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Takeaways:

  • Countdown timers work – based on the psychological principle of scarcity.
  • Data shows countdown timers can increase click-through rates and overall conversion rates.
  • They can be used in most emails where you want subscribers to take a specific action.
  • The placement and frequency of your countdown timers can impact their performance.

What is a countdown timer?

A countdown timer is an animated GIF — often a digital clock — that counts down to a specific deadline. Like the example below, most countdown timers include seconds, minutes, hours, and days.

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Countdown timers are used on product pages, landing pages, sales pages, and in emails.

In this post, we’ll focus on their effectiveness in emails.

Do countdown timers still work in 2023?

It’s 2023, and a lot has changed. But as marketers, we can take solace that some things remain largely the same — like human behavior.

“Human beings will consistently behave like, well… humans. We respond to AND persuade similarly. No matter where or when these strategies appear in our life.”

Carolyn Beaudoin — Copyhackers

This is why countdown timers continue to work, despite how many other things have changed. They work based on the psychological principles of scarcity and urgency.

“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

When an item is limited, exclusive, or unavailable, it becomes more desirable—quite the conundrum for most of us humans.

Great news for marketers and copywriters.

We can use this desire to our advantage in our copywriting. Using copywriting formulas, we can use our reader’s fear of missing out as a catalyst for action.

Kamala Harris: it's fascinating!

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According to the Eisenhower Decision Matrix (made popular by Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“), tasks that are both urgent and important should be prioritized.

The Eisenhower decision matrix can be used to tap into the idea of scarcity - this is why countdown timers can have such an impact.

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These things fall in the “do it now” category — which is exactly where your emails land when:

1 — They have a countdown timer that forces urgency.

2 — The offer is important to your prospect.

This is yet another reason why countdown timers work so effectively in emails.

But how about some data to prove we’re not just saying stuff for fun?

The proof is in the pudding data

The Diamond Store had impressive results with a countdown timer in one of their recent Black Friday email campaigns.

They had a 400% higher conversion rate in these Black Friday emails than in prior emails.

The click to open rate (CTOR) almost doubled to 24%, whereas most emails average a CTOR of 7% – 17%.

The Diamond Store Black Friday email campaign used a countdown timer to great effect.

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SaleCycle did their own Black Friday case study, reviewing email campaigns for six of their clients. Here’s what they found.

“Across all six clients we studied, the results proved the value of using countdown timers:

— The average uplift in click-through rates from emails and on-site messages was 30.49%.
— Click-through rates increased by an average of 231%.
— Overall conversion rates increased by 200%.

SaleCycle

Impressive - Schitt's Creek GIF.

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Not too shabby countdown timers. Not too shabby at all.

When to use countdown timers

Countdown timers work best in situations where your offer is time-sensitive.

Some examples of this include:

  • A cart abandonment email
  • A seasonal sale or offer (Black Friday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day)
  • A promotional coupon code with an expiration date
  • An event (Training, webinar, conference)
  • A product or program launch

Pro tip: If you’re launching a product, program, or course, this Tutorial Tuesdays video is a great resource for mapping and writing your “last day” launch email.

(“Last day” launch emails are a good example of emails where you can use countdown timers.)

How to use countdown timers

How about those examples and tips I promised? Use these ideas for your own sales email campaigns.

1. Keep your countdown timer above the fold

The countdown timer is one of the first things subscribers see when they open this email from Casper.

There’s no need to guess when the offer ends because the information is right there above the fold.

Casper email using a countdown timer

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2. Place your CTA button near your timer

This AppSumo email makes it easy for creators to take action on the offer and submit their product for a chance to win big.

The button is right below the countdown timer with clear and effective conversion-focused copy.

AppSumo email using a countdown timer to create urgency

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3. For longer emails, repeat the timer at the top and bottom of your email

This Designmodo email is long enough to justify having the countdown timer appear twice.

Most readers won’t scroll back to the top of your email, so make it easy for them to remember when your offer expires by repeating the countdown timer.

Designmodo cyber monday email using a countdown timer more than once on long copy

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A few parting words on countdown timers

We know countdown timers work, and we’ve seen how we can use them. But it’s important to err on the side of caution when using countdown timers.

Be honest about your offer

If there’s no expiration date or time, don’t make one up to boost sales. This will ruin your reputation with your audience and cause them to distrust you and your offers.

Don’t overdo it

Resist the urge to include countdown timers in every single email you send. While they are great for creating urgency, there are other techniques you can use to increase conversions in your emails.

Bottom line:

Countdown timers can be an effective persuasion tool in your sales emails. The key is to use them in moderation and ensure you’re not employing fake urgency.

Looking for more resources to help you write better sales emails? 10X Emails may be the answer to your prayers with cheat sheets, templates, and over-the-shoulder demonstrations. Get it here.

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