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Article first published May 2013, updated March 2019

Note: This technique may not work in Gmail due to their image caching.

There’s nothing like a countdown timer to add a little urgency to an email, especially one promoting an event like an office party or concert tickets going on sale.

And, with a little HTML code knowledge, they’re easy to create and use.

Big brands have long featured countdown timers and clocks in their email campaigns, like the following examples from Style Campaign and Moveable Ink.

This technique generally involved using dynamically-generated images, which can be technically tricky. However, that standard has changed with Gif Countdown by Mathias Pettersson, which can be used to create clever timers like this:

However, that standard has changed with Gif Countdown by Mathias Pettersson, which can be used to create clever timers like this:

Image source: Make a Gif

The example above wasn’t created using any JavaScript or code. It’s simply a GIF image that ticks down for 2 minutes, and it’s ideal for adding to email messages.

Adding an email countdown timer to your campaign

To get started, visit Gif Countdown and customize your countdown timer to suit.

There are some nice options available, allowing you to adjust things like the time zone and colors. However, at present, you can’t remove their subtle branding.

Once you’re happy with the result, copy the image URL.

You’ll be using this to add the timer to your content, either via the campaign’s HTML email code or the email editor. Read on to learn about both methods.

Adding the timer to your HTML code

If you’re cutting and coding an email newsletter from scratch, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with adding images. The following example shows what the countdown timer HTML embed code for email will look like:

<img src="http://gifcountdown.com/australia-sydney/1380016800/fdfdfd/474747/fdfdfd/333333/ffff00/true/counter.gif" />

Note that it is possible to download the image and zip it up with other image files. However, this would make the timer “stick” at the time of download, and the time zone feature would no longer work.

Also, the standalone file size comes out to be quite large (~450k), and there seem to be timing issues with the animated GIF when doing this.

Unless you’re sending to a large subscriber list, streaming from their server seems to work well.

Adding the timer via the email editor

Adding an image to any <multiline> editable region is also possible if you’re comfortable with adding code to the <source> view.

A word of warning

It’s worth keeping in mind that GIF Countdown, like many free services, is supplied as is, so there’s no guarantee that it will remain rock-solid when asked to serve images to a large number of subscribers.

Also, keep in mind the earlier caveats in regards to downloading and hosting the image yourself, as there could potentially be an issue with the image not displaying in IE10.

Be sure you give this technique a thorough test before relying on it in your campaigns.

Many thanks to Mathias Pettersson and support hero Stig for suggesting this fun technique.

Why should you use a countdown timer in email marketing?

Utilizing countdown timers in your email marketing campaigns will help you to increase your sales, connect with your audience members, and advance your brand.

Obtaining more sales

A previous report showed that emails sent to customers with a countdown timer had at least 14% higher conversion rates and 59% transaction rates.

People feel like they might miss out on a great deal and MUST purchase, attend, or interact with whatever it is their email is counting down towards.

Connect with customers

When your emails receive more interactions from your customers, you will be able to analyze why they are interacting with the content sent to them.

For example, if every email you send out with a countdown timer has high open rates (based on your email findings), you can tell that your customers love feeling like they’re getting a great deal within a specific time period. Some studies indicate that emails promoting specific products may have higher conversion rates than emails promoting events, so you may want to send out more emails that promote last-minute products.

Advance your brand

Countdown timers are created and displayed appropriately in your customers’ inboxes using an email countdown timer code. Although technology has advanced and you don’t need a computer science degree to create countdown timers anymore, elements that use advanced-coding techniques take time to create.

Emails that utilize advanced items like countdown timers and thoughtful designs will further promote your brand because people will see and appreciate the work put into them.

More countdown timers in the wild:  examples of real-life brands using countdown timers

Read on to see how real-life companies use countdown timers in their email campaigns to increase customer urgency and sale conversions.

Harry’s

Read on to see how real-life companies use countdown timers in their email campaigns to increase customer urgency and sale conversions.

Source: Milled

Read on to see how real-life companies use countdown timers in their email campaigns to increase customer urgency and sale conversions.

Source: Really Good Emails

DataCamp

Read on to see how real-life companies use countdown timers in their email campaigns to increase customer urgency and sale conversions.

Source: Really Good Emails

Sole Trader Outlet

Read on to see how real-life companies use countdown timers in their email campaigns to increase customer urgency and sale conversions.

Source: Campaign Monitor

Pretty Little Thing

Read on to see how real-life companies use countdown timers in their email campaigns to increase customer urgency and sale conversions.

Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

Email campaigns are created to communicate promotional information to subscribers via emails over a period of time.

By utilizing advanced features and designs in your emails, subscribers will be more inclined to click through them to see what these urgent deals are all about, rather than waiting until later.

With an email countdown timer, you can:

  • Increase your click-through rate
  • Increase your interaction rates
  • Boost engagement

If you use a countdown timer in your email campaigns, please feel free to post a link to it in the comments below.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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