Kateryna Milokhina

Technical Writer

How to use countdown timers in email marketing

How to Create and Use Countdown Timers in Email Marketing

There are three things an email marketing specialist can watch forever: email campaigns being sent, CTR growing, time until the end of a sale counting down. How can you combine these three amazing things? By creating an email with a countdown timer inside.

A countdown timer is the best way to demonstrate that a sale lasts for a limited time, a nonverbal way to tell customers: Soon a carriage will turn into a pumpkin and the price for that new bag will become huge again. You need to hurry.

Urgency is one of the best decision-making factors, so why don’t you use it to encourage a subscriber to buy?

How and when can you use a countdown timer?

You can use countdown timers for email for any type of business, be it an online store, a delivery service or a medical webinar production company.

Most often, countdown timers are used in email campaigns in order to:

  • boost quick sales;

Email countdown timer for a flash sale

  • remind that a sale is about to expire;

'The sale is about to end' countdown timer

  • remind that a sale is about to start;

Example of an early access countdown timer

  • notify that a deal is about to expire;

Example of a 'time remaining' countdown timer in an email

  • remind that a trial period is about to end;

Example of a trial period expiration email countdown timer

  • announce the date of a lucky draw contest;

Example of a lucky draw email countdown timer

  • notify that a webinar is about to start.

Example of a Webinar email with a countdown timer

Сountdown timers are well-known for driving sales. To test this, we’ve conducted a number of experiments. For example, we’ve divided a customer database into two halves and sent an email with a countdown timer to the first half and an email without a timer to the second one. Both the design and the text content remained the same in each email.

A/B testing for emails: with and without a countdown timer

The results were as follows:

  • The percentage of clicks on a countdown timer — 1%.
  • The percentage of people who clicked email links differed by 0.2% between the first and the second groups: 4.9 clicks originating from emails with a timer and 4.7 from emails without one.
  • The number of purchases was the same.

These indicators along with some additional A/B tests that showed similar results drove us to the conclusion that embedding a countdown timer in an email doesn’t affect sales level significantly. Therefore, it would be more reasonable to view countdown timers as a way to diversify your email campaigns and to entertain subscribers with an animated content element. Discounts on their own are already a good incentive to buy.

Types of email countdown timers

There are two ways to add a countdown timer to an email:

  • Create an HTML timer and add a code to the email layout.
  • Insert a countdown GIF image.

Both ways complement the design of your emails and accentuate urgency. However, an HTML timer has a number of perks that GIFs don’t have.

HTML countdown timer

An HTML countdown timer is an HTML script that counts down the time to a specific date in the future, second by second.

Example of an HTML email timer

You can create such timers with the help of special services like Sendtric or Motionmail, or generate the code yourself. However, a custom-made code might cause some display issues or be cut out completely by email clients. Therefore, we recommend using the custom-made option only when you know for sure what you’re doing. The countdown timers generated by dedicated services don’t have any issues with email clients and fulfill their task flawlessly.

Usually, a countdown timer’s embed code looks somewhat like this:

<td align="center" class="esd-block-timer" esdev-config="h3">
    <a target="_blank">
        <img class="adapt-img" alt src="https://cdt-timer-plugins.esputnik.com/api/v1/images/MTkHQrFb4YRux8XP9RBPy2laYO-m_Z4FcmCJNmOXnjo" width="277">

At first glance, it may appear that the code consists of an image link and a display style; however, it’s not quite like that. The code does include an image link but there’s a script with the timer’s conditions inside the link. This ensures that the email clients won’t see this countdown timer as a malicious object and won’t cut it out from an email.

To generate a countdown timer, you need to specify its end date and end time while taking the time zone differences into account. Such timers cannot be created without an end date. The numbers on a timer will count down continuously starting from the moment it’s generated. It doesn’t matter when a user receives the email: the number will continue counting down nevertheless. The countdown timer will stop at zero as soon as the time expires.

An example of an expired HTML email countdown timer

HTML countdown timers can be customized: you can pick a language, a background color, the color of numbers and text, etc. This way you’ll be able to adjust the timer to the design of your email.

GIF countdown timers

One of the easiest way to add countdown timers to an email is to use looped GIF animations. All you need to do is to find such GIF in a stock image library and insert it into an email’s ’Image’ block.

Example of an animated GIF countdown timer in an email

Email clients don’t cut GIF countdown timers out from emails because they don’t see them as something suspicious. In fact, it’s merely an animated image, not a real countdown timer. However, note that Outlook 2007-2016 only displays the first static frame of the animation in emails.

When you use such countdown timers, you might experience some difficulties with finding GIFs of an appropriate size to ensure smooth email loading. In addition, you’ll need to find the countdown timer that will fit the time frame. It’s also important not to mess up with the dates, otherwise, your subscribers might think there’s something wrong with your offer. If you specify the sale duration in an email (ends 5 PM today, for instance), a countdown timer shouldn’t display that there are 12 hours or even a day left until the sale ends.

We recommend looking for GIF images on:

  • Google — the most obvious source. To find a GIF you need, open the image search and go to Tools → Type → Animated. Don’t forget to select ’Labeled for non-commercial reuse with modification’ in the ’Usage rights’ section. Google will display all the GIFs available for use.
  • GIPHY — the most popular GIF storage.
  • Pinterest — a huge resource where you can find GIFs and images of any kind and style.
  • Tumblr — GIF creators love Tumblr as well and often share their works there. Yes, you can find timer GIFs among them.

Users tend to re-open emails in the first couple of days after they receive them. This might cause problems if you decide to use GIF countdown timers. The timer will show the same numbers even when a promo offer expires. In this case, the HTML countdown timer is a better option: it will reset to zero when the set time expires and won’t make your subscribers confused about the offer.

Create effective emails that convert!

How do countdown timers work with different email clients?

According to the Litmus’ statistics, 99% of email clients display countdown timers correctly. Microsoft Outlook 07/10/13/17 is the only exception: it has trouble with displaying GIF timers. If you decide to use a GIF timer, Outlook will display its first static frame instead of the animated GIF.

Countdown timer compatibility for different email clients

You shouldn’t worry about whether a countdown timer is responsive or not while adding it to the email. Countdown timers generally display well on different devices and adjust to the screen width.

Last post

How to create an HTML countdown timer?

Sendtric is a free service for generating countdown timers. You don’t need to register or pay for a subscription in order to use it.

Sendtric HTML countdown timer generator for email templates

The service offers a set of basic settings to help you create countdown timers. It allows you to set up the following parameters:

  • time zone settings;
  • countdown end date: any date and time within the next 30 days;
  • language: you can choose among 26 popular languages;
  • background color;
  • text and number color.

All the countdown timers created using the service are free and don’t have any watermarks on them. Their design is universal and one-for-all: rectangular clock displays with large numbers and text descriptions.

Timer example

For now, Sendtric is probably the best service for creating animated countdown timers: it has all the basic features and allows you to create as many timers as you need at no cost.

Another service that lets you design countdown timers. It offers the same features that Sendtric has and also allows for design customization. There are four design options: two with rectangular clock displays and two with round dials.

Round dial design for email countdown timers in Motionmail

Square display design for email countdown timers in Motionmail

The service also allows you to set up timer’s background transparency, as well as the font’s size (16 px to 60 px) and style.

Customizable email countdown timers in Motionmail

Motionmailapp is a partially free service. You can generate an unlimited number of timers; however, they’ll have watermarks on them. Purchasing a paid subscription will allow you to remove watermarks and to adapt your timer’s language to different regions. The subscription costs $10 a month.

Pricing for advanced countdown timer options in Motionmail

Promofeatures allows generating countdown timers both for emails and for websites. The service is free; however, you need to register in order to use it. You can log in using your Facebook or Google+ account or after filling out a short form.

The service offers more diversified options for countdown timers. In addition to the basic features, the service allows you to:

  • choose a timer’s style
  • pick a color for additional elements
  • configure a font’s size and style (bold, italics, etc.)

Experience the benefits of our editor

You can also create your own personal design for a countdown timer. Click on ‘Open Custom Design’ button to see all the available design options.

Custom design options in Promofeatures

One of the service’s main perks is that it shows the actual size of a countdown timer in kilobytes. The more you customize the design, the bigger your timer’s size will be (and the slower your email will load).

The size of an email countdown timer in kylobytes

Pay attention to your countdown timer’s size to ensure that it loads quickly in different email clients.

How to add a countdown timer with our platform?

Adding a countdown timer to your email is easy when you use our platform. In fact, it’s just as simple as adding an ordinary image to an email. Here’s what you need to do to add a countdown timer to your email in the our editor:

  1. Create a countdown timer using any of the services mentioned above. For this example, we’ve chosen Sendtric.
  2. Copy the code generated by service. For your email, you’ll need to use only the part that contains a link.

HTML email countdown timer generated by Sendtric

  1. Pick a template in the our editor and create a new structure in it. Add an ‘Image’ block to the structure.
  2. Go to the block’s menu and insert the code into the ‘External source’ link field.

How to insert an URL of an HTML countdown timer in the eSputnik email template editor

  1. The timer will instantly display in the email.

Countdown timer displayed in an email template

  1. You can use the same block’s menu to customize your timer ever further:
  • make a countdown timer bigger or smaller;
  • add an image for a Rollover effect;
  • add a link to a website;
  • adjust the timer’s alignment;
  • stretch to full width or not;
  • add indents;
  • make the timer mobile-responsive or hide it on mobile devices.

Do not forget

It’s crucial to add an alt text to your email countdown timer!

Create the best countdown timer here

Think through a countdown’s timer design in advance, to ensure that it will look good in your email. You won’t be able to change its design once the email is sent; therefore, it’s important to work on it beforehand.

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Kateryna Milokhina

Technical Writer

Comments 1

Рома Троян 3 years ago

I use MailTimers to create email countdown timers. There are a lot of timers templates which can be customized for any needs. Also MailTimers allows to create countdown timer from PSD. For transactional emails can be used evergreen timers. The main difference from competitors is the image quality and there understandable timer builder

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