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Here’s How To Create A Sense Of Urgency On Your Website

by Andrey Milyan September 11, 2017

Urgency is a powerful force in our human psyche. Even when we know we are likely being manipulated into a false sense of urgency, it is a primal instinct that is difficult to overcome. That is exactly why it is one of the most powerful tools for savvy marketers who understand human behavior.

I’d like to turn you into a master of urgency by sharing the following 5 techniques you can deploy on your own website today:

1. Communicate Scarcity

Simply put, if you know there is a limited quantity of something, you value it more. This is the exact same principle luxury brands operate on. The more people you see wearing CHANEL, the less exclusive it is going to feel owning one of their luxury products. Applied differently, it also creates a fear of missing out.

In ecommerce, booking sites are masters of creating urgency. Here is some of the ways Expedia does it on their website.

Expedia scarcity example

First, they tell you that there is a limited number of tickets available at the current price. Notice that it doesn’t mean that there are only 5 seats left on this flight. All they are saying is that there are 5 seats left at this particular price.

Second, Expedia also adds a note in the corner that shows a number of people shopping for San Francisco flights. While this does not directly communicate that the tickets are running out, many people looking at the same flights as you implies that the tickets are going fast.

Another good example is Amazon and their Prime Day discounts. They set an artificial limit on the number of orders at a discount price and show you a progress bar for each product. Whatever you may think of their presentation, Amazon accounts for 43% of all online retail sales so they know a thing or two about running a promotion.

If you are selling something with a limited quantity, be explicit about it and specify the amount left. Note that it doesn’t have to be entirely accurate to have the desired effect. If you’re in the business of selling something like software, you can still create scarcity by limiting the number of downloads at a particular price during a promotional period.

2. Introduce Limited Edition Products

This technique is directly related to the scarcity principle. If the product you sell is not limited in quantity, create a unique, limited time variation. It could be a different color, packaged differently or co-branded with a partner.

One company that does this well is Lokai. They create limited editions of their bracelets which, in practical terms, only involve changing the color of the product. The colors are typically available for a limited time and tend to sell out very quickly.

lokai limited edition example

3. Set Specific Deadlines

Many companies use the terms “act now” and “hurry” without supporting them with any sort of deadline. If you are running a promotion, set a specific deadline and communicate it clearly to the consumers on your website.

In order for this to work effectively, it is better to run break up your promotional campaigns into shorter runs. For example, run 2 one-week sales instead of one 2-week-long promotion. In some cases, you can extended the special offer. Just be careful not to do it too often and lose credibility with your audience.

4. Add a Countdown to Your Checkout Flow

Few things instill a sense of urgency quiet like a ticking clock. This approach works well in combination with a coupon code, where the countdown starts as soon as the coupon code is applied.

Below is an example from Ticketmaster. They are pretty aggressive with their countdown and only give a few minutes to proceed.

Ticketmaster countdown

The amount of time you give your site visitors to checkout will vary based on the complexity of your product, the length of your checkout flow and your audience. In some cases, too much pressure could backfire and lead to higher checkout abandonment. However, after testing many variations, 30 minutes or less seems to work best for most websites.

5. Run De-escalating Discounts

This is an interesting approach that I’ve learned from one of my clients. Here is how it works. You start with a discount offer (let’s say 20% off) and lower it in specific time increments according to a set schedule. In a few hours the discount goes down to 19%, then 18% and so on. You get the idea.

It’s a powerful tactic but it only works if your audience understands the rules of the game. Use a dedicated landing page, social media and email to educate your prospects on the structure of this type of promo campaign.


Now that you understand how to use urgency to your advantage, go ahead and test these tactics on your website. You’ll see a meaningful improvement in your conversion rate just in time for the holiday season.

If you are looking to learn more about website optimization and CRO, check out my articles on typical ecommerce website mistakes and 3 powerful ways to optimize your website forms.

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