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Using a countdown timer script as a call to action

In converting browsers to buyers, a compelling call to action certainly helps improve sales conversion. Countdown timers are a subtle yet effective call to action and in this article I've included a couple of free countdown timer script you can try out in your online store.

What is a call to action?

A call to action is simply an instruction that attempts to direct a visitor to take a specific action, whether it's purchasing an item or signing up for a subscription.

For example, instead of using the following as an order link:


You'd use something like:

"Buy now - sale ends today!"

It really makes a difference as it creates a sense of urgency in the shopper; even if it's just on a subconscious level.

Importance of effective calls to action 

Effective calls to action in your sales copy are becoming increasingly important as more online shoppers are utilizing comparison shopping strategies. I know that I most certainly do, even on relatively cheap items. Everyone loves a bargain, and not only that, comparison shopping appeals to the hunter instinct in many of us.

Even if a customer isn't comparison shopping and has made a decision to come back later to purchase the item; there's still the risk they may forget to return if you haven't somehow captured their details somehow, such as by using a subscription popup. There's just so many distractions in everyone's lives these days, you need to grab the sale while you have the person's attention wherever possible. 

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Using countdown timers to increase sales

A strategy I've seen used with successful results is a simple countdown timer - and the scripts are very easy to implement. 

The effect is subtle; it shows the potential customer that the special price is indeed only for a limited period and that time is running out. Animated timer with the seconds ticking away also helps to grab attention. It's just a little more powerful than simply stating "Offer ends on X". 

With a couple of other not-so-subtle calls to action used in conjunction with a countdown timer, you may find it helps boost sales of your own special offers.

Countdown timer example

The following is an example implementation. Note: the countdown clock may show a negative number by the time you view this as no doubt I'll forget to reset it; but this is just to give you an idea of the effect. 

0  hr.   0  hr.   0 min,  0 sec. 

The following is code and instructions for two different types of timers - one that shows the days, hours, minutes and seconds, the other just the days.

Countdown timer script 1 - days, hours, minutes, seconds

The countdown timer JavaScript is lightweight and very easy to implement. It consists of 2 parts; firstly the script itself and secondly the code to display the countdown clock. The only section you'll need to change in the script is the date and time value in the "future = new Date" line. Bear in mind the time is based on a 24 hour clock; i.e. 11pm becomes 23:00:00

The script.

Copy and paste the following just below the <body> tag of the page where it will appear. 

The display code

Copy and paste the following code in your page source where you'd like the countdown clock to display. 

<SPAN id="days">0</SPAN> &nbsp;days &nbsp;&nbsp; 
<SPAN id="hours">0</SPAN> &nbsp;hr.&nbsp;&nbsp; 
<SPAN id="minutes">0</SPAN>&nbsp;min,&nbsp; 
<SPAN id="seconds">0</SPAN>&nbsp;sec.&nbsp; 

While each value shows "0" in the above above, once the script and code is implemented, it will updated to the correct value in the countdown sequence. 

There is some flexibility with this script aside from the days. For example, if you're just going to run a special for 24 hours, you may not want the "0 days" to display. That being the case, just remove the:

 document.getElementById('days').innerHTML = days;

.. from the script, and the:

<SPAN id="days">0</SPAN> &nbsp;days &nbsp;&nbsp; 

... from the display code and just the hours, minutes and seconds will display. You can use the same sort of method for not showing the hours, minutes or seconds - just remove the relevant "getElementById" line from the countdown timer script and the relevant "id=" line from the display code.

Countdown timer script 2 - days

Here's an even simpler script that will just show the days like so:

"Buy today, offer ends in just days!"

The script.

Copy and paste the following just below the <body> tag of the page where it will appear. 

The display code

Copy and paste the following code in your page source where you'd like the countdown clock to display. 

<script type="text/javascript">document.write(daysLeft);</script>

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Hints, tips and issues

The countdown timer can be used for a variety of other purposes. For example, it can help build anticipation for a product or service launch. 

Being JavaScript, it can be used on practically any web page. One issue that may cause problems is if the person viewing the page has JavaScript disabled, but this would be a rare occurrence. Also, as JavaScript is a client side script, it pulls the current date and time from the person's computer clock - so if their clock is wrong then it can have some odd results. The only other issue you may experience is that with JavaScript used for so many applications these days; the first script may fail to function in instances where some of the functions clash with others on your page. In this instance, the first timer will show "0" for all values.

When used as a call to action to purchase an item, I suggest you set the countdown timer for 24 hours and then monitor results; then reset it if you are going to continue the special offer for another 24 hours; or perhaps extending/shortening the end date. Keep tweaking the period until you achieve the optimal results. You can set it to be as long or as short as you like. 

Related articles

Creating effective landing pages

Crafting marketing copy

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

Copyright information.... This article is not available for reproduction without explicit written permission from Michael Bloch and Taming the Beast.net

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