Chances are you’ve gone online to purchase a hot new shirt from your favorite brand, only to discover it’s sold out, but will be back in stock at some point soon. Or perhaps you heard about an awesome tech product that’s due to launch later in the year, and you want to be the first in line to buy it when the gadget becomes available online.


By leveraging the emotional power of anticipation and exclusivity, brands — with a well-planned waitlist marketing strategy — can manage demand efficiently AND create a sense of excitement and desirability around their products or services.

In this post, we’ll explore the components of a successful online waitlist and how businesses can harness its potential to drive revenue and customer engagement.

Waitlist Psychology 101

Before diving into the specifics of a successful online waitlist marketing strategy, it’s essential to understand why waitlists work so effectively. The psychology behind waitlists taps into a few fundamental human behaviors.

  • Exclusivity. When something is perceived as exclusive, it becomes more desirable. With a waitlist marketing strategy, brands can amplify this perception and generate heightened interest among target consumers.
  • Anticipation and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Like a child trying to sleep the day before their birthday, waiting for something builds anticipation and excitement. In addition, people don’t want to experience FOMO, especially if the product or offering is limited or in high demand — and FOMO (whether the consumer knows it or not) is a primary driver when joining a waitlist.
  • Social Proof and Validation. Seeing others join a waitlist or express interest in a product/service can validate its value and quality among peer sets. This social proof — like “word of mouth” — can encourage even more people to join the waitlist, creating a snowball effect of interest and demand.
The fear of missing out is a real emotion felt by your potential buyers. A successful waitlist strategy can not only curb FOMO, but help maximize revenue potential and keep consumers for the long haul.

OK, so now that we’ve explained why waitlists can be successful from a consumer psychology standpoint, let’s look at the key components of what a waitlist strategy should look like.

The 9 Key Components of a Successful Waitlist Marketing Strategy

There are several key components that in our experience make up a successful online waitlist marketing strategy.

  1. Have a Clear Value Proposition. Before asking customers to join a waitlist to purchase a product or offering, brands must clearly communicate the value proposition(s) to interested consumers to drive excitement. Why YOU, why THIS, why NOW? Crafting compelling messaging is crucial in attracting initial interest.
  1. Highlight Exclusive Access. Make joining the waitlist feel like gaining access to a club. Highlight the benefits of being on the waitlist, such as being “first to know,” early access to new products, special discounts, or limited-edition/time-sensitive offerings. Create a sense of privilege for waitlist members — which, when used effectively, mirrors the marketing without marketing concepts we blogged about a few months back.
  1. Be Transparent with Communications. Clearly outline how your waitlist works and be sure to communicate estimated wait times (i.e., when the product/offering will be ready to buy). Regular communication updates keep customers engaged and informed; the first time they hear from you should not be when the product is available to buy!
  1. Offer Incentives and Rewards. It’s a best practice to offer price-based incentives (e.g., 20% off) or other rewards to encourage consumers to join your waitlist and stay engaged. This could include exclusive discounts, bonus content, or entry into a giveaway or contest reserved for waitlist members.
  1. Optimize Your Sign-Up Process. Make the sign-up process for the waitlist seamless and user-friendly. Minimize friction by requiring minimal information and offering multiple sign-up options, which should include a dedicated waitlist landing page that details the waitlist timing, benefits, etc. as well as on-platform forms (i.e., leverage forms that are housed on Meta, LinkedIn, etc. but are synced with your website and/or CRM).
  1. Employ All Things Digital. Consider the entirety of your digital marketing ecosystem to promote your waitlist. This can include social media, email marketing, push notifications (if you have an app), and targeted ads — paid social and/or programmatic placements — to promote the waitlist and reach wider audiences at scale. Paid social in the form of lead generation and/or traffic-based ads can be a particularly effective means to target and engage interested consumers where they spend the majority of their time online.
  2. Remember Content is King. Above all else, be sure your content — whenever and wherever it’s placed — promotes excitement for the waitlist as well as for your brand. Keep in mind that creative pre-waitlist communications through “teasers” (e.g., hinting of a waitlist to come) can also be very effective in generating excitement.
  3. Reward Loyalty. Consumers who join your waitlist — and eventually purchase product(s) and/or service(s) — should be rewarded for their loyalty. This could involve discounts sent out to a segmented email and/or SMS list, VIP perks, or early access to future launches, all of which reinforce the value of being part of a waitlist in the first place. And don’t forget — depending on the manner in which you collect consumer information, all of this intel makes for great zero- and first-party data that can be leveraged for future marketing efforts.
  4. Leverage Social Proof. When an option, the practice of highlighting testimonials or reviews from satisfied customers who have prior experience with the brand and/or products, offerings, etc. can be an excellent means to promote social proof. This will help build credibility and trust among potential waitlist members.

Numilk: A Waitlist Case Study


Numilk is an up-and-coming consumer products brand which is backed by Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban. It offers in-home and commercial machines to make plant-based milk in a variety of enjoyable flavors.

In 2023, Numilk partnered with Tiny Bully to promote a waitlist/product-launch campaign for its Home Machine milk-maker — an all-new product for the brand that had a planned launch for January 2024.


To support the Home Machine’s product launch, Numilk began planting the seeds a few months before launch with a series of organic social media posts — as “teasers” —to generate excitement among its follower base of more than 22,000 people.

Several teasers and posts, like this Instagram update, were implemented over the period leading up to launch.

Tiny Bully helped the brand give its website a fresh update — filled with new photography, creative, and content — that promoted the Home Machine as a simple, economical, and sustainable solution for consumers to enjoy delicious and nutritious ready-to-drink milks and lattes.

For the product-launch waitlist itself, a simple and highly intuitive waitlist sign-up form was employed on the site (as seen below) to encourage users to sign up. Full names and emails were captured as part of the sign-up process.

As the Home Machine product launch grew closer, targeted email campaigns including the examples below — sent to waitlist recipients leading up to the product pre-sale and ultimate launch — kept Numilk’s waitlist members engaged with sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes content, and exclusive offers for flavor pouch subscriptions in an effort to build (and reward) loyalty. The audience was strategically segmented to maximize engagement and deliverability.


By leveraging online waitlist marketing, Numilk not only generated immediate sales but also built a loyal customer base eagerly awaiting future releases, including new flavors (pouches) for the Home Machine.

  • Sales Attributed to All Waitlist Marketing and Pre-Sale Efforts: 71% of Total Sales for Q4 2023 and Q1 2024
  • Waitlist and Pre-Sale Email Marketing Revenue: 37% of Total Sales for Q4 2023 and Q1 2024
  • Waitlist-Exclusive Promo Code Revenue: 39% of Total Sales in December 2023 and January 2024 (i.e., Pre-sale and Product Launch Months)

Put a Waitlist Marketing Strategy to Work for Your Brand

Waitlist marketing is a powerful strategy that can drive excitement, engagement, and sales for brands of all stripes.

By creating compelling offers, building anticipation, optimizing landing pages, leveraging social proof, using email marketing, creating urgency, and rewarding loyalty, brands can unlock the full potential of waitlists and turn interested leads into loyal customers.