A matter of urgency

Does Urgency Messaging really work?

Does urgency messaging work?

I don’t know about you, but those messages telling me how many times this item has been bought and how popular they are and that they are selling fast tend to get on my nerves. In fact, there are some places on the internet – no naming and shaming here, where those urgency messages are so intrusive, they affect a user's ability to navigate and explore a product. As annoying as I find them though, they must work, I keep telling myself, otherwise people wouldn’t use them – would they?

Well with that question burning in my mind I set out to see for myself and ran a test in conjunction with one of our Airport clients and AeroParker to see if indeed urgency messaging had an impact on conversion to a sale and / or revenue.

With my handy guerrilla testing toolbox I configured a quick test using some nifty front end skills and google optimize to deliver 50% of our traffic a set of products with urgency messaging and the other 50% without.

And we’re off

To make it interesting we all took a view as to what we thought would happen – my view was that we’d see little or no difference on desktop and an improvement of conversion on Mobile where real estate was more limited. To my surprise early indications were that the urgency messaging was performing significantly worse than the non-urgency messaging, across the board.



Ha! I knew it

Those pesky urgency messages – this was looking good for me waging war against them and finally having some evidence to get rid of them for good.  Unfortunately, for me, the situation might be more nuanced than that – for context we were running the test on the lead up to the school half term holidays (a traditionally busy period of airport parking) and the initial few days of this test were outside of that core period.

Proven wrong

Once the traffic levels began to rise quickly so did the efficacy of the urgency messaging – over the course of the next two weeks, the urgency messaging proved, beyond doubt, that it was far more effective at converting and at a higher value too.  So it turns out these things are effective or at least they are effective in converting airport parking products.

I’ve evolved my theory somewhat, and we’re going tot test again.  I think that the urgency messaging works really well at increasing conversion and value when there is also an external perceived element of urgency (lots of stories in the press about busy airports might have helped), I wonder whether we can find a wonderful mix of appropriate urgency messaging that is not there when there is no urgency and really dials up when there is.

The early numbers when there was no real external urgency were converting significantly better at a much higher value when there was no urgency messaging getting in the way – having dug into the detail of these it also looked like upsell messaging was more effective to non-urgency messaging customers – this is another future test to validate.

So my apologies if you were hoping this was to advise e-commerce businesses to ditch the urgency messaging – it’s not, it’s an encouragement to test, learn, refine and test some more with the knowledge you’ve gained. 

Eventually though, we might see an evolution of urgency messaging into a less blunt tool.  I’m excited to find out.