Winning in online retail by creating urgency

27 July, 2015 by Admin | RetailUser ExperienceWeb

We all have online retailers that we love to use, but recently an online user experience stood out to me when booking a hotel. This popular hotel booking site impressed me with their ability to create urgency. It made me wonder whether any of the features I identified could be transferred to create urgency in online retail shopping experiences.

What is urgency?

Urgency is the application of subconscious pressure designed to push users to complete a positive action. It can take many forms and be introduced in innovative ways; I am going to talk through a few examples before considering how these can be applied to retail.

Creating the urgency

The website pushed me to book my hotel using the following simple techniques:

  • Using fading pop ups to reinforce the ‘cheapest price’ message
  • Informing me that a number of other people were looking at the hotel
  • Telling me I can pay later
  • Telling me the time of the last booking

These techniques reassured me that this hotel was popular and therefore likely to be reputable, but more importantly it created urgency in my purchase decision. I tested the site once I’d made my booking to see if the ‘most recent booking’ functionality worked and it did…’Most recent booking was from the UK at 10:54pm’.

Reasons to buy

The site ensured that for every call to action a reassuring message accompanied it, giving me a reason to buy. On the first step this was time based “Booking only takes 2 minutes”. Great stuff, I thought, this won’t take long. I was then reassured to continue once on the first page of the booking journey - “no booking fees”. Excellent, I thought, another ‘saving’.

I liked the way it used a fading pop up I couldn't miss, to tell me ’49 guests from the UK have made a booking in the last 2 minutes’ - astonishing and reassuring statistics. Even though it obviously meant across the whole website and not just this hotel, I still found it fascinating.

They also made good use of reviews and scores by overlaying quotes from reviewers on a hi-res picture of the hotel – an inventive way of reassuring me and creating urgency.

What urgency factors can be translated to retail?

Perhaps not all of these features would translate well into retail but I’ve picked out a few that could work depending on the product and brand:

  • ‘300 sold yesterday’ – telling people how many items were sold in a certain time period is an effective way to create product reassurance
  • Bring reviews to life – why make people click on a reviews tab? Try putting the last review next to the product image or description.
  • ‘Only takes 1 minute' – I’ve started to see this creep in next to call to actions but is still not enough
  • ‘Only 3 left’ – sharing stock levels as they get below a certain number can create urgency providing you can restock quickly

Finally, I can’t help but emphasise how the use of pop ups that appear but then fade (unobtrusively placed bottom right of the screen – not directly in the middle) helped create the feeling that this website was live and intelligent. It genuinely felt like I was standing next to a group of people in a store looking at the same product… Most importantly, it made me want to purchase before them.