We are genetically programmed to procrastinate. Though many think the internet causes procrastination, it’s not a novel concept. Procrastination can be traced back to the ancient greeks with a famous quote from Marcus Aurelius.

procrastination quote marcus

The English word “procrastinate” is based off the latin verb procrastinare. Some of the brightest marketing minds understand this and have been using scarcity heuristic to ensure consumers stop procrastinating and buy “Right Now”.

Fast food chains and retail stores have been utilizing sense of urgency for the longest time. In this post we’ll take a look at how online shops can use the scarcity heuristic, playing upon a mental shortcut we take that places a value on a product or service based on how easily it might be lost.

In 1975, psychologists aimed to discover more about the scarcity heuristic. Conducting an experiment with 200 female undergraduates whom rated the value and attractiveness of cookies that were either in abundant supply or scarce supply.

The participants were given either jars with 2 or 10 cookies.

Then, the participants in the group with 10 cookies suddenly had 8 taken away while those with only 2 cookies had 8 new cookies added to their jars.

Concurring with their hypothesis with Scarcity Heuristic, the group left with only 2 cookies, rated them to be more valuable.

Those who got more cookies, experienced a sudden abundance by going from 2 to 10 and placed the least value on the cookies. In fact, they valued the cookies even lower than those people who had started with 10 cookies in the beginning.

cookie jar scarcity experiment

Worchel, Lee, & Adewole (1975): “The cookie experiment”

In every sales class that ever existed we are taught to create a sense of urgency. Yet most companies go about this the complete wrong way by focusing on a quick win rather than creating a better customer experience.

Factors such as quantity, rarity, and time, all play a major role in our subconscious buying behavior. By giving consumers valid reasons to make a purchase today, rather than delaying until tomorrow, will help retailers increase their online conversions while simultaneously crafting a better shopping experience.

Here are 6 examples you can apply to your E-Commerce A/B Testing Calendar to Increase Conversions Today.

1. Offer a discount rewarding the behavior of purchasing today

ecommerce checkout conversions

Pro Flowers does a fantastic job offering a 15% incentive to those purchasing today but sweetens the deal with an additional $15.00 OFF your Mother’s Day Gift. Anyone looking to buy a birthday gift is reminded that Mother’s Day is just around the corner and the deal seems like a no brainer.

2. Encourage customers to call during customer service hours

ecommerce sense of urgency

Rock Creek is the only store I’ve seen use a sense of urgency with a call to action to call to their customer service number. Making it a point to show potential customers that there are 3 customer service reps Experienced Adventurers waiting for a call, which makes me much more likely to call if I have a question. I know I’m not going to have to deal with a ridiculous automated messaging system and I’ll probably deal with someone who knows their gear.

3. Use a countdown timer to show when a deal is expiring.

groupon sense of urgency

There is something about a ticking clock that lights a fire under us. We see the time ticking down and if we close our eyes, we can still visualize the clock winding down. It would be fantastic to see some A/B testing run on the different time intervals.

Testing how a 3 day timeline affects conversions versus 24 hours versus 12 hours.

4. Show how much time is left to order with a shipping incentive

amazon sense of urgency ecommerce

 

Amazon gets me every time though there are 12 hammocks left in stock.  It’s a relatively safe number that means I can buy the item the next day, but if I wanted to get it tomorrow, I’d better get a move on with only 1 hour and 14 min left.

wayfair ecommerce optimization

Wayfair uses a similar sense of urgency strategy by offering Free 2 Day delivery when ordered in the next hour and 46 minutes. (Guaranteeing delivery by Monday)

5. Draw attention to out of stock or limited stock products

sense of urgency ecommerce

With only 1 stroller left in stock, Diapers.com does a great job of encouraging customers to order now before they miss out.

ecommerce urgency jcrew

J. Crew also does a fantastic job by striking out quantities that are no longer available, yet goes a step further when you highlight over a specific size that has a limited quantity.

john lewis ecommerce conversion

John Lewis also uses this strategy — when you click on a product, their website shows you exactly how many products are left in stock, while graying out those that are no longer available.

In fact an A/B test was conducted on Miss Etam a Dutch site with a countdown timer versus the control without.

sense of urgency

The results: The countdown timer lifted conversions 8.6% over the version with no timer. (99% confidence)

6. Host a weekly or daily deal

online sense of urgency

PC Mall features a countdown timer with a weekly deal and takes it a step further by showing deals that are no longer available, which can now be purchased at regular price.

sense of urgency pc mall

Armed with these techniques by continually testing, your organization will start making decisions backed by science rather than by the opinion of the highest paid person. Challenge your marketing team to come up with radical tests that challenge the status quo and use a conversion optimization platform to make them happen.

About the Author

Luiz Centenaro has worked with hundreds of eCommerce companies to help increase traffic and conversions and is an avid conversion rate optimization student. When he isn't optimizing websites he can probably be found climbing a mountain and hanging a hammock. If you love eCommerce you should follow Luiz on Twitter or Google +
  • http://ecommercecosmos.com/ Luiz Centenaro

    I’m around if anyone has questions!

  • http://ecommercecosmos.com/ Luiz Centenaro

    If anyone has some interesting examples on how to increase conversions with urgency please share!

  • http://www.optimonk.com Heréb Krisztina

    Hello Luiz, awesome article! We have just released one introducing 24 tips on how to use the sense of urgency in your customers and each tip is supported with an inspiring example, in case you’d want to take a look: http://www.optimonk.com/blog/sense-of-urgency/