Creating urgency with your users is a very powerful way to drive conversion rates.

As website technologies advance we are finding more creative ways to instil this urgency and drive sales, here are just a few.

1. Delivery countdown timer

Not necessarily the most difficult to implement but adding a timer to your product pages can be very effective. Simply set it up to count down to your daily order cut off time and you are done.

You can just use minutes and hours but for serious impact add seconds too. Seeing each second count down live will really step up the impact and drive those conversions that would have otherwise been abandoned.

Attraction Tickets Direct used a similar method. it offered a free ticket to Legoland if the user purchased by the end of the month.

Overall, the test resulted in a 27% increase in ticket sales! 

2. User specific offer countdowns

This suggestion requires a little more explanation but is worth the effort.

When a user visits your site you drop a cookie marking their entrance time and date. You then start and display a live countdown timer on the page for them to take advantage of a special offer (e.g. 10% off for the next hour).

Every time the user exits and returns to your website within this timeframe the countdown continues.

By making it clear that the timer is counting down just for them you can really push for impulse purchases and conversions that would otherwise have been unachievable.

3. People that viewed/bought the product today

You will probably have noticed a number of large retailers start to use this method of urgency. You can display a range of content depending on your scale and offering e.g. “five people have viewed this item in the last hour” or “34 of these have been sold today”.

The intention is to give the user confidence that a lot of other people are interested in the same product (social proof), but also a sense of urgency that if they don’t buy now it may go out of stock. do this really well.

4. Sale and event dates

Peak sales periods such as Christmas can make or break a retailer and it is vital that you maximize your sales during these times.

We have all seen the messaging about last chance to order for delivery by a certain date but these should not be underestimated.

It has been seen time and time again the effectiveness of this kind of messaging only increases as the deadline nears. For something so simple to implement the impact can be huge, the real trick is to apply the theory to more sales and holiday periods other than just Christmas.

5. Exit discounts

Finally, this is similar to the user specific countdown as it employs time sensitive discounts but targets the later stages of a user’s journey instead.

You can determine when a user is leaving your website based on their mouse movements and its direction, creating the perfect trigger to display a very powerful message. In this case where a user has added products to the basket and is about to leave you can create urgency by offering them a time sensitive discount e.g. “Complete your purchase in the next hour and get 10% off”.

What is important here is that you have targeted an engaged customer as they have added a product to the basket.

However, you have not sacrificed revenue as the discount is offered at the last possible chance, you are not throwing money away giving everyone 10% off.

Ian McCaig

Published 3 March, 2014 by Ian McCaig

Ian McCaig is Founder at Qubit and a contributor to Econsultancy.

29 more posts from this author

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Comments (4)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

This post concentrates on Web pages, but it's interesting how much of this can also be done within emails.

You need a marketing system that supports real-time email content: i.e. relevant parts of the email's HTML are rendered server-side as each copy of the email is opened - and delivered into it as images - so the email content is up-to-the minute.

Countdown timers, buyer counts, low stock and sale indicators can all be done in this way.

In fact, pretty much everything mentioned above in connection with Web pages can be done in emails too, except exit discounts. And it's arguable that incentives in cart abandonment email programs work better than those.

Here's some more detail:

over 4 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

> However, you have not sacrificed revenue as the discount is offered at the last possible chance, you are not throwing money away giving everyone 10% off.

Caution may be needed here - as there is a risk that you will be training your customes to wait and dawdle on the site, knowing they will be rewarded with a 10% discount for doing so!

The word will get out, that this is how the site works!

This exact effect, but in the arena of emailed discounts after abandoned carts, was discussed here recently, with statistics - I don't recall the exact eConsultancy blog title, (perhaps someone else will).

There is also brand damage to consider, when users find out that their friends got 10% off, not for any good loyalty reason, but just for dawdling...

For example, what will you say on Twitter - when someone asks if you do give 10% discount to buyers who dawdle!

over 4 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

@Deri Jones: Obligatory link to our study that proved your point:

over 4 years ago

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd

When instilling urgency please do not go as far as LogoDesignGuarantee ( as today the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published upheld complaints against them for 5 issues including auto/ever updating sale deadlines of midnight tonight!!!!

The other complaints upheld relate to unsubstantiated; sales, prices, & guarantee - and they can't spell core service stationEry on their homepage, worrying to the max.

over 4 years ago

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