The Optimal Countdown Timer for a Mind-Blowing Scarcity Marketing Campaign

Creating the feeling of scarcity invokes an emotional reaction. Let's just picture the following situation:

"Five minutes!", my mom shouted. "We're out the door in 5 minutes!"

It was my brother's wedding day and everyone was in a mad rush. The worst part was that my sister was hogging the bathroom and I hadn't even taken a shower yet.

That 5-minute warning gave me a feeling of "Hurry, hurry, hurry!"  This is an emotional response that gives a feeling of urgency.

And this is exactly the feeling that a coundown timer creates on your website. It grabs the visitor's attention by saying, "You only have a limited time until this is possibly lost forever" - and this is the power of scarcity marketing.

A timer gets hesitant visitors to take action. More action means more people buying your product. This is why timers are crucial.

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Countdown Timers Are a Critical Piece in Scarcity Marketing

Thrive Ultimatum takes countdown timers and scarcity marketing to another level. Let's see how to ramp up the urgency using a practical example.

Imagine you have a website called Budget Traveller.  For your site, you create and start selling a video course product called The Ultimate Guide to Travelling Light.​

Here are 5 ways you can use countdown timers to promote your product.

5 Ways to Use Scarcity Marketing for Promoting Your Products

#1: Get a Spike in Sales

To get a quick boost in sales, you can run a temporary promotion. For example: a 25% early-bird discount next weekend ending Sunday night.

On the sales page, we can write the discount and expiration date.

Instead of triggering urgency, a text deadline activates the logical brain.

Instead of triggering urgency, a text deadline activates the logical brain.

Because it's merely part of the text, a reader can easily skim over it. Even if he reads it, maybe he thinks, "How many days is that? It's Tuesday today, so..."

This causes the reader to calculate and use his logical mind. Scarcity is supposed to trigger an emotional response.  An expiring timer triggers this emotional response.

Place the timer near a call-to-action for higher conversions.

An expiring timer creates a sense of urgency. Plus, it's animated, so a reader can't easily skim over it. There's a clear indication of how much time is remaining, so the reader's emotional brain stays activated.

If you can make visitors feel urgency when they can take action, you'll get better results. For this, it's best to place the timer near the Buy Now or call-to-action button.​

Watch how to set up a timer on your sales page with Thrive Ultimatum.​

#2: Give Hesitant Buyers an Extra Nudge

Having a countdown timer near a call-to-action button at the top of your sales page will work for hot leads. These people are ready to buy now.

​But some visitors are cold leads and need more convincing. They might need to read more of the sales page. To deal with cold leads, you can place another Buy Now button near the middle and bottom portions of your page.

You can give cold leads an extra push by amplifying the urgency for the lower timers. Colors that contrast with the sales page will grab the visitor's attention.​

Give hesitant buyers that extra nudge with a high contrast timer.

Give hesitant buyers that extra nudge with a high contrast timer.

Watch the video below to find out how to spur hesitant buyers into action.

#3: Get More Visitors to See Your Offer

Following the steps above can increase conversions for your sales page.  Now that you have a high-converting sales page, let's get more visitors to it.  

There are still people visiting other parts of your website.  A visitor might read your blog article and find a lot of value in it.  Then he ends up leaving without ever knowing you're selling something.

To cast a wider net and notify these visitors, you can put a sticky header on your entire website. This sticky header helps ensure all visitors to your website see the offer.​

Scarcity marketing in use

Get more visitors to see your offer with a sticky header.

See how to present your offer on your entire website...

#4: Hide the Timer

You heard right. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. The whole blog article has been about using timers and now I'm saying, "Hide the timer."...?

Showing a timer with too much time remaining doesn't inspire urgency. In fact, a longer decision time causes customers to postpone and never buy. Research shows that the optimal promotional period for online shopping is between 4-7 days.

In the beginning, it's best to present your offer without a timer.

Hide the countdown times

Prevent visitors from never buying by hiding the timer.

This lets people know about your offer without them postponing their decision. Then with 4 days remaining, show the sticky header with the timer.​

Check out the video below to set that sweet spot between hiding and showing a timer.

#5: Get Last-minute Buyers before Time Runs Out

So far, we have 2 sticky header displays: one without urgency that shows immediately and one with urgency that shows at 4 days.

But people are prone to banner blindness, which will cause visitors to ignore your sticky header on repeated visits. There are also last-minute buyers -- people that stay undecided until the very last minute.

Closer to the deadline, make the timer pop out by using loud colors that contrast with your webpages.​

last minute urgency

Get last-minute buyers by showing a high-contrast timer at the right moment.

You can amplify urgency to get last-minute buyers while overcoming the banner blindness effect.

How Are You Going to Implement Scarcity Marketing on Your Website?

These are some of the situations and methods for using timers to give different people different levels of urgency.

How did I deal with my brother's wedding and need to take a shower?  I grabbed a towel and rushed to the garden. There was the garden hose. I turned the water on and wet my hair until it was soaked like a full sponge.

​There wasn't time to think after my mother's warning of "5 minutes!"  This signal spurred me into action.  A countdown timer on your website is a signal that urges your visitors to take action.

Let me know how you take action using countdown timers and scarcity marketing.

Author: Jake Berger

Jake Berger has a family full of artists, but he could barely draw stick figures. Now he's creating cartoons. He's also a software engineer turned marketer and loves writing sales pages. (Jake also feels weird writing about himself in the 3rd person.)

  • Raj says:

    Thank you Jake. You gave nice ideas to create the top banner: top banner, awareness and urgent!

    • Jake says:

      Thank you Raj, glad it helped:D

  • James says:

    Even so I’m familiar with this techniques, it’s still refreshing to see how much you can do with timers. I’m planning to use some of the suggested in one of our pages., the psychological effect on buyers is great. Thank you for the great post.

    • Jake says:

      You’re welcome, James :) Let me know how it goes or if you want a fresh set of eyes to check it out — Jacob.R.Berger AT gmail

  • Your timing couldn’t have been better for me Jake. How does Thrive do that? …it’s exactly what I’m working on. Thanks!

    • Jake says:

      You’re welcome Susan :D Good to know that Thrive’s mind-reading devices are operating at maximum efficiency ;)

  • Karl S says:

    Great ideas on different methods of using timers. Well done. Thank you.

    I just left a note on the forum regarding even shorter timer cycles. For “small” purchases (under $10 or $20), I’ve had great success with 1 and 2 hour timers with a big discount (e.g.: “50% OFF if you ACT NOW!”). Unfortunately, as currently configured, Ultimatum doesn’t “do” anything shorter than 1 day timers. I hope this can be changed, as I have to use a different solution (yet another plugin) and I’d prefer to keep it all “Thrive centric.”

    Other than that, Ultimatum is fairly awesome. ;-)

  • Karl S says:

    On a personal note Jake, having just read your bio… it made me laugh. I’m the opposite case: an artist in a family of left brain types (engineers, bankers, scientists, etc.). We could probably compare traumatic childhood experiences! ;-)

    • Jake says:

      Yeah, Karl. I could imagine your dinner conversations being more lectures than stories. ;-)

  • Elazar Gilad says:

    Hi Jake , great article thanks for the info

  • Tim says:

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing :)

    • Jake says:

      You’re welcome, Tim :)
      Anything that was most interesting?

  • Prerna says:

    This is super helpful, Jake! Quick q: Does the plugin allow you to create a sticky footer timer as well?? And can we use this in emails too?

    Thanks so much!

    • Jake says:

      You’re welcome, Prerna! Yes, you can create a sticky footer timer. When creating a new design, instead of Top Ribbon, choose Bottom Ribbon. In Video #3, it’s the screen at the 1:20 mark: https://youtu.be/oInjXADzUNA?t=80

      Thrive Ultimatum currently does not work in emails — only on your website.

  • Mahesh A says:

    Fabulous article Jake!

    This post is timely as now we have black Friday/cyber Monday timing on and lots of products to promote.

    Hiding the counter sounds logical because a counter with lots of time itself will convert rarely.

    Can’t wait to apply them over!
    -Mahesh

    • Jake says:

      Thanks Mahesh!

      Hiding the countdown timer seemed weird to me at first, but on second thought is logical :)

      Let me know how it goes with black Friday and cyber Monday ;D
      -Jake

  • Eric Bobrow says:

    Jake – Nicely done article; it’s good to see examples of how some options might be used.

    Question: is there a way to create an evergreen timer based on when a visitor comes to a page? So that it’s not based on a calendar date, but perhaps immediate (e.g. 20 minute countdown) with a redirect (so that they lose out if they don’t take action, including if they try to go back to the page); or alternatively, a longer countdown that is cookie-based so it is consistent when someone comes back to the page?

    I know there are some fancy tools to do this, I’m wondering if Ultimatum offers something like this too.

  • Really love this article and its applicability.

    As a side note: if you want to get a deeper level of what influences people I suggest to read Cialdinis masterpiece called “Influence”

    • Jake says:

      I love that book, Philipp! It’s a pillar in my marketing philosophy.

  • WOW this was great! Thanks for the tutorials. They were super helpful!

  • Suzanne says:

    Great post! Love the use of small, bite-sized videos for each step.

    Will you be having a Black Friday sale?

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for your comment and no you will not see any Black Friday sale from us and here is why

  • Johan says:

    Very well done Jake ! Wasn’t aware .. that you could actually extend your reach by integrating them in banners.

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