Resources Hub » Blog » How Using a Countdown Timer in Email Can Improve Conversions

Email marketing stands as one of the most effective forms of marketing for large and small businesses alike. Email consistently puts your message in front of your target audience—customers who’ve requested to see your content in their inboxes.

The ability to quickly test and alter your methods sets email marketing apart as one of the most straightforward strategies—and obvious go-tos—for marketers. With the advent of interactive emails and the countdown timer email, emails have become fun for customers to open, and are becoming a more convenient means of shopping and applying discounts to their purchases. Since everyone loves a shortcut, ease of use is a significant factor in the effectiveness of email marketing.

The countdown timer—what is it?

A countdown timer is used to create a sense of urgency and to persuade a customer to take immediate action. By giving the impression of scarcity and setting a deadline for your customers, they’re more likely to take action.

You’ve seen countdown timers used in marketing schemes before, maybe without even realizing it. They appear on landing pages and websites during sales or events and are often used on television (like shopping networks). Countdown timers are typically placed front and center but are often quite subtle.

Time-based scarcity as a method of marketing psychology is incredibly effective. By adding countdown timers to your email marketing strategy, you’ll instill a sense of urgency and scarcity (FOMO) through highly targeted content, delivered directly to your ideal customer.

5 tips for using a countdown timer in emails

The purpose of a countdown timer is to improve conversions and increase sales. Consider these five factors when using a countdown timer in your emails:

1. Be honest about the timeline.

Creating a sense of urgency is useful for improving conversions, but always be honest about your offer—and its deadline—when using a countdown timer in your emails. You’ve worked hard to earn your customer’s trust. Using fake deadlines for the sake of the sale will alienate your customers, and your company will lose credibility.

2. Be clear about the offer.

Clarity should always be a priority in any marketing campaign. When using a countdown timer in an email marketing campaign, the offer must be stated very clearly for the customer. Provide information that helps the customer and encourages them to meet a deadline. Too many details—or multiple offers—will confuse the customer and may even cause them stress. Keep it to one offer and one countdown per campaign.

3. Don’t overdo it.

Use countdown timers sparingly. They’re fun and beneficial, but, if you start to use them in every email, or even for every sale, your customer may grow tired of the scheme. When a timer is used too often, it may begin to seem like a sales gimmick. Once again, you’ve worked hard to earn your customers’ trust. Countdown timers will be most effective when your customers can believe in the information they’re getting.

4. Keep it above the fold.

Like any critical piece of content, countdown timers should appear above the fold. The deadline is important to the customer, but, if it appears only after scrolling, the customer may be confused about the deadline’s legitimacy—or miss it entirely. Emphasize the urgency of the offer’s deadline by keeping the countdown timer front and center in your email campaign.

5. Position the CTA near the timer.

Simply announcing a sale and setting a deadline isn’t enough. The effectiveness of your countdown timer will ultimately depend on having a strong CTA. Position your CTA close to your countdown timer. Your customer should see how to act and when to act in the same section of your email.

5 examples of countdown timer emails

When used in emails, countdown timers should draw attention to your CTA, not distract from it. Keep the timer and CTA together—above the fold—and consider visual hierarchy, color psychology, and language—just as you would with a landing page or any other marketing campaign.

When the customer’s eye is drawn to the moving countdown and your CTA, they’ll be persuaded to act based on the information they gather from the surrounding content.
The following five examples show effective countdown timer emails in action.


Using a countdown timer to inform customers of contests, sweepstakes, or giveaways is an excellent way to get more eyes on your content. A countdown timer will instill a greater sense of urgency: “Act now to win.”

Suiteness’ contest email campaign uses a countdown timer to invite subscribers to join the contest ASAP.

Source: Really Good Emails


Many customers will clip coupons and then forget them in a pile on their countertop. A month later, they have a stack of expired coupons. By using a countdown timer email to send coupons to your customers—and making the email interactive so the customer can redeem the offer from their phone—you’ve increased your chances of conversion simply because of ease of use.

Starbucks has nailed this tactic. In this example, Starbucks includes a coupon in their email, with a subtle reminder of the coupon’s expiration date. The customer can show this email at the counter or save the coupon image to their phone.

 My Starbucks Rewards’ coupon email campaign with a coupon expiration date

Holiday sales

Countdown timer emails are often used to alert customers of holiday sales. The timer may inform your customer of when a new holiday sale is about to begin (like Black Friday or Cyber Monday). It can count down the days left to shop before a big holiday too (e.g., “You have 24 hours left to buy your wife a Christmas gift. Do it now.”).

Overstock holiday sales email counts down the days left to shop before a big holiday.

Source: Milled

Live events

Seminars, concerts, conferences, and conventions are time-sensitive events. A countdown timer email lets your customer know when tickets will be available, and how much time they have left to reserve a seat. The email may also offer the customer a discounted price when they purchase their tickets within a specific time frame.

Synapse’s live event email campaign counting down the days left to buy tickets

Source: Really Good Emails

Sales events

Companies often run sales of their own. Seasonal sales, inventory sales, and new product launches are frequent events that’ll require an email campaign. Using a countdown timer in your email to announce an upcoming sales event—or to count down the time left for a sale—is effective for improving conversions and increasing sales.

Primary’s sales event email campaign telling the reader that it’s the last day to claim a free hoodie

Source: Milled

How to create urgency with a countdown timer to improve conversions in 4 steps

Creating urgency and scarcity are tried and tested marketing methods that persuade customers to take action—and to do it quickly. When used appropriately, a countdown timer email can be incredibly useful.

Countdown timers give customers a clear, visual cue, telling them that the best way to get what they want is to act now.

Follow these four steps to create urgency in your countdown timer email:

1. Set a deadline.

Think strategically when setting your deadline. Don’t give your customers too much time to think about whether they want to act, but don’t make the deadline so short that it drives them away. When deciding on the duration of your countdown, remember to create urgency without causing stress.

2. Create scarcity.

Limited-time offers can boost sales by 226%. The customer must know when you have a limited quantity of the product or service you’re offering. If the product or service is limited in any way, then time is limited too. Include scarcity details in your copy and CTA to take full advantage of your countdown timer.

Harry’s offer free holiday shipping that ends in two days

Source: Really Good Emails

3. Use specific language.

Use urgent language in your email copy, especially in your header and CTA. Phrases like “act now,” “hurry,” “limited number available,” and “time-sensitive offer” are examples of active language that promotes your offer and creates urgency. The tone of your copy should be compelling, convincing the customer that, if they wait, they’ll miss out.

4. Include a strong CTA.

An effective piece of marketing comes down to having a strong CTA. Know what your customer wants and offer a solution. Be clear and concise in your CTA, making it easy for the customer to act and enticing them to act right away. Using phrases like, “shop now,” or “reserve your seat today” creates a sense of urgency and will motivate the customer to take action.

Wrap up

Using time-based scarcity in marketing is incredibly effective for improving conversions. Instill a sense of urgency and scarcity by using a countdown timer in your emails, delivering highly targeted content directly to your ideal customer.
Remember to:

  • Be honest about the timeline.
  • Be clear about the offer.
  • Use countdowns sparingly.
  • Keep it above the fold.
  • Position the CTA near the timer.

Master the art of creating an effective countdown timer email. Read our article, “How To Add A Countdown Timer To Your Email Campaign.

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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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