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Improve your eCommerce countdown timers in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Improve your eCommerce countdown timers in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Headshot

By Mike Austin, CEO & Co-founder

Best practices for eCommerce countdown timers that drive sales

Promotional countdown timers are an easy-to-implement way to increase click throughs and generate a buzz around your latest offers. 

Marketers today are able to drive engagement with dynamic countdown timers that update in real time across websites and email channels.

They can be used to draw attention to limited-duration sales, encourage participation in events, inform customers of your opening hours, or create excitement around a product launch. 

As with any promotional content, it’s important to make customer experience the number one priority when using countdown timers. Some big name ecommerce providers have been penalized for misleading consumers with inaccurate information about promotions. 

According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), there are five best practices you need to keep in mind to provide customers with an authentic experience: 

  1. A countdown timer shouldn’t be restarted after it reaches zero.
  2. Prices should not remain the same or get lower than the promotional period price.
  3. If you make delivery time claims, you need evidence to show that you reach that target on a consistent basis.
  4. Do not applying undue pressure on audiences to gamble, or create an unjustifiable sense of urgency.
  5. If you run a promotion with a prize, ensure that it’s clear from the start how and by when a winner needs to respond to claim it.

We’ve compiled some tips to help you make the best use of countdown timers, while maintaining the integrity of your brand.


1. Keep it genuine

Remaining honest in the use and application of a countdown timer is critical to its effectiveness.

It might be tempting to create a fake deadline to boost short-term sales but doing so risks the integrity of the brand and could lose customers for good. Setting clear parameters around limited time offers and ensuring promotions close as advertised will help retain customer trust in the brand.


2. Less is more

In a similar vein, marketers should be mindful of how often they use countdown clocks within their campaigns.

Incorporating timers too often could mean the excitement driven by the tactic is lost. Part of the role of a timer is to inject urgency, but if customers are presented with a countdown clock each time they open an email, it will quickly be ignored and fail to deliver the intended call to action.

On this occasion, less is more. Identifying the occasions where a countdown timer will have a significant role in boosting sales – whether that’s to mark a significant day in the retail calendar or to create a buzz around a new product launch – will help keep customers engaged.


3. Stay relevant

As with other real-time marketing tactics, it's important to deliver content that is relevant at the moment of engagement, both during and after the end of the promotion. This can be achieved by defining different creatives for different scenarios.

If shoppers engage with the email or website during the promotion, they'll see the timer. Once the countdown clock reaches zero, shoppers should see a different creative, for example a banner promoting another offer.   

Looking for unique instances where other brands might not be using timers will also bring some differentiation to a brand. Flash sales or shopping peaks like Black Friday have an obvious role for countdown clocks. But brands could also consider adding a countdown to provide service information, for example to make shoppers aware of how long they have left to complete an order to receive the product the next day.


4. Don’t interrupt

The physical location and design of a timer are other key considerations that will impact effectiveness. Keep in mind that the ultimate aim of the tactic is to encourage a purchase, so its execution must avoid interrupting the customer journey as far as possible.

Triggering a website banner with a timer promoting a relevant offer will be more effective if the customer has had the opportunity to view a couple of web pages rather than displaying it as soon as the shopper lands on your website. Alternatively, displaying a limited time offer for free delivery when a customer has added an item to their basket could be the incentive to secure the sale.

From an aesthetics perspective, timers should be visually appealing and eye catching – after all, they are meant to signify something exciting to the consumer, The design should harmonize with the overall look and feel of the brand.

While countdown timers may have hit the headlines lately, marketers shouldn’t be quick to dismiss their role within digital campaigns. Approached correctly and keeping these considerations in mind, they are a powerful tactic that provides useful service information and nudges customers towards a purchase.

This article was originally published on Essential Retail.


Improve your eCommerce countdown timers in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Headshot

By Mike Austin

CEO & Co-founder

Mike Austin is co-founder and CEO at Fresh Relevance. Recognizing the challenge of data aggregation in the ecommerce space, Mike launched Fresh Relevance in 2013 with co-founders Eddy Swindell and Pete Austin to solve this need and optimize the customer journey.