Technically, anyone with the cash can buy a Ferrari. But for a company to ascend to the next level of luxury consumption, it needs to get more exclusive—as in, it has to literally start excluding people.

That’s what Ferrari did with the Sergio, making just six vehicles and selling them by invitation only. It’s an extreme example, but invite-only shopping is finding its way down market. Fashion retail sites like Gilt Groupe—acquired by Hudson’s Bay in January—or Beyond the Rack require would-be shoppers to be referred by existing members to partake in deals.

Meanwhile, OnePlus, a Chinese maker of high-end, low-cost Android smartphones, doles out sales through a waiting list. Even then, when your number comes up, you have just 24 hours to place an order before losing your spot in line.

Invite-only shopping poses a number of benefits. In OnePlus’s case, it adds a buffer in the supply chain, helping the company gauge customer interest more accurately. For any business that will profit from a little consumer buzz, the artificial scarcity of a waiting list could be just what the doctor ordered. If he was allowed to.


Is artificial scarcity a legitimate sales tactic, or simply a good way to upset customers? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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