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