July 12th Clinic Notes


NOTES: These are the notes for our interactive July 12 clinic on Testing the Effect of Urgency on Landing Pages. The recording of the event will be posted here in a few days.

How to create real urgency and increase conversion rates.

We recently released the audio recording of our clinic on this topic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here.

In the world of offline direct mail it has long been understood that creating urgency increases conversion rates. Typically a special offer of some kind will expire on a particular date.

Is the same true of the web?

Do expiry dates or warnings about limited supplies actually work?

And if so, is there a best way to express urgency, and are there pitfalls to avoid?

To answer these questions we recently ran research tests with two separate companies. The data we collected provides some important insights into how online marketers should best use urgency as a means to increase conversions.

>> Section 1 – The fundamentals of using urgency to increase sales

The practice of using urgency as a means to drive sales is well established in both offline and online media.

However, while using urgency is a powerful promotional tool, it should not be used indiscriminately or without forethought.

When we were planning our tests on this topic, we kept the following guidelines in mind:

  • The urgency should be genuine and not simply created as a promotional gimmick. The growing sophistication of online audiences means that many people can and will recognize “manufactured urgency”.
  • Even the legitimate use of an urgent message will still be recognized as a promotional tactic. So if your message is not completely genuine and honest, you run a very real risk of losing the respect and loyalty of some of your readers.
  • The use of urgency on an offer page can be a very powerful tool, but is not something you can do all the time. If you do, you will lose credibility.
  • Understand that you can use implied urgency as well as direct urgency.

>> Section 2 – The impact of a timed-limited incentive, and how it was promoted.

This research comes from the promotion of our own service –

the Marketing Experiments Online Certification Course.

Online testing and optimization are our core skills and it made sense for us to offer this certification course in a marketplace where training in online testing has so far been woefully inadequate.

When we launched the course we knew that it wouldn’t be easy to fill the places we had available. Our course is still relatively new and unknown, so we had to build awareness as well as persuade people to part with several hundred dollars to enroll in the course.

Here is what we offered, and how we presented our message

  1. We offered a $100 saving on the full price for anyone who registered and paid before the May 30th cut-off date.
  2. We promoted the offer towards the bottom of the page, and within the sign-up box.
  3. We sent out an email promoting the offer on the morning of the day the offer expired.

You can see the current version of our offer page here:


NOTE: What we did NOT do is create a large orange starburst at the top of the page announcing the $100 savings. Our purpose was not to secure enrollees through hype and pressure. We wanted and still want people to enroll because they see the value in the course itself.

Here is what happened:

Sales with Deadlines on 5/30 and 6/15
Dates Sales Sales Per Day
5/8 – 5/28 33 1.57
5/29 – 5/31 37 12.33
6/1 – 6/12 9 0.75
6/13 – 6/15 27 9.00

What you need to understand: Sales increased by an average of 992.68% during the three days before the deadline.

KEY POINT: Sales jumped significantly on the day we sent out the email, announcing that the early-enrollment offer was about to expire. The next large increase in sales took place during the final few days before the course itself began.

>> Section 3 – How to increase sales with implied urgency.

There are many different ways in which to communicate urgency. Usually marketers use deadlines or claims of limited supplies.

However, you can also achieve considerable success simply by implying urgency.

Here are two case histories that illustrate this point well.

Case History #1: How a computer parts etailer used “date stamps”.

We recently interviewed an executive from one of the low-cost leaders in the computer parts industry. With sales of tens of millions of dollars a year, and slim margins, he was always on the lookout for ways to increase sales.

Here is what he told us about how they increased sales with implied urgency.

“We were looking for ways to drive more sales by using our email list more aggressively. One idea we had was to create a page each week that showed the best prices on the ten most popular computer parts and gadgets. We were completely open and honest about it. Our own company was the lowest-cost source of most, if not all of those ten products. However, if some other retailer offered a better price on one or two of the items, we included them on the list.

Then we sent a weekly email to our list and named it “The Lowest Price Survey”. We listed the prices and provided links to the site.

The real key to the success of this program was that we date-stamped the list. That is to say, we said something like, “As at 6:04AM this morning, theses are the best prices for these products on the web.”

In fact, after the first email we experienced a record day for sales and similar spikes after every one of those emails"

Case History #2: How we increased conversions with a “soft” mention of limited supplies.

For one of our research partners, National Alert Registry, we created and produced a video which showed how vulnerable children are to sexual predators, and also provided guidelines on how to educate children and their parents to be more vigilant.

We produced 5,000 copies but made no mention of this figure when we first made the offer to the NAR list.

We then wrote an email and an accompanying landing page that stated there were only 5,000 copies available, and suggested that people get their copy before they were all gone. So we deliberately generated a sense of urgency.

You can see the landing page here:


This approach falls somewhere in between “urgency” and “implied urgency”.

Here are the results:

Email and Site Offer of Free DVDs
Offer DVDs shipped Conversion Rate
No mention of 5,000 14 0.0189%
Mentions 5,000 768 0.115%

KEY POINT: When we mentioned that there were 5,000 DVDs available, conversion rates rose by 508%.

CAVEAT: This was a cluster test in which a number of variables were changed. So we cannot attribute the entire increase in conversion to the addition of the “5,000 message” alone. Further testing is planned.

>> Section 4 – Seven ways to use direct or implied urgency in your marketing

  1. Test urgency messages to your offer pages on your web site.
  2. Test urgency within your shopping cart pages and other site pages where you need to encourage immediate action.
  3. Test urgency messages in the subject lines of your emails and newsletters.
  4. Test urgency in your customer or subscriber welcome emails. Urgency can encourage new members to become more deeply engaged in your site more quickly.
  5. Test urgency in shopping cart recovery emails to drive more purchasers back to their shopping carts.
  6. Test urgency in subscriber recovery emails when subscriptions expire.
  7. Test urgency in your press releases and other offline marketing.
  8. Test urgency in your PPC and CPM advertising.
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