There’s nothing quite like a ticking clock to get people to snap into action. After all, it’s human nature to feel a sense of urgency when we see time being counted down.

Urgency is a tried and tested method of compelling people to act, from clicking a link to making a purchase.

In this blog post we explain how you can create a sense of urgency by using countdown timers in your emails. Then, we check out seven different ways travel and retail brands have used countdown timers in their emails, to give you inspiration of how to use this feature.

What are countdown timers and how do they work?

Countdown timers are a persuasive feature you can add to your emails, if you have the technology in place to do so. They are animated clocks that count down time, often until the end of a sale.

Countdown timers use animated GIF files to work out how much time is left on the clock. The time refreshes every time the email is opened, increasing urgency.

As we’re so used to measuring time and responding to time pressure in our daily lives, the sense of urgency email countdown timers create is universal. Creating urgency is a proven technique for increasing sales and conversions.

But it isn’t just limited time that makes countdown timers an effective way to engage people. Countdown timers are a great way to turn a flat email into something visually engaging. The animated motion of the timer counting down is unavoidably eye-catching.

The combination of increased engagement and a strong sense of urgency, drives an increased number of people to respond to the calls-to-action in your emails. In this way, using countdown timers can help to improve conversion rates and lead to an uplift in sales.

1)    End of sale countdown

In this example from British Airways, an email countdown timer is used to count down the days to the end of a sale. This emphasises the limited time people have to make a saving on booking their flights.

The countdown timer looks like a calendar, which may prompt people to imagine how it would feel to mark off the days until their next holiday on their own calendar. The bold use of red and white is particularly attention grabbing.

British Airways Countdown Timer

2)    Personalised coupon countdown

This example from New Look uses a countdown timer to count down the hours, minutes, and seconds to use a personalised coupon.

Not only does the countdown timer create a sense of urgency, but the addition of the recipient’s name in the email engages them on a one-to-one level with the time-limited offer.

Additional animation is used to make it appear like paper is being peeled back to reveal the coupon. This evokes the idea of unwrapping a present, making the personalised coupon feel like a gift.

New Look Countdown Timer

3)    Black Friday countdown

The hype around Black Friday sales has grown in recent years, as more and more eCommerce brands in the UK are getting involved in this US tradition.

Game has capitalised on the existing anticipation around this legendary sale event, with the use of a countdown timer to count down the days until their Black Friday sales starts.

Creating a sense of anticipation in the run up to a sales event, means that by the time it starts people will be ready and waiting to buy decisively.

Game Countdown Timer

4)    Personalised product offer countdown

This email from Thorntons counts down the time until a personalised offer ends.

As the chocolates include a personal message, the offer already has an exclusive feel. Using the countdown timer adds a sense of urgency, encouraging people to buy now so as not to miss out on this unique product.

Thorntons Countdown Timer

5)    VIP access countdown

This email from Lipsy counts down the time to sign up for VIP access to a launch of a new line of clothes. This adds to feeling of exclusivity around the launch, which is really just an opportunity to show people a new line of products they could buy.

By using a launch, offering VIP access, and adding time pressure, the release of a new line of products seems like an unmissable event rather an everyday shopping experience.

Lipsy Countdown Timer

6)    Free delivery countdown

This email from La Redoute uses a countdown timer to count down the time left on an offer of free delivery.

Free delivery is a simple, relatively inexpensive thing to offer customers but may not be that compelling in a flat email. With the addition of the countdown timer, this offer feels like something that needs to be taken advantage of immediately.

La Redoute Countdown Timer

7)    Product going on sale countdown

Counting down the time until a product goes on sale is a good way to prime people to jump online and make a purchase the moment that time comes.

In this email, First Great Western take advantage of the anticipation around the release of Glastonbury Festival tickets. They use a countdown timer to replicate this anticipation when it comes to buying train tickets to get to the event. First Great Western Countdown Timer


Countdown timers are an effective way to catch the attention of your email subscribers and prompt them to take action.

They add interest to emails that are communicating sales and offers, with motion that immediately draws the eye. And as the hours, minutes, and seconds count down, an increasing sense of urgency compels people to engage with your calls-to-action.

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