Want to get more results from your emails? A countdown timer might be able to help – especially if you can craft your message around a sense of urgency.
Urgency is one of the core psychological levers marketers use to make more sales. It’s similar to a sister principle, scarcity. For urgency, we’re talking about any offer that expires after a given length of time. Scarcity is similar, but it expires when something physical runs out – usually the inventory of whatever’s being sold. So urgency is a shortage of time, while scarcity is a shortage of stuff.
Countdown timers accentuate urgency. They almost make a game of it by dramatizing how little time is left to act.
Why does this work? Well, because often a customer will see an offer, think “Hmm, that looks good. But I’m busy now. I’ll get back to it later.” And then later never comes.
It’s different with a countdown timer. With that, you get an email about a great deal, and you’re told when the deadline is to get it. Just adding a deadline often helps to increase sales a bit. But to step up the intensity (and the results), the marketer puts a great big countdown timer right in your face.
And there it is… ticking away like a bomb. Every second you watch it is another second lost. The customer feels the time slipping away. They’d better act fast before the opportunity is over. Otherwise, they might miss out (which is yet another psychological motivation invoked by countdown timers).
Feeling a little anxious yourself? That’s exactly why marketers use urgency and countdown timers. They work.
Countdown timers on websites
Countdown timers don’t just appear in email messages, either. They’re also used on websites and landing pages. Here’s one example of a countdown timer that increased sales by 5%. When you’re selling expensive cars, that adds up.
Here’s another example of a countdown timer on a homepage, this time from Edible Arrangements. Adding this countdown timer to their homepage increased sales by 8%.
Countdown timers in emails
You can also add countdown timers to emails, of course. For instance, Edible Arrangements could have sent out emails to every customer with a countdown timer. They could have matched up the different time zones based on people’s zip codes.
It’s even easier if you just focus on your own time zone, and set a deadline accordingly. That’s what photographer Jared Polin does with his emails.
The email above with the countdown timer is the last email in a series of four messages. Jared sent them to his own subscribers to sell a photo editing course. He says,
“The last email that goes out four to six hours before the sale ends crushes it really hard because it has the countdown timer saying that it’s ending. We see sales happen because of that.”
The question is, though: Does this work? You bet it does. Here’s a case study from Selligent and Lynda.com. They got a 33% increase in click-through rate and a 10% increase in conversion rate by adding this countdown clock to an email campaign. The timer pops up each time the email is opened.
Or there’s this countdown timer, from Selligent and CREDO Mobile. It got a 14% higher click rate than the other version of the email they sent, with no countdown timer.
Countdown timers on landing pages and product pages
Countdown timers aren’t limited to emails and websites, either. You can complement a countdown timer in an email message with a countdown timer on a landing page, too. Or you can just add the countdown timer to a product page. That’s what one marketer did in this A/B split test.
The countdown timer here increased the conversion rate from 3.5% to 10%. That’s more than a 300% increase.
Is that too big an improvement for you to believe? Well, it’s not the only example of a countdown timer generating triple-digit improvements. Here’s an A/B split-test from another product comparison page. Here, the version with the countdown timer increased form completions by 226%.
How to set up your own countdown timer in an email
Ready to try one of these countdown timers in your emails yet? They’re really simple to set up – it takes less than five minutes.
From inside your Nifty Images account, go to “Create new countdown timer.” Here’s the Nifty Images interface you’ll see after you click that section. This is where you define when the timer is counting down to, and how it will look:
Make it look however you’d like, name it, and copy the code you’ll need to place into your email message. If you need help, there’s a video tutorial to watch.
Paste the code into your email editor in HTML view. Take a deep breath… this really isn’t all that hard, and you can move the line of code around if you don’t like the initial placement.
Then save the email and send a test message to yourself (and hey, maybe impress your Mom, too).
Here’s how it might look. Keep in mind, this is just a stripped-down version. Your email would also have all the copy and supporting images of a regular email.
Not so hard, right? It literally took me just four and a half minutes to set up that little test countdown timer. I clocked it.
You could probably do it in even less time. They might end up being the most profitable minutes of your day.
Countdown timers work in many different situations, but they’re particularly easy and effective to set up in emails. They’re also really easy to set up. If you haven’t tried one yet, now is the time. You’ve still got several weeks to experiment with these before the holiday marketing season starts.
What do you think?
Have you ever done a split-test with a countdown timer? In other words, have you ever sent a message with a countdown timer to one half of your list but not the other?
If you have, want to share what your results were in the comments? We’re listening…
Author: Pam Neely has been marketing online for 18 years. She has a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award and a Hermes Creative Award for blog writing. Pam holds a Master’s Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University and is the author of a bestselling Amazon Kindle book “50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List.” Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.