We’ve all seen them – the countdown clocks that miraculously reset themselves next time you visit the site – yeah, I know, I hate them too, dodgy!
And using false time constraints actually does more damage than good for two reasons: Firstly, it damages the credibility of the vendor. If they can’t be trusted on the time constraint, then what else can’t they be trusted on? Secondly, from a psychological perspective, when you force people to act to make a quick decision, they pay closer attention to potential negatives of your offer and tend to favor less risky options.
There are however a couple of ways you can use a time constraint to trigger a person’s natural FOMO (fear of mission out) to your advantage.
The Scarcity Game – if your product is inherently scarce or if you can legitimately make your offer scarce, then you will drive sales using a countdown timer.
So for example, event tickets are scarce by their very nature, because a venue only has limited room for attendees right? In this case, create a reservation timer during which the tickets are guaranteed to be available. A user selects the tickets and then only has a couple of minutes to complete the purchase, after which the tickets are released back to the pool.
Another example. You have a virtual workshop product during which you give personal feedback to attendees. You have to limit the number of attendees in order to be able to guarantee the quality of your input. So you set a timer or make it first-come-first-served for the X seats you have available.
The Compliance Game – When people are forced to take a quick decision online, they are more likely to accept the default options presented to them. In which case, make the default options the best choices for you, say, the most expensive option, the continuity product option, etc.
A further spin on this is to provide a ‘quick checkout’ facility that allows the buyer to simply check a box to select, say, the ‘Full Experience’.