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Gediminas · 15 min read · Tips and resources · February 25, 2021

11 great ways to use email countdown timers to increase conversions

You have a deadline that’s due in 2 weeks. Do you A) start today, or B) watch that new Netflix original and tell yourself you’ll look at it tomorrow?

Unless you belong to that rare superhuman kind, you probably identify more with option B. The ones that laze around until it’s almost too late, freak out and then finally take action.

Urgency works when things need to get done, which is why email countdown timers are so effective for getting subscribers to act.

From buying products that are on sale for a limited amount of time to registering for an event before the guest list closes—countdown timers make it happen.

In this article, we’ll show you all the ways you can use countdown timers in emails to excite readers and get them to take action straight away!

An email countdown timer is a GIF image which counts down to a certain date and time. It’s a ticking clock which you can insert anywhere in your newsletter to create a sense of urgency—just like in this campaign by Forever 21 below.

Forever 21 email countdown example

Countdowns aren’t just for your homepage anymore! The main idea behind email countdown timers is to make your subscribers act straight away, before they miss out.

For example, you could set up a GIF countdown timer for:

  • A product launch

  • A special offer or promo code which will expire soon

  • An upcoming event or webinar

  • A giveaway that’s about to end

  • A seasonal event, such as Christmas or Mother’s Day

  • An abandoned cart email

  • A personalized birthday email

  • A limited edition product

We all need urgency to take action. Marathon coming up? That 6 AM pre-work run actually becomes a reality. Your colleague sending you a second reminder about your deliverables? Start the Pomodoro timer already!

It’s exactly the same with email countdown timers: they create urgency, which makes people commit to change and focus on what needs to be done.

“Urgency is a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actual behavior.”
- John Kotter

In fact, one company found that when they added an email timer to their Black Friday promotion, their conversion rates increased by 400%!

Let’s look at an example of how you might use countdown timers in your email cadence strategy:

Let’s imagine you’re hosting a music event… 🎸
  1. You send out the first email: You announce the line-up and insert a countdown timer.

  2. Your subscriber (let’s call her “Lizzie”) opens the email: Her eyes light up and she’s super excited to see her favorite artists performing. She marks the date in her calendar and asks her friends whether they’d like to join.

  3. One week later: Lizzie has gathered a group of friends and they agree to “buy the tickets soon.” (Spoiler alert—nothing happens!)

  4. You send a follow-up email: Lizzie sees the countdown mail, remembers her todo and writes in the group chat. Two friends are out of money and need to wait until the next payday.

  5. Three weeks later: Still no action. This calls for urgency! You send a third email with another countdown timer. This time, it announces that ticket prices go up in two days.

  6. Lizzie takes action: Everyone panics when they see the end time, and they realize they have to hurry. That same evening, Lizzie orders all the tickets.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s probably because you and Lizzie have something in common: You both love to put things off until it’s really urgent or your sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) hits an all-time high.

Dynamic countdown timers in newsletters emphasize the urgency and visually show email subscribers how much time they have left. It also helps readers plan, take action and get excited about what’s to come!

Take this email marketing campaign from OVO for example; it offers a limited time offer to its subscribers.

OVO email countdown timer example

To enhance the sense of urgency in emails further, you can also use:

  • Deadlines

  • Time-sensitive language such as “only today” or “just a few days left”

  • Scarcity sentences, like “limited supply only”

  • Clear call to action (CTA) so your readers know exactly what to do

  • A subject line that implies urgency

The free email countdown timers in MailerLite are compatible with almost all email clients and are shown to readers as a GIF.

The functionality can be different in some email clients. In some versions of Microsoft Outlook and Windows, the subscriber will see a static image of the timer which will change after refreshing the page.

This table shows how the GIF countdown timers will be displayed in different email clients, such as Gmail and Yahoo!

Table showing which email clients display images and countdowns

You don’t need to be an HTML code expert or a design guru—it’s easy to embed countdown clocks to your email template. In MailerLite, you can drag the countdown block into your newsletter and set the end date and time.

There are lots of customization options, including background color and countdown style. Our software sets the countdown time based on the time zone of the sender.

To learn more about embedding countdown timers in your emails, check out this great video tutorial from Marcin:

So now that you know about the technical details, let’s move on to the practical part.

Here are 11 ways to integrate a countdown timer in your next email design.

Without further ado, let’s jump in and see some real-life examples of countdown timers in action.

1. Limited edition or product release

When things are new or exclusive, announce it in a festive setting. In real life this might happen with a launch party, in the email world, this means an eye-catching email template announcing the release.

In this email, Sesli gets its subscribers ready for their new showroom, which is opening in Fourways, South Africa. The countdown clock works well to help people visualize the days left until the launch date.

Sesli email countdown example

2. Voucher redemption

Discount coupons are an excellent tool to get people to sign up for your list. Though not every subscriber is ready to order the moment the voucher arrives in their inbox.

Make the discount coupon available for a limited time only to motivate people to browse your shop. A personalized email countdown timer with the reader’s individual expiration date is not only helpful but also boosts conversions.

The marketers at BodyCandy uses this trick to remind people in real-time to use their discount code.

BodyCandy email countdown example

3. Seasonal events

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Mother’s Day, Boxing Day—we all love a good sale! Create a buzz by counting down to major seasonal events and tease subscribers by giving them a sneak peek of your jaw-dropping offers.

You can implement a countdown timer in the announcement email campaign, as well as right before the end of the promotion.

Harber London shares the countdown until Father’s Day. The background image in the email speaks for itself, and it drops a good hint for anyone who needs some gift inspiration!

Harber London email countdown example

4. VIP or early access

One of the many perks of email marketing is that your campaigns are exclusively sent to those on your email list. Spoil subscribers by giving them early access to VIP affairs or flash sales. This makes them feel like they’re part of a members-only community.

Did you know?

In MailerLite, you can also add countdown timers to landing pages. Redirect the CTA link in your “early access” email to a landing page that contains a countdown and password. This will make subscribers feel like true VIPs.

In this example, EKWB announces early access to their new product, giving their VIPs a 24-hour head start to pre-order. Note in the design how the countdown timer has the same background color as the rest of the email; making it flow seamlessly with the rest of the newsletter.

EKWB email countdown example

5. Webinar or live stream

In most cases, only a percentage of those who’ve signed up for your watch party, webinar or live stream will actually attend. That’s why it’s important to remind people about your online get-together.

Countdowns work super well in online video event email sequences. Most organizers send 3 emails—a registration confirmation email, a reminder a couple days before the event and a final notification 1-3 hours before going live.

Did you know?

MailerLite users can promote their event or webinar via event countdown emails and directly on their website. With our countdown pop-ups, you can install a pop-up on any page that will let readers know in how many days, hours and minutes your event or webinar is happening.

This newsletter by the Indiana Black Expo shows you how to use a countdown timer in your next event email.

IBO email countdown example

6. Price changes

When you know the price of an item that you want increases tomorrow, do you wait or make the purchase today? Our guess is that you’re already on your way to get your credit card.

We’re wired to feel terrible about losing money. Use this to your advantage by making readers feel like they’ll pay more the longer they doubt their decision.

DCT UK sends a final reminder that their special offer and freebie will end at the weekend. 

DCT UK email countdown example

7. Sale ends soon

You’ve probably seen them in your inbox: The “hurry up the sale is ending soon” countdown newsletter. Stores use them for a reason. The counter makes the email interactive and tempts the reader to snatch their favorite pieces before it’s too late.

We love this example by Lira clothing, which shows their top sale items and ends with a countdown timer to add urgency. 

Lira email countdown timer example

8. Abandoned shopping cart

An abandoned cart email on its own already amps up conversions, but with a countdown timer implemented it’ll have twice as much influence.

E-commerce sites send these types of emails when a customer puts an item in their basket but leaves without completing the order. By sending a basket reminder email, the chances of customers finishing their orders are much higher.

Now imagine you also add a timer. Offer the reader to take over the shipping costs or give a discount when the customer converts within a limited time. Now your email will have double the power—just like in this email by YourStore!

Abandoned shopping cart email example with countdown timer

9. Freebies

Free stuff, anyone? Yes, please!

Giving away free, useful gifts to readers nurtures the relationship. These gifts can be anything from downloadable guides to discounts and physical presents shipped per post or ready to be picked up in-store.

A countdown timer, as used in the example below by DCT UK, can increase the click-through rate as readers need to act fast or they’ll miss out. Plus, we love the use of animated GIFs in this email!

DCT UK email countdown timer example with GIF

10. Course promotion

Did you put together a course but the enrollment process is a bit slow? An automated email sequence can help promote your work.

To promote your course via email, you can create a workflow containing:

  • Course announcement

  • Early bird registration for a special price

  • Hurry! The prices will go up soon

  • Pricing has gone up to the normal rate

  • Last call for enrollment

Take a look at this case study from Girl Boss Mag. They use a countdown to get readers to sign up for their course before registration closes.

GB Mag countdown email example

11. Contest

Running a contest? Countdown timers are the email accessory you need!

This email by travel company Suiteness is a perfect example of an email contest done well. It’s beautifully designed, interactive and a fun take on using a countdown timer. Plus, we’d definitely try our luck to win a share of $1 million in booking credits.

Suiteness email contest countdown timer email example

Time is ticking! Countdown email timers are interactive, engage the reader and express much clearer how much time there is left on the clock. Implementing timers in your email design is easy and can positively influence your conversions.

So, what are you waiting for? Tell us in the comments how you’ll use a countdown timer in your next email.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2019 but has been updated with new tips and examples. 

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Gediminas Andrijaitis

I’m Gediminas, CPO at MailerLite (not to be confused with C3PO from Star Wars). I work across all departments to ensure MailerLite is always working and helping you create the best email experience possible. The only thing I love more than building products is riding motorcycles—really, really fast.