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 and engage readers.
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!
“Urgency is a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actual behavior.”
Urgency makes people commit to change and focus on what needs to be done.
Time for an example:
Let’s imagine you’re hosting a music event. You sent a first email announcing the line-up and insert a timer to count down until the event. Subscriber Lizzie opens it. Her eyes twinkle when she reads about the performing artists. She marks the date in her calendar and asks which one of her girlfriends will join.
After a week, Lizzie gathered a couple of yes's and the girls decide to “buy the tickets soon.”
It’s time for a follow-up email to all the list subscribers. Lizzie sees the email, remembers her todo and writes in the group chat. Two girls are out of money and need to wait until the next payday.
Now 3 weeks pass. This calls for urgency! You send a third email, this time with another countdown timer announcing that the ticket prices go up in 2 days. The girls panic and realize they really have to hurry. That same evening, Lizzie orders all their 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 and excites them for what’s to come.
To enhance the sense of urgency in emails further, you can also use:
Countdown clocks are easy to implement. In MailerLite, you can drag the countdown block into your newsletter and set the date and time. Our software sets the countdown time based on the timezone of the sender.
The timers in MailerLite are compatible with almost all email clients and are shown to readers as a GIF. 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.
Read this article about our countdown timers to see how it's displayed in different email clients.
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.
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, UNIQLO gets its subscribers ready for the Alexander Wang x UNIQLO release. A countdown clock would have worked well to visualize the days left until the launch date.
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.
BodyCandy and OptinMonster use this trick to remind people in real-time to use their discount code.
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.
Total Vegas celebrates Cyber Monday by giving 40% off hotel stays — limited to 24 hours only.
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.
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, Forever 21 uses a flashy animated GIF to announce the early access to their sale. In A'GACI’s colorful email template, a countdown timer would have fit perfectly.
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.
This newsletter by MBTN Connect shows you how to use a countdown timer in your next event email.
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.
Cole from Honey Copy announced his $100 price tag raise with an amazingly well-written email titled “You've got 60 minutes to make your move.”
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 these examples by Forever 21, Smith & Noble and WIX. The timer from Forever 21 cleverly changes into a “you’ve missed out” message when the time is up.
An abandoned shopping cart email on itself 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!
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 Kristen from Stepmomming, can increase the click-through rate as readers need to act fast or they’ll miss out.
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:
Monica from Redefining Mom uses a countdown and useful Q&A section to get readers to sign up for her course before the registration closes the day after.
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.
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.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2017 but has been updated.
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.