6 Ways to Use Countdown Timers on Overlays

By Chester Ollivier • Last updated: Wednesday May 1st, 2024


Have you ever been on a site and immediately seen a timer which tells you how long you have left until you no longer qualify for free or same day delivery, or how long is left until a discount runs out?

When you’re spending a huge percentage of your budget on driving traffic to your website, it can be increasingly disheartening when visitors aren’t buying there and then. 

Getting traffic to your site is only half the battle, once they arrive you need to engage them and capture their interest. One of the most powerful ways to do that is by leveraging the fear of missing out in the form of countdown timers.

And where better to grab a visitor’s attention than in an Overlay

The obvious advantage of using countdown timers is the sense of urgency that they create, but they can also be used to announce a number of things, such as the end of a sale, new arrivals, big events and free delivery deadlines.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can use countdown timers in Overlays to encourage sales and reduce basket abandonment.

End of a Sale

One of the primary features of countdown timers on Overlays is to signal the end of a sale. 

The reason this works is that it creates a sense of urgency, particularly if you use an animation of a ticking timer or a clock, an actual symbol of time passing.

This is because 90% of the information which is transmitted to the human brain is visual, so it is an easy way to use urgency to drive action.

Further, visual animations are also processed thousands of times faster than still images.

Another example of countdown timers creating a sense of urgency is in an experiment undertaken by Dutch eCommerce agency, De Nieuwe Zaak, where they found that the presence of a timer alone created an 8.6% increase in conversions.

People don’t want to miss a bargain – hence countdown timers being the perfect tool to prompt them into action so that they are more likely to go ahead with purchasing.

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New Arrivals – What Are We Counting Down For?

The arrival of new stock in an online store is a great opportunity for eCommerce sites to use countdown timers via Overlays.

For instance, if a company is launching a new clothing line, they can implement a countdown timer which in addition to creating a sense of urgency, also creates a sense of FOMO (Fear of missing out).

Building suspense is a key part of enticing visitors to your site – and by using a countdown timer to promote new stock is a fantastic way to do so.

The timer, in creating a sense of urgency, also helps to promote new arrivals to your store, and in turn, increase sales.

By creating this intrigue in new arrivals, customers are also directed to the checkout quicker, meaning their navigation through your site is made easier as well.

The display of new stock through countdown timers also gives customers a reason to return to your site – particularly if they associate your site with constant new arrivals being advertised as soon as they visit your website.

Reduce Cart Abandonment Rates

Cart abandonment is a major factor that affects eCommerce sites everywhere.

Major factors for cart abandonment include a long and confusing checkout process (in comparison to Amazon’s one-click checkout option); unexpected fees and shipping costs, and major website performance issues.

Yet cart abandonment rates can be dramatically reduced with the simple implementation of countdown timers.

For example, as we have already discussed, countdown timers can be used to signify either the start or end of a sale.

Yet they can also help with cart abandonment at the same time – if someone has a timer reminding them that their offer will expire if they do not complete their purchase in, for example, ten minutes, then they are automatically more inclined to buy immediately.

This particular usage of countdown timers is more useful for items that can be classed as ‘spontaneous’ purchases: customers are more inclined to spontaneously buy a jumper (for instance) than they would a sofa. 

Hence, the use of countdown timers can help decrease a high cart abandonment rate.

Big Events & Countdown Timers: Do We Really Need Them?

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Black Friday, Christmas: they are all gold mines and huge opportunities for eCommerce sites.

Obviously events like Halloween and Christmas Day are on the same days every year, but countdown timers can still be utilised.

For example, a countdown timer highlighting the order deadline for Christmas deliveries benefits customers and businesses alike: from the customers’ perspective, they know they will get their delivery in time for Christmas, and from the businesses’ view, it means that their countdown timer has potentially stopped a customer from going elsewhere to purchase a gift.

For events like Mother’s Day, for instance, the date itself changes almost every year, which means that a countdown timer is even more useful.

Similarly to the Christmas countdown example, a countdown timer for Mother’s Day also highlights the run-up to the event, but in turn also acts as a reminder for when it is, thus encouraging customers to order in advance.

By using a countdown timer for Mother’s Day, it can help create the sense of urgency mentioned above – and this especially helps, as the percentage of people buying Mother’s Day gifts online this year saw an increase of 3.6% from 2020, despite being on the verge of a national lockdown last year.

Unlike instant reminders, like the clothes example mentioned earlier, timers that countdown to a major event over a course of days, weeks or even months can also be used just as effectively.

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Free & Same Day Delivery

We all love free delivery – so much so, that 90% of customers say that free delivery is their main incentive for shopping online.

The main reason that countdown timers are used regarding free delivery is for the sake of urgency.

For instance, displaying a limited time offer for free delivery once a customer has added an item to their basket could easily be the incentive to secure the sale.

Yet it is not necessarily just free delivery that countdown timers can be used to offer: they can also be used for same-day delivery.

Again, this helps to create a sense of urgency and also stimulates customers to buy immediately, or within the time frame that the timer is configured to, such as 2pm the same day.

Plus, offering same-day delivery is also an advantage if you do not offer free delivery on your site, as the two are not mutually exclusive.

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Using countdown timers in Overlays can help increase your conversion rates and decrease basket abandonment rates.

They can also be used to create a sense of urgency, encouraging customers to buy quickly before the timer runs out.

To discover how you can drive site revenue with countdown timers on Overlays, book a demo with one of our conversion rate experts.