Let me guess, you clicked through to this article because you were worried that it will disappear after 24 hours, weren’t you? Instead of bookmarking the email you received or saving the link, you just had to click it now.
Well, guess what? That’s exactly how the Urgency Principle works. You feel the need to click on the link and consume the content because once it’s gone, you may not have access to one of the best conversion-boosting techniques there is. The pressure felt is called urgency.
One important thing that drives conversion is fear – the fear of missing out. Although customers need to be sure of what they’re purchasing in terms of quality and price, what really drives them to take action is time.
How long do I have before there’s an increase in the product’s price?
How short of a timeframe do I have before the content becomes unavailable?
What if they don’t get a chance like this again?
These are just some of the questions that can drive a person nuts, and would inevitably lead him to make a decision faster. We have all been at that point sometime in our lives.
The Psychology of Urgency
A lot of times, the best marketing strategies tap into how people think. To accomplish this, marketers need to understand how the human brain works and use it to change or influence how the audiences behave. It’s no wonder the greatest marketers have a good knowledge of human psychology.
One of the most relevant principles of psychology that can be applied to marketing is urgency. When used correctly, urgency serves as an essential tool in e-commerce and other online businesses to boost conversion, increase click-thru rates, and improve sales. This article provides insight into how the principle of urgency helps in boosting conversions and how to apply it correctly.
Urgency is a principle dependent on time and importance, that forces us to take action quickly as a result of worrying we might lose something.
Urgent activities demand immediate attention and are often the ones we attend to first because the consequences are immediate. A study conducted in 2018 and published by the Journal of Consumer Research showed that when unimportant tasks feature an illusion of expiration, people will most likely attend to them over more important tasks.
The principal of urgency taps into the human loss aversion, also known as the fear of missing out (FOMO). This fear is very evident in Millennials and Gen-Z.
Because as humans, when something is urgent, we are more likely to act on it. The fear of missing out describes a form of social anxiety that is defined by a desire to stay on point with what others are doing.
This principle remains true even when the urgency is created artificially, like in the case of an expiring sale when marketing. When people are faced with a limited time offer, they automatically begin to ponder on whether they would feel okay letting the opportunity pass by.
The process of buying is often broad, because people make use of different devices, search across different platforms and websites, and compare prices when making their buying decisions.
For many products, the actual buying process may take weeks or even months. The problem with this long buying process is that buyers may change their minds before they return to your site.
For this reason, many marketers try to hasten the decision-making process by compelling people to make purchases or take any other kind of action through the mere urgency effect.
A sense of urgency somehow adds importance to the offer.
If you can create a greater sense of urgency on your landing page, then you can successfully direct visitors towards conversion.
Urgency is a great way to optimize your conversion rate; however, for this principle to work, your product needs to be presented at the right time and at the right place. You also need to elaborate on how your audience needs to get it now and not any other time.
Although urgency begins with importance, what really drives it is time. You don’t just want people to act; you want them to act immediately. A delayed conversion can most times be regarded as a lost conversion, which is why words like ‘now’ are often used to pressure people to take action immediately.
When urgency is used strategically, it triggers purchases from regular and instinct-based buyers and gives rise to demands that would otherwise not have happened.
How To Create Urgency
The Principle of Urgency can be applied with almost any offer, product, or service. There are different ways to create a sense of urgency in your ad or landing pages. These are:
1. Express Scarcity
One of the most powerful driving forces of urgency is scarcity. In 2016, a study regarding human responses to perceived scarcity on fashion items was carried out, and it was shown that consumers exhibit the need to buy when they perceive something of short supply.
People tend to value an item more when it is regarded as being scarce, whatever the product may be.
Scarcity is so powerful that it could compel a person to purchase an item they don’t immediately need, all because the opportunity is limited.
Businesses are the ones who create scarcity. Website owners could demonstrate this force of urgency by highlighting the products that are running out, or by notifying consumers through email that an item they recently browsed is low on stock.
By intentionally limiting the amount of what is produced or delivered, manufacturers or marketers could significantly raise demand.
The aim of using the scarcity sales tactics is to let the consumers of your product know that they have been offered a limited deal, be it a short term discount or access to an in-demand product. When you present consumers with an opportunity they won’t always have access to, it urges them to act quickly, thereby shortening the buying decision process.
Marketers must, however, be careful not to create false scarcity as a desperate means to sell. Scarcity should not be generated on every single item in your product list, especially if you display all your products on your website that your customers can easily surf. If you do, they can easily spot your short supply offer as just a marketing strategy. This immediately tarnishes the image of your company.
This means that when using scarcity, make sure that:
- It is only for a single product or service; or
- Your landing page features a single offer and your customer will not have access to the rest of your offers.
Scarcity is more effective when a limited quantity is combined with limited time. You can also use a countdown of the number of stocks or slots available.
Examples of ways scarcity have been used to create urgency are as follows:
Amazon.com - Limited Offers
Amazon is, without a doubt, one of the biggest e-commerce stores today. Even though they are prominent in the sales industry, they still apply urgency tactics to cause consumers to buy faster.
Amazon presents a ‘Today’s Deals’ section at the top of their product page, where they display limited offers, along with product listings that show the amount of money your save to bring the price difference to light.
Amazon also lets consumers know that some of these products are available in limited quantities by displaying the percentage of the products that have been claimed. They also highlight items that have been sold out, giving their customers the impression that indeed, there is a limit to how many items are sold for a lower price.
This technique creates a sense of urgency in consumers without being too forceful.
Booking.com - Limited Rooms Available
Booking.com is a popular platform for booking accommodation across different parts of the world. An interesting tactic they use to shorten customers’ decision process is by displaying the number of unbooked rooms available for the chosen date range.
A consumer may be interested in a particular room but may want to explore their options more. When the consumer sees that there are only two rooms available, for example, the need to continue searching reduces.
Booking.com also tells consumers the number of people who are currently viewing the room. This gives you a sense of panic because someone might book the room ahead of you.
This “competition” tactic is a scarcity variation that prompts customers to take action even faster.
2. Make it Time-Bound
Remember our headline, “this post will be gone in 24 hours”? We made you feel that not reading this article NOW means you won’t be able to read it any other time. We used the Time-Bound technique.
There are two ways to add urgency using time, and these are:
A. By using compelling language
The use of time-related words is a popular way to drive conversions through urgency. There’s powerful psychology behind why people make purchases, and the use of the right language across your website and landing page can influence that behavior. As a website owner or affiliate marketer looking to drive conversions, you should use language strategically to urge visitors to accept your offer.
The right word stands as a bridge between a converting customer and a lost opportunity.
A compelling copy should be centered around words that create urgency. Some examples of urgent words include:
- X hours
- X Days
Timing words, when used as phrases or statements, push visitors to take action in the right direction of conversion.
Examples of compelling phrases include:
- improve sales today
- join while you still have a chance
- before it’s too late
It sounds effortless, but applying compelling language to your web page requires strategy.
The Hoth, for instance, created a landing page that offered a free ebook in exchange for the email addresses of their visitors. The Call to Action used was ‘Get Instant Access’ to encourage users, preceded by a brief copy that asked visitors if they wanted more traffic on their online stores without the need to buy ads.
The compelling language used was applied strategically to provoke a prompt response from visitors. E-commerce store owners would definitely be interested in getting more traffic, and the term ‘instant access’ tells them that the offer gives an immediate solution to their urgent needs.
Since there is no one compelling copy for all, many marketers carry out multi-variate testing to determine which text produces the highest conversion rates for their campaigns.
B. By using a countdown timer
A countdown timer, which can be defined as a virtual clock that counts down to a specific time or date, has a very effective way of intensifying the sense of urgency to accept offers on a landing page.
Seeing the time clearly displayed proves to prospective customers that the offer will not be available forever, and is more specific than merely saying the offer will only be available for a limited period.
A timer quickly ignites the fear of missing out and serves as an impulsive push visitors need to convert more on landing pages. When people come across your web page and see a ticking clock, they are more inclined to take action immediately.
Creating a countdown timer is pretty easy as most landing page builders come with a countdown widget. You could place a countdown timer anywhere it is required on your page, although it is always preferable to set it at a prominent space.
This virtual clock could be configured in different ways to suit your kind of landing page offer:
- It could countdown to a particular date and time and end with a zero display. An example would be a New Year Sale that lasts until December 31, 2020, at 11:59 pm.
- It could be made to renew itself daily. This can be used in instances where you want to offer a discount up to a particular time of the day, every day. An example would be discounted pizza until 10 am only.
- It could count down from the moment the user lands on your page and expires after a set time. For instance, a 75% discount offer for one hour only.
When using a standard countdown timer, it is important to stick with the deadline. If the offer goes on for too long, users get a longer chance to make a decision and may eventually decide against you.
An ideal countdown time would be a maximum of seven days because anything beyond that does not create urgency.
A typical instance of improper use of time urgency is during the sale of a program set to start three months away. Marketers should never make the mistake of setting a countdown timer to run for that long.
A better approach would be, to begin with, setting the timer for seven days and then making adjustments to the price each week until the program finally begins. Think about Early-Bird offers for events. Ticket prices are low while the event is still months away, but gets higher the closer the event date becomes. This uses the urgency principle even when what you’re looking forward to is still months away.
For timers that display individually for page visitors, the countdown time should be a maximum of 48 hours as anything beyond that would most likely have an impact on the buyer’s decision. Where a countdown timer is used to get leads, the timer could be set for only ten minutes to raise conversion rates. Ideally, the time you give prospects to decide depends on the cost of what you offer – the costlier it is, the more time is required.
After a timer ends, you could display the timer at zero along with an ‘offer ended’ message to make visitors feel like they’ve missed out. Make the CTA button inactive or greyed-out, and when they try to click, it would state that the offer has expired. This would make them jump on the next deal you offer.
Pro Tip: A popular technique many marketers use to boost conversion is by putting up another offer after a timer runs out.
Consumers are more inclined to take the second offer after they’ve missed out on the first as long as it's less than the retail price. However, make sure this is a different offer or at least present it as a different one. Avoid reducing the cost of your original offer after the timer runs out because the timer will immediately look like a scam.
An excellent example of where a countdown timer has been used effectively is during the Black Friday sales. Most business platforms displayed a countdown on special discounts, prompting consumers to act quickly. Often, a count down to the beginning of the Black Friday sales is also used to make visitors sign up in anticipation.
Also, keep in mind that if you have to keep the sale of a limited offer going, ensure you make it disappear for a period before bringing it back. If the customer leaves and comes back after the countdown time to see that the offer is still available, he will know that it won’t really disappear any time soon.
3. Tap on the Theory of Loss Aversion
Loss aversion describes the theory that human beings are more afraid of being deprived than they are happy gaining. Simply put, losing $20 would matter more than gaining $20 because the psychological pain of losing something is more intense than the pleasure of winning something.
What this means is that we humans are psychologically directed to react more in instances where we have something to lose, and this stands as a compelling logic to trigger a quick response from consumers. For this reason, most sellers make buyers believe that an offer is ending, even if it is not.
The aim of loss aversion is not always to take something away from customers or threaten to do so, but rather to use the knowledge of what they are afraid of losing to provide an attractive solution to avoid this loss. Most times, responses are triggered by using the right language to suggest the possibility of missing out on something.
There are several ways you could use loss aversion to boost your conversion rates, and they are as follows:
Giving free trials and samples
Giving out free trials are often taken for granted, but it has a huge psychological impact on consumers. Research has shown that human beings give higher value to items they own more than things that they do not.
Once consumers get to use your free trials or samples, they develop a sense of ownership towards your product, and at the end of the free trial or when the free sample is exhausted, they are urged to purchase more. More importantly, when consumers get to experience the full quality of your product for free, it becomes hard to let go.
The loss aversion psychological factor leaves users feeling a sense of urgency to subscribe or buy more of your products in order not to lose what they had, which in the end, boosts your conversion rates.
The use of coupons in marketing dates way back and is still commonly used today in both paper and digital forms. Coupons work more effectively than the traditional sales promotion method because it is something they know works and can imagine the consequences of losing.
E-retailers and affiliate programs make use of coupons on their websites and newsletters. When a limit or deadline is placed on coupons for specific offers, consumers are urged to act fast because they don’t want to lose the chance to get a discount.
In other words, coupons force people to make purchases quickly. An example is this landing page by Skip The Dishes – it offers 5% off the first order made by consumers for just their email and city, along with a call-to-action that clearly reads ‘Get my coupon.’ Visitors who come across this web page would feel the urge to place their first order to avoid losing a benefit.
Pre-order deals and early access
Pre-order deals and early access tap into loss aversion by offering bonuses and discounts, but most importantly, by providing exclusive access to a new product or service.
Exclusivity creates a sense of ownership that people want to keep. Providing the chance to be part of a select few individuals increases the perceived value of an offer, which is why consumers often find it hard to lose the chance to be part of an exclusive deal. This makes the offer feel "urgent".
An example of a landing page where early access was used to play on loss aversion is that of Tapster. On their landing page to bring awareness about their app that is about to be released soon, they combined an early access offer with a chance to be given VIP access.
4. Use colors to create urgency
Color is an essential aspect of marketing and is deeply connected with customer psychology. Understanding the psychology of colors is a powerful tool that marketers can make use of to predict customers’ responses based on the color of their copy, call-to-action, and links in a marketing message.
When you’re able to anticipate customers’ reactions to colors, you can use that knowledge to capture the attention of visitors and boost your conversion rate.
Colors play a significant role in online marketing, in the sense that it determines how well a visitor will enjoy their experience on your website. The color used on your landing page could either trigger visitors to take action or cause them to leave.
Different colors evoke different kinds of emotions in human beings, and by understanding the role that various colors play, you could use specific colors to ignite desired emotions in buyers. Some colors provide more positive results than others when used in advertising. For this reason, when you use the wrong colors on your web page, it can have a negative impact on the buyer’s decision-making process.
Some colors create more urgency than others, and they are as follows:
Red is a color customarily associated with an increased heart rate and a sense of urgency. Due to the feeling red creates in people, it is often used to make urgent sales.
This action-oriented color is most suitable for technology, food, transportation, or other niches that come with low risks. It may not do so well with niches like finance because products like that come with high risks, and customers need to feel warm and assured and not forced.
This color works well in calling people to action, such as getting visitors to commit to buying, selling, or subscribing. Orange, as a color, communicates ambition, confidence, and enthusiasm and is popularly used in healthcare, charity, and technology niches. This color may not work well for energy, finance, agricultural, or food niches.
Yellow easily evokes a feeling of energy and joy and serves as a great color to call users to action. Yellow also creates urgency in viewers and can be used as a tool to boost conversion.
Colors have a significant role to play in conversion rates. The colors mentioned above would serve as excellent call-to-action button colors and are bound to lead to higher conversion rates when used correctly.
According to HubSpot’s tests, the colors red, yellow, and orange work well in creating a sense of urgency that moves people to act. A switch from the color of a call-to-action button from green to red increased the website’s conversion rate by 21%.
5. Focus on Delivery Times
E-retailers can use the delivery time to urge users to take action. Highlighting the time they can get the product once they order can help trigger the fear of missing out and force them to take action immediately.
For instance, during the holiday marketing season or for some particular items, Amazon shows visitors when they need the item delivered to them if they place the order immediately, which could be same-day delivery or delivery on a specific date. When visitors see the time they will get the item, they feel the urgency to act quickly and make it happen.
Amazon made use of this tactic in the sale of the item below:
6. Send Abandonment Messages
It is not unusual for shoppers to get distracted during the process of checking out. Some e-commerce platforms try to prevent this by placing a countdown timer during checkout. Retailers can also create a sense of urgency to make users complete their buying process by sending them reminder emails letting them know that their carts will only be held for a limited amount of time.
You could send the first reminder within a few hours of abandonment so that they don’t lose interest in buying. The first reminder can then be supplemented by a reminder that the discounts on the products are expiring soon.
Most marketers send three reminders:
- Immediately after the customer left (a few minutes to an hour);
- A few hours after the customer left;
- A day or more after (one to three days, at most).
These reminders are sometimes coupled with the principles of scarcity (only X items left in stock), or time-bound (X minutes before your cart disappears), loss aversion (limited offer discount code), and more.
This tactic works because most buyers must have already invested a lot of their time in picking out the items, and not checking out in time would cause them to waste their items and hence their time – and nobody likes to lose their time.
An article published by The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, discusses which between time and money rules consumer choices. It showed that humans find losing time more painful than losing money because time is more scarce than money. Once the time is lost, it can never be regained.
Therefore, the thought of losing all the time invested in shopping often helps buyers get over the pain of spending. A reminder simply helps to push them over the line to complete the conversion.
Use the Principle of Urgency Wisely
Urgency is something many people cannot help but react to because it makes them feel uncomfortable to miss out on a (perceived) great opportunity. For this reason, the use of urgency in marketing is bound to produce some powerful results; whichever way you choose to implement it.
Although this principle is an old concept, many online marketers don’t fully utilize it to their advantage. Strategically using urgency can have a remarkable effect on your conversion rates as you would have a psychological upper hand.
For more effective results, urgency should be used moderately. Pressuring customers all of the time is not the ideal way to go about it.
If potential customers see that there is always a special offer available at every point, the urgency will lose its effect because they will eventually realize they could always make a purchase whenever they want and still get a benefit. This will weaken your marketing strategy and either reduce your conversion rate or leave it stagnant.
Use urgency periodically when you genuinely have limited offers, and never fall into the temptation of deceiving your customers just to make some profit.
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