to limited quantity or time), we tend to perceive it as more valuable (Cialdini, 2008). I have some thoughts on how to build your boutique studio’s class schedule with scarcity in mind.

Take the best boutique fitness studio and gyms, their receptions are a thriving, loud and even a chaotic (to the untrained eye) sea of people in cycling cleats, boxing wraps and yoga pants, entering and exiting classes. There’s an urgency about these people to get into their class, one that’s only matched by their urgency to book their classes online.

Indeed, the best boutique fitness studios and gyms create their demand – it doesn’t occur on its own – by deliberating developing a sense of urgency, applying some of the science of behavioral economics, and influencing the classic supply versus demand model. Great fitness studio operators and marketers understand that, by using the illusion of scarcity, they can accelerate demand. There’s much to be learnt from looking around us at other industries, from iPhones, to cars, to limited edition sports apparel scarcity drives us to purchase faster and more often.

Here are 3 ways boutique fitness studios can develop their own scarcity marketing:

Rule #1: Keep your booking window short.

It is important for your classes to reach capacity and for your waitlists to grow. When a client (or potential client) visits your online schedule, they should see classes filled to capacity. Morning classes (8:00 AM/9:00 AM) and late afternoon/evening classes (5:00PM/6:00PM and later) should have a “W” to indicate “waitlist only.” A shorter booking window will help to facilitate this outcome. For example, Soul Cycle, who books $112 million in classes annually, only has a 4-day booking window.

Rule #2: Consider having a schedule release date.

Setting up your schedule to have a specific release date is a great way to build anticipation and provides the opportunity to include a weekly email blast to your clients. Treat your schedule release like a club promoter – treat every weekend like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. And how much room is there at a once-in-a-lifetime event? Not much. Think about releasing your weekly schedule every Sunday and send out an email to all your clients letting them know about Friday’s “Beyoncé + The Weeknd Spin Night”.

Rule #3: Create VIP status and booking perks to sell more expensive memberships.

If your classes are filling-up, your users might pay more for the opportunity to reserve their classes before anyone else, or to be placed at the top of a waitlist. zingfit allows studios to attach “booking perks” to specific packages/memberships—VIP membership. Usually, these are either “premium” packages or perhaps an additional incentive to purchase a larger package/longer term membership. The two most powerful perks are “advanced booking” and “priority waitlist.” Advanced booking allows you to set a separate schedule release date for these users. Perhaps these users have their pick of the litter and receive the schedule on Friday rather than Sunday. With priority waitlist, these users will be placed at the top of the waitlist and will be the first to be booked once a spot opens up.

Overall: Test it, modify it, perfect it.

In summary, your classes are valuable—communicate that value to your clients with a short booking window, a consistent schedule release, and booking perks for higher-priced memberships. Play around with these three levers, find the optimal strategy for your studio. Check out other boutique fitness studios in your geography and even in other markets. Then find what works for you, for your fitness modal and your studio brand. Utilizing scarcity marketing in these three ways will maximize your revenue, accelerate bookings and maybe even help give your classes a once-in-a-lifetime-event kind of feel!


By Evan Welch – Sales Manager

Cialdini, R.B. (2008). Influence: Science and Practice, 5th ed. Boston: Pearson.