You are bidding on a product offered on an online “auction” site. The sale is open for only 30 seconds. Quickly, you hop on, make the final bid and celebrate your “win.” Psychologists have long studied a sense of urgency as a prime motivator of action. When someone perceives urgency in a given situation, they tend to act quickly, often on emotion. This is a human tendency that marketers have always used – offering such things as a “limited time offer,” a special holiday sale, and the like.
Consumers are now used to these urgency tactics and will often not respond, believing that they are just gimmicks, and that the same limited time offers will be available many more times. Marketers must recognize this and put urgency tactics in place that are based upon both science and a compelling presentation. Here are some tips that you can actually put into place today. The research has already been done and they are known to be effective.
- Add a Countdown Feature in Place to Create Time-Based Urgency
If you are offering something for only a limited time, put a timer on the landing/CTA page, showing how many days/hours/minutes are left. This increases the sense of urgency, as potential customers may leave the site and then return, finally making the purchase as the timer winds down.
Another variation of the “timer countdown” is to offer only a certain number of the product, service, or subscription, etc. at the special price. Add a feature on the landing page that tick off how many have been purchased and how many are left.
Some testing has shown that these countdown elements can increase conversions by as much as much as 300%.
- Add Urgencies That Provide Additional Offers for a Specified Period.
Variations of this tactic include urgencies such as, “Order within the next two Hours and Get Free Overnight Shipping.”
Often, these tactics can be utilized via a popup, as a potential customer arrives at a home or landing page. Here’s an example of such a popup with a time limitation from Granify.
- Establish Limited-Time Offers on Specific Products
A really effective alternative to the popup is to offer special sales on specific items when a customer arrives at a landing page. A sale price, with notification of an end date/time is announced in bright colors with a prominent CTA button. These types of urgencies can also be a part of re-targeting ads, after a customer has already looked at an item and demonstrated some interest.
Site-wide sales offers for a limited time period can be made more effective if the customer is reminded as s/he navigates through the site. Setting up a time-limited site-wide discount announcement that follows customers wherever they go is a tactic that lots of e-commerce companies find effective. Here is an example from Mobly, a furniture and décor enterprise.
The constant reminder is compelling the customer to buy now rather than come back later when the sale price will have expired.
- Advertise Limited Edition Products
Of course, this involves strategic planning/production/acquisition in order to claim that a product is truly a limited edition. These are great tactics for seasonal merchandise which will only be sold for a specific period of time.
Customers are used to “limited edition” items – everything from cars to candy bars to the McRib sandwich at McDonalds which is only brought back for a few months each year. Christmas clothing or July 4th items are great examples of “limited edition products.” Chubbies, a casual clothing site, sells a new line of products for a limited time just before the July 4th holiday each year.
If you can offer a specific item or service for a limited time, you have good potential to increase conversions, and if you can do it regularly, even better.
- Limited Quantities
A “cousin” tactic to limited editions, this tactic will inform the customer that there are only a certain number of a product left, before they are sold out. Many consumers are used to these and may not react with a conversion. However, if you place a countdown feature on the page, letting a visitor know that the number left is being tracked, the ever-decreasing number can often elicit a much greater sense of urgency and thus increased conversions.
Many sites regularly state the number of items that are left when a customer lands. Amazon is famous for this.
There are some variations of this tactic that are even more effective. Suppose, for example, that a customer has put an item in his/her shopping cart but has “abandoned” the cart at least temporarily. The cart has been saved for what you hope will be a return visit. That return visit now occurs. When the customer lands, a popup can appear, informing him/her that there are only a certain number left of the item that is currently in the cart. This tactic, of course, is to increase the interest that the customer has already shown in the item, by now making it an urgent.
Be Careful About Backfires
While creating urgency can certainly increase conversions, it can also increase friction with consumers who believe that these are “hard sell” tactics and who are irritated by them. The key is to ensure that when you create urgency, you do so as a value and benefit to the customer. This is ensured by crafting great marketing content that persuades potential customers that you are a trustworthy organization with products/services that will solve problems for them. Deliberately using “sleazy” tactics or lying to customers will ultimately destroy your integrity. Here are the “rules” to maintain that integrity:
- Never deliberately hold product off of the market to create a false scarcity. Once your “urgency” and deadline is over, if a customer comes back and sees that product readily available, s/he will never trust you again.
- Never “pull” an offer because the time limit has run out and then offer a customer an upgraded version that includes the original offer – this is sleazy.
- Never create urgency around something that is not valuable for the price you are asking. Your ultimate goal is full customer satisfaction, not just a single sale in the short-term.
- Urgency is not a persuasive marketing tool. Creating value and benefit for the customer is a marketing tool. Urgency is a tactic that is to be used as the last piece for a customer who already sees the value in what you offer and is already interested in that value.
Done right, urgency can increase conversions. Use these tactics with integrity, and you will reap benefits.