October 5, 2021
8 min read

How to Use Limited Time Offers in Business?

Discover how to attract more customers with limited-time offers.

Ben Bitvinskas
Co-founder, Atlasmic
Flash deal, offer ends soon, discounts applicable only now, etc. All of these occur in the path of online shoppers every once in a while. Although sometimes the pop-ups and aggressive in-your-face promotions of such deals can be distracting, they work. Cyber Monday, Singles’ day and Black Friday are days with incredible sales figures and they’re based on the idea of a limited-time offer. So, in this article, we’ll try to understand what makes a limited-time offer successful and how you can properly use them in your business!

What is a limited-time offer?

A limited-time offer is every discount, gift or incentive that a customer receives if they make a purchase within a specific time period, mostly within a couple of hours or days.
Limited-time offer advertising is frequently used by retailers and helps to land more customers to purchase their goods. From physical stores to online ecommerce - there are tons of such offers that are trying to grab customers’ attention.

Why limited-time offers are a thing?

We can’t look into shopping and sales strategies without at least touching psychology or more specifically - behavioural analytics. The best sales strategies are always more or less interlinked with behavioural analytics and a whole lot of science that’s intriguing to get to know. Before diving any deeper, let’s look at a chart that shows four very (probably the most) important factors in determining why people like limited-time offers.
Out of the four listed factors, all are very relevant in trying to increase sales.
Perceived scarcity
- scarcity is both a very good and a very bad thing. If the item or service that you sell is in scarce supply, you can raise prices to infinity and people would keep buying (as long as there is enough demand). However, it’s very hard to play using perceived scarcity as items or services have to be extremely exclusive and unique to stand out.
Online impulse buying
- some people just can’t help themselves and have to shop. But this ratio includes more than them. Impulse buying is more based on the idea that the right product and or service appeared on the customers’ screen at the right time. It’s a blend of clever ad placement, smart website layout and great content about the product to maximize the potential benefit of online impulse buying. Standalone, it has around 58% efficiency.
Perceived perishability
- the idea that if you don’t buy it right now, the stock is going to end, leaving you without an option to purchase it, even at a later date. This is moderately effective, and commonly used in product catalogues in the form of “Gone soon”, “Only * left”, etc. They are usually sent out via push notifications or newsletters and are most effective when combined with items that the customer has already checked out or even added to their wishlist. It has around 59% efficiency.
A great illustration, showing how perceived perishability can drive your sales up.
Online shopping enjoyment
- and the most effective measure of the lot, in helping improve the efficiency of flash deals is just making limited-time offers more efficient. The factors which determine whether the shopping experience is enjoyable are almost purely psychological, but they are strongly linked with a fluent and easy-to-understand user interface, engaging copy, relation to the brand’s tone of voice or just a general liking of the brand. If you want more science, here’s a big chart for you to dissect.
Science shows that biometric data changes when a shopper feels inspired. If they like advertisements, the ideas or can relate to the tone of voice, they will feel inspired and thus, an 84% longer period of being excited over simple shopping.

Practical tips for driving more effective limited time offer sales

So, now you are aware of the theory behind the limited time offers and why they work. Perceived scarcity, perishability, impulse and overall enjoyment are the driving forces behind what is essential, a discount with a timer or other conditional factors. These discounts revolve around free shipping, amazing price reductions, overall campaigns, etc. They’re present and advertised on banners, pop-ups, newsletters or as push notifications if we’re talking about an app.
Make people feel the urgency without anxiety and you will drive your sales up, whilst simultaneously increasing customer loyalty. Here are a few tips on putting theoretical knowledge to good use.

Pop-ups, pop-ups and more pop-ups

Probably the defining tool for driving more flash deals is the pop-up. It’s synonymous with urgency because it’s most efficient once it transmits an emotion of urgency and necessity to make a decision now.
It’s also key to add those pop-ups during the time when you can tell whether your shoppers are trying to abandon their cart and/or leave. The pop-up should have a call-to-action button that captivates the attention and encourages people to make a purchase right away.
It seems that if you share some perks via a pop-up (e.g. a discount code) with a time limiter, you can have a 30-50% conversion rate. Which is great!

Utilize newsletters

Whilst e-mail marketing isn’t the most effective method of advertising, it’s almost always guaranteed to bring in at least a few new customers. Businesses have large mailing lists that can be utilized for the sake of making your offers more noticeable. It turns out that email newsletters can bring in around a few click-throughs and out of those people, almost a third can be turned into buyers via the efficient design of the ad campaign.

Invest in the design of banners and pop-ups

If you aren’t into illustration and/or you don’t have a graphics designer on board, you can simply hop on over to sites like Fiverr to find reasonably priced ad design services. If the colour palette and the whole visual part of these banners and pop-ups that you’re going to use seem alright, people will enjoy their shopping experience more.

Make sure that people know why there is a sale

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Sale - what is it, exactly? People like to know the cause for the huge sale or the limited time offer. If they can understand the cause behind the discount, they’ll become more likely to commit. Otherwise, people will think it can be a scam.

Time and supply

Time and supply are the two key components in a limited time offer, making it more lucrative to potential buyers. If a shopper notices that their time to buy is limited or that there are only a few items in stock, they’re much more likely to add these things to their cart and check out.
This is an Amazon screenshot. You can evidently see that Amazon wants you to notice that there are only one of these iPhones left in stock. That text is purposefully done in a much larger font and in red colour.
These two factors are the cornerstone behind scarcity marketing or the area of marketing that revolves around urgency and covers limited-time deals. It’s the same effect in both physical and electronic stores. Let’s say you want to buy headphones and you come into the store right before closing time. Your expected budget was 250 USD but these are not only in your price range, they’re even 33% off. Would you buy them? Because if not, the deal might go away, forever…
On the other hand - it may not, but as a retailer or e-commerce entrepreneur, you have to curb the information in such a way that a buyer must really feel like they’re leaving things on the table if they’re abandoning the possibility to buy straight away.
If customers add a product or products to their cart, there’s still a 75+% chance of them abandoning that cart (global average). If you could use engaging visuals with the right wording for the explanation of limited time and quantity, and cut down just 2-3% from cart abandonment, you can increase revenues by a whole lot.
Creating urgency is the key and you do that through cleverly placing not only pop-ups but information, in general. Find ways to integrate:
  • Only * left in stock
  • Get right now - deal ends in *
  • Limited time ONLY - * instead of **
  • Free shipping until * only
Although it is very hard to predict which one of those examples will work the best for your business, by testing out multiple ideas you can find which one drives the most sales.


So, let’s sum up what we found out today. A limited time offer is a deal within a specific time period that offers you different incentives. It works only because of the way that people are. It’s in their nature to have an urgency to get things that are in scarce supply. By utilizing the knowledge about consumer behaviour as well as investing in the design of banners and pop-ups, you can get the most out of every limited-time offer in your business!
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