It’s a well-known fact that sense of urgency drives potential buyers to make the purchase on the spot.
Let’s take a look at 2 of the all-time classic lines used by car salesmen.
“What do I have to do to get you into a car today?”
“I don’t know if I can do that, but if I could, would you buy this car today?”
The reason these lines have been used so consistently for so long is related to human psychology. Most buying decisions, especially big purchases, are driven not only by logic but also by emotion. Car salesmen understand that the chances of a customer returning to a dealership to buy a car he/she test drove previously are abysmal. They realize that their best, and possibly the only, chance is to close the deal now!
So instead of belaboring that point further, let’s look at the top techniques for creating urgency online. I’ll then show you how to use them to convert your website visitors.
Here are the top ways to use urgency to increase conversion rate:
Limited Time Deal (Deadline Driven)
One age-old sales tactic is to incorporate the phrase ‘For a Limited Time Only” or a symbol (countdown timer) that’s synonymous with urgency in order to attract buyers.
But why does this work so well? This strategy is the equivalent to waving a red flag in front of a bull; it triggers a psychological reaction in consumers to leap at the opportunity before the promotional period disappears.
Groupon is notorious for using urgency to drive sales. All of the deals on the site are only available for a limited time. What does that translate to for shoppers? That if they don’t hurry up and click ‘buy’, they’ll miss out on the sale and likely won’t have another chance since the deals are frequently updated.
Notice the explicit ‘urgency markers’ located in the left side bar. Below the ‘Buy!” button (call-to-action) is a section detailing the products value, discounted percentage and total dollar amount saved. The psychology behind this is that it forces the shopper to focus less on the amount they’re spending ($36 in the example below) and more on the amount they’re saving–in this case $54.
Below that category is where the pressure really kicks in. Shopper are constantly remind of the time elapsing with a timer that counts down to the seconds! And once the online deal expires, it’s gone.
Urgency works hand-in-hand with scarcity, as Groupon also highlights.
On the same sidebar they have a slider which adjusts based on the number of deals bought. As the image below shows, there’s a cap at 50 so once that number is reached or the time expires, the deal ends. When there’s an overabundance of something, people are generally less compelled to buy it.
Read this research journal by Edward P. Lazear to learn more about the concept of Retail Pricing and Clearance Sales.
In recent months, this retail heavyweight has even partnered with Snapchat to add additional urgency through our mobile devices.
Priceline uses a variation of this technique for its Express Deals, which allow you to circumvent the process of bidding for a hotel room and instead opt for a room at discounted rate at the last minute. It highlights the fact that the Express Deal prices are only available for a limited time.
Urgency Inducing Web Copy and Colors
Urgency is used as the driving force in effective and persuasive sales copy in addition to other elements of online marketing. Adding the urgency factor to your product or promotional offer can be as easy as incorporating a few key words like:
|Last Chance||One Day Only||Ends Today|
|Don’t Delay||Limited Time||Deadline|
|Don’t Miss Out||Offer Expires||Act Now|
In combination with the right colors, the effect can be further amplified. The color red has many psychological connotations, among those being a heightened sense of urgency or requiring immediate attention.
In this A/B test conducted by Joshua Porter, he set out to determine which call-to-action button color would perform better with site visitors: green or red? Without changing any of the copy, the red button outperformed its green counterpart by an astounding 21%.
There’s overwhelming research to support the inherent power of red—on and offline. A study conducted of Olympic competitors found that those who wore red had an advantage over evenly matched opponents wearing blue. University of Durham researchers Robert Barton and Russell Hill “find that wearing red is consistently associated with higher probability of winning,” the reason being our “hard-wired perceptions.”
Deadline for Express Shipping
During the holiday season it’s common for people to procrastinate till the very last minute and sites like Amazon are well aware of this trend. Features like express shipping allow the average consumer to indulge in procrastination yet still get their gifts in time to celebrate.
When you select a product you’ll be shown the various shipping speed options (local express, standard, one-day, two-day, etc.) and the date in which it would arrive with each one of those options. For example, it might say something like:
“Guaranteed Delivery Date: Dec. 25, 2014 — If you order in the next 12 hours and 55 minutes…”
By reiterating the short time frame before Christmas, it encourages shoppers to select express shipping over the standard delivery method which can take up to a few weeks.
Retail stores like Macy’s employ similar strategies to encourage higher priced shipping options. Even well before the date nears, they make sure to post a shipping with a clear “order before date” column to receive your items before Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.
Price increase after a certain date (introductory/early bird pricing)
Have you ever noticed how prices tend to increase the closer you get to an event or as you near the end of a time period? Early bird pricing, for example. They’re called early bird for a reason; you are only entitled to the special pricing if you purchase before a specified date/time. And after you exceed that time frame, the special is no longer available. These types of offerings are incredibly effective at encouraging users to register for an event quickly. So much so, that nearly every conference in the world (Pubcon, ClickZ, SXSW, TNW, etc.) utilizes this incentive system.
Let’s use TNW Conference USA as an example. Notice the language used in the ad ‘Last Call’, and ‘sale ends today’ to convey the utmost sense of urgency. If you miss out on this window, you’ll have to pay a ticket price $150 dollars more— exactly want consumers want to avoid.
Adobe implements a similar introductory pricing structure for their line of photo editing programs. You’ll see their Black Friday Special is reserved for new customers only and comes with the complete suite of programs and features. In fine print there’s also a section that states, “Limited-time offer. Purchase by November 28, 2014.”
Exit Intent offer, usually combined with enticing Bundle deals
Exit overlays, powered by exit-intent technology, basically tracks your visitors movement throughout your sight and right before they’re about to abandon your site, it launches a pop-up window with a promotional discount to reel them back in. They’re effective for the following reasons:
- They counteract The Paradox of Choice
- Reduce the tendency to over-analyze a decision
- Last chance to motivate the user before they leave completely
- Provides an additional page view
In one case study, Yes-Downloads optimized their page by adding an exit overlay and saw an 80% increase in conversions! On the overlay, they used “attention-driven design principles” and including ‘insider tips’ as an added incentive within the bundle.
In the same way, product sites can entice shopper to remain on the site by offering lucrative bundles if they make the purchase that day.
Special Seasonal Promotion (Often tied to a holiday)
We all love seasonal promotions and in many ways we’ve been conditioned to. Take a look at How Starbucks Turned Pumpkin Spice Into A Marketing Bonanza. The coffee giant has sold more than 200 million of these luxury lattes since they were first introduced over 10 years ago and wouldn’t you know it, they are only available during the months of October and November.
“There’s always so much excitement and anticipation for the return of Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Latte each year, and it has become our most popular seasonal beverage of all time,” said Cliff Burrows, group president, Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). “We hear from our customers year-round that drinking their first Pumpkin Spice Latte is when they know fall has arrived.”
Not only do seasonal promotions give consumers something to look forward to throughout the year and generate excitement, but they create a perception of value because they’re not available all the time.
Urgency related to perceived scarcity of Inventory
Drawing off of the last section, urgency is very much related to the perception of scarcity. Hotel websites are skilled at creating the illusion of scarce accommodations. What’s more, these sites have a few elements which combine the principle of “social proof” to both validate and show the popularity of a given venue. On Hotels.com, a listing for the Impala Hotel, Miami Beach shows that it was last booked 1 hour ago and a total rating of 4.3/5. Other elements on the page indicate the number of rooms left and the savings off the original price–both elements which entice the user to book fast!
Mystery sale and flash sale
Mystery and flash sales are an incredibly lucrative sales tactic. They generate hype and excitement because they’re a complete surprise to customers. Companies like Gap sporadically host these flash sales among other year-round promotions but some websites have found success by dedicating themselves entirely to this limited-time sales model. You may have heard some names like Gilt Groupe, Zulily, and Rue La La. Zulily in particular made headlines for garnering a following of over 2.2 million customers and a larger than life IPO.
Offer special deals to first time visitors
Research suggests that it takes more effort to engage and convert a first time visitor than a returning customers. Since no relationship exists between your site and a new visitor, a special deal/introductory coupon can help sweeten the pot and set the groundwork for a meaningful relationship moving forward. While this approach does have its benefits, existing customers can reap these same introductory benefits by deleting their computer’s cookies. Another common way to work the system is to use alternate browsers.
The same technique is used to encourage visitors to subscribe to a newsletters by offering a free eBook or How-to guide. For example, Ramit Sethi offers a free download for visitors who submit their email addresses.
Here again is the concept of urgency in play— after you submit your personal details a second window pops up with a 5-minute countdown time to confirm your subscription. Now customers are scrambling to their inbox so they don’t miss out on the free ebook.
Personalize your offer using geolocation elements to create urgency
To wrap up this post, the last point I want to cover is the efficacy of geo-targeting your visitors to drive urgency. You may not have paid particular attention to this element while browsing the web, but it’s really implemented frequently.
In his quest to find the perfect deal on ADT Security Plans, Avinash Kaushik stumbled upon several ADT reseller landing pages. Let’s take a look at the winner – Security Choice.
Notice on points #4 and #5, how the page identifies Avinash’s location (Mountain View Area) and even indicates the store hours of the ADT Branch closest to his home. This convenient feature not only alerts the visitor that ADT is available in their neighborhood but it saves the user time by indicating the store hours.
Another geo-location element on this page that helped Avinash with his decision is the point # 11. It shows you the FBI crime data for your ZIP code, which in turn creates the urgency to order the security system. On a side note, Mountain View is much safer than most South Florida neighborhoods, including mine:-(
As we’ve demonstrated, ecommerce businesses can leverage the effects of urgency in a number of unique ways to increase conversions and propel visitors to make faster decisions.
Do you know any additional ecommerce tactics that utilize urgency? Share your thoughts below!