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There is nothing that kills eCommerce conversion rates faster than customer hesitation. Anytime a customer thinks “maybe later”, you open the window to a sale-killing distraction - an offer from a competitor, a phone notification, or even a change of heart.
There is one way to get shoppers to take action immediately: urgency.
How do you create urgency without being pushy or turning people off? In this article, we’ll show you 23 tactics you can use urgency to increase your eCommerce conversions.
Customers are still accustomed to shopping offline rather than online.
When they decide to buy an item online, they don’t want to be ‘shocked’ with an unexpected cost (such as shipping) during checkout. One way to workaround this problem is to state your shipping fees upfront. This prevents “sticker shock” and helps reduce cart abandonment.
But what if you could use shipping as an urgency tactic?
Try this: offer free delivery, but only for a limited time. State this offer prominently on your site and set a very tight deadline (say, 4 hours).
Check out this example from Kit Out My Office:
This tactic works because:
Instead of binding free shipping to time, link it to quantity.
For example, you may decide to limit free shipping on all purchases during your sale campaign to only the first 1,000 customers. This ensures that customers who want to shop do so immediately.
The risk of the limit being crossed quickly is likely to weigh heavier on customers than with time-based limits where they still have the opportunity to put off purchase for a few days.
If you offer the promo to only the first 100 buyers, your customers have no way of knowing how soon the 100 buyer limit will be over (whereas a time-based limit is always calculable). This drives greater urgency.
For example, GearCop offers free shipping for first 100 buyers of the product on its Facebook page:
Offering free shipping for a “period” (which might be an entire season) is not always effective. If customers know they can come back and still avail the benefit of free shipping on their purchase, they will continue to delay the purchase decision.
As a solution, try limiting how long free shipping is valid to create a sense of urgency. Include specific limits (“free shipping until 15 March” instead of “free shipping for a limited time”) to create a greater sense of urgency.
This works since:
Generally, a few days to a week is a good time frame for maximum benefit.
Check out this example from Lakeside Collection. Instead of a generic time limit, the free shipping offer states exactly when the offer will expire:
Remember, you don’t have to lose money to provide free shipping.
You can set a minimum threshold for free shipping to be valid. Most customers will purchase extra items to reach the level required.
Alluding to product scarcity is highly effective in creating urgency.
One format of scarcity is stating that there is a limited stock. Doing this creates the illusion that your product is highly valued by others. This subsequently leads to shoppers acting immediately as they rush not to miss out (i.e. FOMO - Fear of Missing Out).
This tactic is commonly seen amongst mobile manufacturers who sell new launches in batches of ‘limited stocks’ to create hype.
Check out this example from Mindzai:
Items that are limited in quantity are associated with value, especially if supply is fixed (why do you think diamonds are expensive?).
For example, consider the lengths collectors of comics or baseball cards go through to acquire limited-edition issues to complete their collection.
Similarly, a one-time release or customized version of your product (limited in quantity) will create urgency amongst customers. The video game industry does this all the time (looking at you Assassin's Creed!). Right around the time of a major new game launch, you’ll see “Special Edition” consoles in stores.
Since people inherently want things they can’t have, a unique item reminds them that they only have one shot at this. The fear of missing out is a powerful motivator for action.
For example, Brothers Leather Supply routinely releases ‘limited edition’ versions of its products.
BirchBox takes things a step further by collaborating with influencers to create its “Special Edition Boxes”. These boxes have unique designs, which further increases their desirability. Note the ‘Exclusive’ tag on the product page.
Instead of limiting yourself to a handful of sales by displaying total stock of a product, you can focus your customer’s attention to the quantity you have remaining.
Add a phrase such as “Only X more left in stock” directly on the product page (or email). The closer the number gets to 0, the greater their urgency becomes. Doing this ensures that customers not only act quickly but remain interested in your product even while it is unavailable.
For example, you can provide an option to notify them (email) when items return in stock.
Check out this example from American Apparel:
Many shoppers use the shopping cart as a holding area.
They add items of interest (similar to a wishlist) but never complete a purchase as they aren’t fully convinced if they want or need the product. As these items linger in the cart, shoppers tend to forget about them.
To solve this problem, add a low stock warnings directly in the shopping cart area. This ensures that the next time a customer adds an item to their cart, they’ll be promoted with a warning that pushes for urgency to act or miss out.
Check out this example from Franklin Planner:
The “Availability” section tells shoppers that the products are available in limited supply only. You can even link this to real-time stock inventory so customers know how many items you have left.
Everyone loves free stuff. Offer your buyers a free gift (or a discount/coupon) upon completion of a purchase from your store. People’s fear of missing out on something free will create greater urgency to take action.
This can not only improve customer relationships but also help you get rid of promotional items.
But to truly take advantage of this “free gift” tactic, try to give it only to your first buyers. This way, you can ‘tag’ these as your most loyal buyers. You also create an impetus for customers to act immediately on an offer.
Check out this deal from Huawei on their Honor 8 phone:
People don’t shop on just one store online. Instead, they purchase from numerous brands and businesses.
Entice customers to shop with you by offering discounts on products from a partner store every time they purchase from you.
Doing this exceeds their expectation. It provides a perception that you genuinely care about your customers and that they need to act immediately on this rare offer.
This relationship is also mutually beneficial. While you send customers to your partner store, you also receive customers from their traffic which subsequently increases your conversion.
For this tactic to work, it’s important that the offer from the partner store complement your product(s). For example, Pampers offers its target customers Mother’s Day coupons they can redeem at partner stores.
Before or when launching a product, you can incentivize customers to act early. For example, you can lower the price of your product for those who act early.
If you limit the number of sales at this price, you’ll ensure customers take swift action.
Furthermore, you can do this in tiers. Slowly increase the price of your product as each of level of sales volume is crossed until you get to launch your product (i.e. a dime sale). Doing so ensures customers feel your product is limited and in high demand.
Check out this example from The Next Web:
Cart abandonment is a serious problem in online shopping.
Almost 70% of all shoppers abandon their shopping cart. In other words, 7 out of 10 shoppers will leave a product they are interested in before purchase completion.
Retarget these potential customers by offering an incentive (discount) to complete their purchase.
Make sure to include a time limit to this offer to add urgency.
Check out this example from Miracas:
Holidays are the answer to every eCommerce store’s sales woes.
Since most holidays are associated with the tradition of giving gifts or buying for yourself, people will be looking to buy online. This isn’t just limited to the Christmas and Thanksgiving holiday period. You can run effective promotions on Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. as well.
Data shows that while the winter holidays remain critical, other holidays are becoming important as well. For instance, back to school sales grew by 31% between 2004 and 2014.
On such holidays, remind customers of the delivery deadline to encourage immediate action
In addition, you could offer free gift wrapping or the option to add a special message that adds a sentimental value to the recipient to really drive the message home.
Check out this example from Chubbies:
Today’s consumers are more socially conscious than ever before. But this social awareness isn’t limited to their own behavior alone; they also expect the brands they shop from to act responsibly towards society and the environment.
According to one study, 9 out of 10 consumers want brands they patronize to address social and environmental issues. 81% of those surveyed also said that they would make personal sacrifices (including paying more) to support such brands.
Therefore, support the causes your customers care about.
An indication that spending money on your store will also help support a cause they truly believe in ensures swift action.
Check out this example from BoxLunch:
BoxLunch’s tagline is “Get Some, Give Back”. They make it clear on their homepage that if you buy from them, they donate a meal to a person in need. They also run regular flash sales to get you to take action on this social cause.
A sale or offer bound by time is a powerful method to drive urgency.
Time limitations trigger a customer’s desire to avoid losses (especially if an offer seems too good) forcing them to act quicker than they might have otherwise.
Countdown timers work exceptionally well in helping customers visualize this urgency. The visually remind customers how many days, hours, and minutes are left before they miss out.
You can add countdown timers directly on your product page, a banner or even in an email.
Check out this example from ASOS:
Today-only deals are offers on products that last up to one day.
For these deals to be effective, create a separate “Deal of the day” section where customers can browse exclusively for products on sale that day
This will drive impulse purchases. It can also add as a potential
A customer’s curiosity for what potential savings can be found in this section leads them to browse and buy products that they may never have otherwise.
Make sure that you don’t go the Groupon way and offer so many deals (or mediocre deals) that customers lose interest. You also have to be willing to refresh the deal lineup to include fresh products daily/weekly.
Check out this example from Amazon:
The ‘lightning deals’ section shows a time limit as well as the number of people who have bought the product. Along with Amazon’s known strength in UGC (especially reviews), the “% claimed” progress bar works as powerful social proof.
On one hand, you have customers who constantly seek out offers and discounts in order to find products for a “steal”.
On the other hand, you have the eCommerce store’s version of the Pareto Principle (aka the 80/20 rule) - most of your revenue comes from only a handful of products.
This creates the perfect situation for offering “clearance prices” on your poorly selling products.
The term “clearance” sets off a psychological trigger in customers that items on display are heavily discounted and that stock is limited (scarcity). As a result, customers act on such items quickly to avoid missing out.
If you have the resources, create a clearance section for customers to browse. It ensures that customers keep visiting your store and purchase more often.
Check out the clearance offer on Kohl’s site:
Special offers and discounts motivate users to action. Yet, you need to actively make your customers aware of your promotions. And the most effective format for it is through popups.
They grab a customer’s attention and prevent your promotions from being overlooked. However, make sure to use popups sparingly as they annoy customers and heavy use can drive them away.
Only use them for offers that are likely to interest customers.
Here’s an example (note the ‘Flash Sale’ pop-up shows exactly when the offer is ending as well as the discount):
A customer’s desire for a product is greater when others want them too. It’s the reason why you gravitate towards items other people are browsing in stores.
Psychologists would tell you that this is because of social proof. We implicitly like things that others like as well. You can take advantage of this quirk of human nature. Display how many other people are also browsing (or have just bought) items that your users are browsing.
This sparks competition and hints at the product’s desirability.
As a result, potential customers become worried about availability (scarcity at work) and driven to action.
NakedWines does this exceptionally well. You see an exact figure of the number of people who would order the product again. This not only acts as social proof (since these people have already ordered), but also promotes repeat purchases.
Customers follow what others are doing. Therefore, show them what others are buying from you in real-time to highlight social proof and create a fear of missing out.
Remember, you don’t have to display customers purchasing the exact same product.
Instead, you can simply notify them every time a purchase from your store is made. Not only will this be easier to show but you’ll be able to create an impression that your brand and products are in demand.
This subsequently leads to customers wanting to get their hands on it.
Check out this example from BBolder:
This tactic works particularly well for newer stores who need to create trust. If you can show potential shoppers that others are regularly buying your products, you create social proof, and thus, trust.
Email remains one of your most powerful marketing tools. It drives the highest ROI of all marketing channels, even more than search or content.
In fact, according to a study, promotional emails drove 25 percent of site visits.
Use email to target your existing customers and drive them back to your store by letting them know that it is their last chance to do something (for example, avail a great offer). These emails are effective as they generate curiosity and fear amongst the reader which leads them to open the email and take action.
Check out this example from Myntra:
The heavy discount piques the shopper’s interest, while the “last day today” acts as an incentive to act quickly.
Anticipation and urgency go hand in hand.
If you get customers to anticipate the release of an upcoming product, their curiosity levels will build every day (especially if you tease them about it). When the product finally hits your store, this curiosity turns into urgency.
Try this: cap your initial release with a sale of limited stock.
This does two things:
It’s important to actually limit the sale of the product and not just create artificial scarcity. Else you risk customers distrusting you.
Check out this example from Rue La La:
Rue La La has a calendar of daily sales. Note the “Set Reminders” option in the bottom right.
People love following their peers.
Any indication that other shoppers have added the same item in their cart provides potential customers with social proof.
We saw earlier how you can create a stream of “X from Y bought Z” notifications to create this social proof. This tactic works the same way - you show that others are interested in your product. Unless a customer acts soon, there is a chance that the product might become unavailable soon.
This heightens their urgency to complete a purchase, which results in a mixture of a customer’s desire for a sense of belonging and their fear of missing out (i.e. loss aversion).
Check out this example from Booking.com:
The “1 person is looking at this moment” tag serves as a social proof. It also acts as an urgency indicator - if you don’t book quickly enough, the remaining rooms might become unavailable.
Amazon does this as well with its ‘Movers and Shakers’ list. This list includes all trending products, showing how demand has increased for a product.
Emotion drives action.
Nowhere is this truer than your product copy. How customers see your product - popular, cool, exclusive, etc. - depends on how you choose to describe it. One way to create urgency is to use urgency-focused copy in product descriptions. These are words that emphasize the limited availability of the product and the imperative to act quickly.
Here are some such words:
|Act Now||Clearance||Deadline||Don’t Delay|
|Don’t Miss Out||Final Close-Out||Hurry!||Last Chance|
For example, BeautyEncounter uses words like ‘Hurry’ to create a sense of urgency:
As an online store, urgency helps your visitors make faster decisions.
It targets their tendency to reduce risk and procrastinate decisions by striking at their fear of missing out, not being exclusive, and offering social proof.
There are a lot of ways you can create urgency. You can change how you offer free shipping, run promotions and create discounts. Everything from your product pricing to the design and copy of your product pages has the potential to impact your sales.
Here’s what you should take away from this post: