Creating a sense of urgency in your online store is a great way to give customers the same excitement that occasionally comes from traditional retail shopping.

But one reason why more and more are turning to online shopping instead of traditional in-store shopping is convenience. Everything about shopping from a website is so much more pleasant than going to any store.

You can do it in the comfort and privacy of your home. You don’t have to deal with traffic or mingling with other people when you don’t feel like it. You can do it right here, right now.

But there is a difference between brick and mortar stores and eCommerce sites: how much power you have as a store to close the sale.

In a physical store, you can have charming staff, bright and flashy promotions, and the added benefit of letting customers feel and hold items in their hands.

As an eCommerce site, how can you build that excitement, that anticipation, that sense of urgency?

Recapturing the Sense of Urgency

It’s that excitement and anticipation that we can attribute to the success of sales, promotions, and deals that both customers and stores love to have.

But how do you recreate the fun fare and excitement of an in-store promotion on a website where you have little to no direct interaction with the customer?

With certain proven techniques and tricks, any eCommerce site can recapture that sense of urgency and transpose it onto their website.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Why a sense of urgency is important for an eCommerce site
  • Various creative techniques for building this connection with your customer
  • How to adapt these techniques for your own site and audience

Sense of urgency: Sales and Deals

1) Daily Deals

Daily deals, today-only promotions, flash sales these short-time, 24-hour offers are the perfect way to incentivise your lurkers and potential customers into pulling their cards out and pressing that “Buy” button.

For this to work, the customer has to know that your promotion is limited to the 24 hours that you’ve set.

If you put up a 24-hour bargain that they still see the next day, not only do you lose your customers’ trust, but you also lose the sense of urgency created by any future daily offers.

How do you do this?

Create a section on your site that has your “Deal of the Day”, to further drive their impulses. This will also prove that the offer won’t last long enough for them to give it a second thought.

Amazon’s Today’s Lightning Deals are a great example.

sense of urgency amazon

2) Emphasize End of Sale Dates

Customers have a habit of getting excited about sales and then putting off the actual buying until the promotion is over.

The goal is to get your customer to make the purchase. And a good way to do that is to make sure that they have a clear idea of when the special offer will end.

Promote the deadline of your sale in the same place where you advertise it. If your promo ends on a certain date, make sure that your customers are aware of it. Airlines do this all the time.

limited time sale

3) Reward First X Purchases

It’s hard to say no to free giveaways, especially if we know they are exclusive and limited.

By offering your first 20, 50, or 100 buyers a certain product, a little gift or added reward, you instil the fear of missing out in all your impulsive potential buyers.

This Huawei deal is a perfect example.

free gift

4) “Coming Soon” Sales

Want to truly create that sense of urgency?

Partner it up with anticipation.

We all love brand new and limited-edition products. Which is why a great way to get to your customers is to tap into their anticipation, and it is just as bad as anxiety in some cases.

Tease them about your upcoming products, and give them a progressively bigger idea of what those products might be as the release gets closer.

And when you finally release the product, limit your stock numbers. This will build that anticipation to a max, and give that feeling of excitement to every buyer who gets one.

Rue La La’s website has a great Coming Soon section here.

coming soon

5) Sale Countdown Timer

Who doesn’t have a love-hate relationship with a clock? At one point or another, we’ve all been staring at the seconds ticking by, waiting for something to end or something else to begin.

Countdown timers have incredible psychological holds over us, which is why they work so well in creating the visual representation of our internal sense of urgency.

By adding a countdown timer anywhere on your site, you drive up action immediately. Place it as a banner beneath the product, or even on the landing page. It shows your customers that there is a very physical and real number that is slowly counting down.

And it plants that little touch of anxiety in their head.

This example from Allen Edmonds is sure to have earned them tons of extra sales.

final hours

Sense of urgency: Items and Stock

6) Limited Product Stock

Availability is a huge factor when it comes to the buying decision. By showing that your product has limited stock, your customers will naturally create their own deadline in their head, but this time without a specific date.

After all, who wants to lose out on a product just because they couldn’t make up their mind on a few bucks?

This is creating a sense of urgency through the idea that customers don’t have much time to make their choice since others might snatch it up before they do.

At Beauty Encounter, customers are encouraged to hurry up with a subtle yet effective “Hurry, low quantity!” message.

limited stock

7) Tag Out of Stock Products

You might be tempted to remove out-of-stock items from your product list just to keep it clean, or to avoid annoying customers who might want to buy them.

But keeping those products there with a faded out image and an “Out of Stock” tag actually helps drive more sales to your other products.

Why? One thing that we have to recreate with online shopping is the idea that other people are also looking around the store. This is something we can’t see on the internet.

By showing that other products are getting sold out, we feel that sales are high and activity is booming. A customer might miss out on something else they wanted.

Check out Flipkart’s perfume example:

out of stock

8) One-of-a-Kind Stock

One-of-a-kind products or exclusive products have their own inherent sense of urgency from their name alone.

By creating exclusive products, your store immediately becomes the one and only place where that item can be bought. And if you run out, every interested buyer is short on luck.

At BirchBox, they have a knack for working with popular influencers to fill their Special Edition make-up and skincare boxes.

Every different box is unique and exclusive, not to mention that it’s promoted by the influencers themselves. This means each box already has the audience ready to buy it.

Their exclusive tag is all they need to charge more.

exclusive ecommerce

9) Show Other Shopper Activity

There’s just something about knowing that other people are shopping in a virtual environment that makes a customer want to urge themselves along.

When you feel that other people are around you, you get that sense of urgency simply from their imagined presence and crowding.

Booking.com does this by showing how many other people are looking at the same deal. The service hints, those people might book your preferred dates before you do.

sense of urgency other activity

10) Send “Last Call” Emails

Like the last call at the end of every night in a bar, online shoppers can also be prompted into purchasing with last call or last chance reminders.

Don’t be afraid to send out SMS reminders to your subscribers, telling them about the quickly approaching end of your sale.

Why SMS and not email? The latest texting statistics show that while 82% of texts are read within 5 minutes, people only open 1 out of 4 received emails.

There’s some fantastic SMS software out there to help you leverage this underused marketing channel!

This example from Groupon includes a code that gives an extra discount.

sense of urgency last call

Sense of urgency: Your Customer

11) Custom Offers

By monitoring the customers’ activity on your site you can give them personalized discounts based on products they spent a long time looking at. Or if they choose to shop from a certain section, you can give them a prompt with a special discount card.

Forever 21 has a floating offer that only appears when a customer specifically chose the sale section, making them feel a little bit more special.

custom offer sense of urgency

12) Give Offers For Abandoned Carts

Did you know that nearly 70% of online carts are abandoned by virtual window shoppers?

This means that your store might only be getting 30% of the sales that it could potentially have from all interested customers. But many of them back out before the sale is done.

Capturing this reluctant 70% should be your number one goal.

So how do you create this sense of urgency?

Offer a limited time discount to customers who have abandoned their carts in the past.

When they revisit your site, prompt them with a discount on their next order which lasts for a short amount of time.

Miracas executed this perfectly.

sense of urgency abandoned cart

13) Make the Most Out of Pop-Ups

Pop-ups are a great way to literally get in your customers’ face. A simple but prominent pop-up can do wonders towards pushing the customer to the Buy button.

They immediately say whatever you want to say, forcing your customer to acknowledge that they know about your latest sale, deal, or promotion.

But here’s a tip: don’t go overboard.

If a customer sees a huge pop-up every time they visit your store, they’ll stop coming.

Here’s a great simple example from Mobly.

sense of urgency popup

14) Charity Donation Sales

Consumers these days are more socially aware than ever. But (of course) they still love to shop. If you can combine their shopping needs with their desire to contribute to the world, you can help customers kill two birds with one stone.

So partner up with a charity or an NGO. Let your customers know that a percentage of everything that you make from their purchases gets contributed to a cause that they would likely support.

For example, BoxLunch has a great promotion: “With every $10 you spend BoxLunch will help provide a meal to a person in need.” Simple, sweet, and socially conscious.

sense of urgency charity

15) Partner Discounts

The sooner you realize that most other stores out there aren’t your competition, the sooner you can start benefiting from partnering with them. People shop at multiple stores for various items.

If you know your customer demographic, then you can safely guess the other kinds of products they regularly buy.

Find the other stores or brands that your customers probably buy from and partner with them. To your customers, this is all just a bonus, something they would never expect. It makes them feel special since they know that you had them in mind.

It builds goodwill with them and establishes a long-term relationship, which is great for customer retention.

One great example of these partner discounts Pampers offering Mother’s Day coupons at certain partnered stores. The sense of urgency here comes from the holiday setting of the coupon.

affiliate referals

Sense of urgency: Extra Tips

16) Make the Most Out of Holidays!

Holidays come and go, and no one ever looked down on a store for making the most out of them!

And we’re not just talking about the obvious ones like Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Those are going to be just as crowded with promotions as every other sales season. Instead, try to branch out and be a bit more creative with smaller holidays.

For example, Chubbies offered awesome patriotic undies in the build-up to the 2016 4th of July.

holiday sale urgency

17) Write Amazing Copy

In this age of digital marketing and targeting techniques, it’s easy to forget the bread and butter of what could make or break a sale in advertising:

Some kickass copy.

Combine smooth and savvy copy with the copy that builds a sense of urgency. Use words like “Act Now”, “Last Chance”, and “Hurry”. This way, you can sell and excite at the same time.

For example, Crate & Barrel keeps it clean, crisp, and informative.

good copywriting

18) Floating Bar Promotion

A constant floating bar hovering over your customers’ web page is enough to keep the idea of the sale in their mind throughout their entire browsing experience. Keep it classy, small, and crisp.

On the other hand, make it too bright or loud, and it becomes annoying very easily.

A great example of a good-looking floating bar comes from Forever 21. They have a black bar at the top that serves as a reminder of their winter discount.

You can’t get rid of it, but why would you want to?

floating bar buy now

19) Limited Free Shipping

One of the easiest ways to drive that sense of urgency is to offer people a taste of your product with none of the downsides of online shopping: paying for shipping.

By offering a limited-time free shipping during your sale, you give your customers that extra push to pull the trigger. Let them experience the joy of receiving a package without paying for delivery, all for a limited time only.

At Bonobos, new customers get a short-time free shipping discount on their first order:

ecommerce free shipping

20) Reinforce Demand

Always reinforce the demand for your product. Whenever you get the opportunity, remind your customers that there are plenty of other shoppers just waiting to buy the products that they might be hesitating on.

These little reinforcements can be done in subtle ways, such as reminders of low stock on the homepage, in the cart, and displays of other shopper activity.

In the example below, you can see products already placed in the cart. But the sense of urgency is still being built with the reminder that there are only two left of the racerback tank product.

And it works!

Just think about it — how can they abandon their carts if they know that someone might pull the items out before they come back?

increase demand urgency

A sense of Urgency: Why Though?

After going through all this, you might still be asking yourself — why though?

You might believe that your site and your products should have enough merit on their own to drive sales.

And if they don’t, then you just have to improve, right?

But here’s the truth: your site is just one of thousands out there, and you need to do everything you can to get ahead of the crowd.

Closing every sale is the name of the game, and in a day and age where we can no longer charm our customers with personable salesmen in our stores, we have to evolve and adapt if we want to keep playing.

With time-limited discounts, exclusive items, free shipping, great copy, and dozens of other small yet influential techniques, you can turn your average sale into the best sale you’ve had in years.

So what are you waiting for? Start building urgency right away.

Go. GO, GO NOW QUICK!

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Anastasia Svyrydenko

Anastasia Svyrydenko

Anastasia is a die-hard fan of live music, who spends much more on concert tickets than she should. When she’s not arguing who’s better live - Depeche Mode or Radiohead - you can find her crafting a content piece for @textmagic.