Urgency Messaging Improves Your Conversion Rate

Urgency Messaging Improves Conversion Rate - Buttons On Keyboard

A few years ago no one was really using exit intent overlays – now they’re everywhere. As annoying as they are we wouldn’t be using them if they didn’t work. The adoption of urgency messaging hasn’t yet been so widespread. Given some of the positive test results I’ve seen from using this in the right way I predict it will become more and more popular in the coming months and years.


What is Urgency Messaging?

Simply put, urgency messaging is any content on a page that indicates an offer, product or service is only available for a limited time. It could be as simple as adding a line of text that indicates when an offer “expires” or it may be a much more elaborate countdown timer. Urgency messaging can be a great tool to use when optimising your landing pages too.

Yesterday I was browsing an SEO site to learn how to speed up wordpress. When I moved my mouse cursor to try to exit the page I was presented with the following exit intent overlay which also included urgency messaging:

Urgency Messaging Combined With Exit Intent Example

There are many different forms that urgency messaging can take. I’m sure you’ll have come across some, if not all of the following:

  • Available while stocks last
  • Tickets held for 15 minutes
  • Only 4 seats left at this price
  • Offer expires on day/month/year
  • Low stock (or ‘Only x remaining’)
  • Order before 10pm to receive tomorrow
  • Join for free ONLY today!
  • Checkout now before these deals expire
  • Prices may increase soon


Why does Urgency Messaging work?

FOMO (fear of missing out) is something we all at least occasionally fall captive to. None of us want to find out that we could have bought something cheaper or of better quality for the same price or had a superior level of service had we acted sooner. When we’re presented with some form of urgency messaging this focuses the mind on the task at hand and helps us make a quicker decision. Note that we don’t necessarily make a “better” decision when we think or act fast – in fact Navy Seals are taught Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. This is where urgency messaging can work in our favour. When forced to make a quick decision FOMO kicks in. More often than not we’ll choose to act/purchase now rather than miss out – even if it costs us money or time.


Urgency Messaging in Travel

I’ve run a number of different AB tests to find optimal ways of presenting urgency messaging in order to improve sales conversions. Sometimes a small tweak to the design or urgency messaging can make a BIG difference to conversion.

A large well known travel website was where I ran my first urgency messaging test. We introduced a perception that the customer had to checkout in a certain time period or they may miss out. In reality there was no such time limit on the back end systems. We were merely providing a visual cue to give the impression that this was the case. A bit sneeky you might say – but it got some great results. We simply added the following countdown timer and messaging to the top right hand side of the page (above the booking details summary) on the payment page and also added it to the bottom right hand corner near the checkout button:

Urgency Messaging Countdown Timer

The countdown timer was set to start at 10 minutes and then if/when zero was reached it would simply disappear. This change alone (it was run as part of a larger MVT) yielded a statistically significant positive uplift of 1.65% which for this high transaction site equated to hundreds of thousands of pounds in additional quarterly revenue.

Airlines have also nailed the urgency messaging game. EasyJet highlight how many seats are remaining and also use the word ‘Hurry’ to add to the sense of urgency:

Urgency Messaging Limited Seats Available - Easyjet


Urgency Messaging in Retail

We ran another successful urgency messaging test on a major UK retailer’s website. For one of their multi-day sale events we simply inserted a countdown timer for the last few days of the even on the product details pages:

Urgency Messaging Sale Countdown Timer

This test also resulted in a strongly significant uplift for the retailer which was highly lucrative. Test iteration is key in these scenarios – don’t just settle for a good result – refine the idea and always try to improve the result. We did this with this client and in most (you can’t win every time) follow up tests we saw a positive improvement.

Another way to use urgency messaging is the reverse of the above example. Rather than a countdown to the end of a sale you can create a sense of excitement and build-up by counting down to the start of a sale. Flash sale sites like Cocosa for example do this quite well:

Urgency Messaging Countdown To Start Of Sale - Cocosa

Another good example of urgency messaging is to combine a coupon code with a countdown. This limits how long a retailer needs to offer a discount for. It also maximises the sales for that limited period. Modcloth employ this tactic:

Urgency Messaging Coupon Code - Modcloth


Combining Urgency Messaging With Other CRO Tactics

The above example is a good segue into our next tip. Where possible try to combine urgency messaging with another CRO tactic. The above example shows how Modcloth combines coupon codes with urgency messaging (and most likely email marketing too). We also started this post with an example of combining urgency messaging with an exit intent overlay.

Hotel websites such as Booking.com often use social-proof messaging and combine it with urgency messaging to end up with a message like this: ‘Booked 6 times in the last 6 hours’. A hotel is highlighted in such a way to be both popular and scarce. Here’s how Booking.com present this:

Urgency Messaging Combined With Social Proof - Booking.com


Urgency Messaging For Different Business Sectors

Any industry can use urgency messaging to improve conversion rates. The finance sector can use it to highlight key dates in the calendar for certain products. A good example would be to leverage the ISA allowance date to sell more ISAs. Urgency messaging can also be used in utilities (energy) to remind a customer when their energy tariff is coming to an end. The customer is then encouraged to renew with them rather than shop around and switch to another energy provider.



If you’ve not started testing urgency messaging on your website then decide now to add this to your AB testing roadmap. It’s often simple to do (at least in one form or another) and the rewards can be extremely beneficial.


Published on May 5th, 2017

Author: Phil Williams

Phil is the founder of CRO Converts. He has had the opportuntity of creating successful testing and personalisation strategies for many of the UK and Europe’s leading brands.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn
  • Sandeep Shah
    Posted at 08:34h, 06 May Reply

    Great article, Phil.

    The only thing I’d add here, is the idea of persistance. The methodology has been proven to work, as many others do, but it’s the job of the CRO professional to learn how best to apply it for their market, and their audience.

    There needs to be a series of ideas to fill up a roadmap – one of them will most certainly pay dividends.

    • Phil Williams
      Posted at 21:06h, 08 May Reply

      Thanks Sandeep – very good point. Often we give up too easily. Persistence certainly pays off in CRO just as as it does in traditional sales.

Post A Comment