Countdown Timers

Countdown timers are animated gifs served in your email at the time of opening, displaying the exact time remaining until the set end date. These timers are an excellent way to drive urgency within email campaigns and can increase engagement, conversions, and drive revenue. Key examples would be showing live countdowns to events such as the beginning of a sale or a product launch.

Create a countdown timer

Get familiar with the countdown timer template workspace!

Countdown clock template with circled numbers identifying template portions described below

  1. Add block icon
    • Use the plus sign icon to add new blocks to your template
  2. Countdown text block
    • Time part digits appear in the text block. Changing your font size or style may change your numbers' visibility.
  3. Block formatting options
    • Change the digits, font color, alignment, weight, size, and font face. You can even upload custom fonts to use in your timer!
  4. Block layer positioning, copy, and delete
    • Blue bar to send your time block forward or backward in layers, copy it, or use the trash can icon to delete it.
  1. Inspector panel
    • Time Part tab: The default block sets your timer's digits to count seconds and include leading zeros. You can customize each block to indicate seconds, minutes, hours, or days, plus advanced settings to customize the display even more. Check the box to create a Circular timer for a different style!
    • General tab: Adjust layout on the timer grid, change the background color and opacity, and other options. Countdown timers are transparent by default.
    • Text tab: Add prefixes or suffixes to your content, as well as additional functions
    • 2D tab: Rotate and skew your time parts with settings in this tab.

Use our step-by-step guide to create countdown timers for your emails. You'll learn how to create your countdown timer template and tag on this guided tour.

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Customization options

Countdown timers are fully customizable in the UI by uploading a background image and creating your countdown clock. If you need any assistance in customizing your template, contact your Account Manager for more information and work through your use case.

Restart a timer every day

When editing the countdown campaign and setting your expiry time and date, select Restart every day. A good use case example would be having an email banner that counts down to the time cut-off on next-day delivery.

Make a timer count up

You can count up from a specific or merged time by tweaking the configuration of the tag using the timestamp YYYYMMDDHHMMSS

Note the added parameters &cntdate= YYYYMMDDHHMMSS&dir=up at the end of your countdown tag.

Improve image quality

Image quality can be improved by using retina images. Create the timer template double the size you require and then use your HTML to scale it back.

Expired timer image swap

Swap your timer for a static image when you build your countdown campaign. When the countdown reaches zero, it will show 00:00:00:00. Include your backup image for your subscriber to view in place of your expired countdown timer.

Countdown timer defaults

All countdown timers will tick down for 30 seconds after an email has been opened. Once the 30 seconds have passed, the timer will no longer tick but will remain static on the last frame. If the recipient closes and then reopens the email, it will tick for another 30 seconds. If required, we can set timers to tick for up to 70 seconds. Contact your Account Manager to arrange this.

Mobile devices

Create a mobile-friendly countdown image and use the Rule Builder to serve the correct timer for devices.

Add your own font

Timers aren’t restricted to web safe fonts so any font can be used. Previously loaded custom fonts can be found in your Settings. You can also upload custom fonts.

  • You must honor the end license agreement for the font being uploaded
  • Fonts are not limited to web-safe fonts
  • It must be a True Type Font file (.ttf)
  • The font file must be under 1MB 
  • Upload fonts need unique names. You may need to change the font name before you save the upload.

    For example, you may need to upload the bold, italic, and regular versions of the same font as separate files.

Litmus personalize settings window with font upload popup

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Troubleshooting and limitations

For all that countdown timers can do, there are a few things that can cause them to behave unexpectedly, either while you're creating them or when deployed.

Transparent background

The GIF format does not support alpha transparency so countdown timers cannot have transparent backgrounds.

Timers on websites

You can use a Litmus Personalize timer on your website. However, it is important to know that each page hit would count as an impression. If you have a high volume of traffic to a page, you may see more impressions than you expected.

All inboxes are not compatible

Outlook 2007-2013 does not support animated gifs. Support was introduced for Office 365 and some later versions. For the earlier versions, the first gif frame will appear showing the exact time remaining until the timer expires, however, the timer won’t tick. Animated gif support is increasing with browser evolution so this inbox behavior will likely end in the near future.

Local time zones

Unfortunately, it isn't possible for the timer to count down to the local time based on the open location of the recipient. GeoIP functionality is used to detect the location and then apply a time. However GeoIP technology isn't 100% accurate so we can't rely on it more closely than a country level. Some inbox providers, like Gmail, mask location entirely.

Color pixelation

GIFs are limited to 256 web-safe colors. If your background image contains more colors like in a gradient, when your image is generated into a gif, the clarity is lost. Colors are matched to the nearest web color leaving a pixelated image. Make sure your timer design includes web colors and keep the overall image size relatively small for best results.

Missing timer digits

The template box does not automatically resize to accommodate your font so the second digit can disappear onto the line below. Edit the template and make your time part boxes larger or adjust your font to a smaller size.

Slow loading timer

Large heavy images affect the loading time of your timers. Use an image slice for the countdown timer and time part labels to improve load times.

comparison of sliced timer example on the left and too large full image with timer example on the right

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Countdown timer best practices

You've created an amazing countdown timer! Here are some tips to get the most out of it!

Clear messaging

Let your recipients know what the timer is counting down to. We also recommend positioning a strong call to action close to the timer to prompt engagement.

A/B split testing

Use A/B split tests to measure the impact of the timer within the campaign, one with the creative the timer present and another without to measure success. We recommend using a 10% control group to receive the no-timer to measure performance. Make sure to keep everything else in the email consistent. Other tests could include positioning, messaging, design, color - anything you can imagine!

Add labels

Including labels for hours / mins / seconds makes all the difference! Subscribers can watch the time count down and know exactly when they need to take action. Watching seconds count down is especially powerful! comparison of timer with time part labels marked on the left side and timer with no labels on the right side


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