E-Commerce Insights

Creating Limited Time Offers for E-Commerce the Right Way: Tips and Examples

Picture yourself in a physical store. You’re strolling down the aisles, picking products up and down, hesitating to find the one product that you can find yourself living with. This is, after all, because you’re picky and don’t want to regret your purchase. Suddenly, you hear an announcement :”For this morning only, receive a free coffee cup when buying our today-special X product”. And the offer caught your attention. You don’t really know X, but you’re in need of a coffee cup right now, and you think to yourself :”I’ll probably regret this if I miss out on this offer, and what’s the harm in trying out X”.

That’s basically how limited time offers work on customers—by addressing the fundamental needs that exist in every one of us.

What is limited time offers?

Limited time offers, as its name suggests, are offers that are only available within a certain time period. You can find limited time offers in the form of discounts, deals, rewards, vouchers, or just anything that encourages prospects to buy with time-bound incentives. The offer itself doesn’t even have to be a price reduction; it can be a free upgrade, special service, or anything that is of value to the prospects. 

Psychologically speaking, limited time offers are based on the fundamental needs that exist in every one of us. These needs include Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), Loss Aversion, and Scarcity, and because of this, limited time offers work and they work wonders. They compel prospects—especially those that are already on the fence—to act and act right now.

The science behind it

In case you need all the facts, there were experiments on this exact topic, and the results are actually contradictory to what you’d expect: when jumping on time-limited offers, the decisions made are not irrational but on the contrary—they are rational decisions based on careful considerations.

Time-limited offers were accepted more when participants had 12 seconds to decide rather than four seconds.

Source: Must end soon! But not too soon! How ‘limited time’ sales make you buy

What this means is that people generally need to think things through in order to jump on time-limited offers, and being too pushy about it might prove to be counterproductive for your business.

Tips for creating limited time offers the right way

Creating limited time offers isn’t the most straightforward thing. There are a few things you need to be mindful of when creating limited time offers such as:

1. Keep it short and simple

The last thing that you’d want to annoy your customers with is a pop-up filled with a wall of text. Keep the offer short, clear, and to-the-point. Your offer should only contain elements that are relevant to the customers: name of the offer, time range, what is being offered, and how customers can be a part of the offer.

Below is an example of a Flash Sale pop-up done right. The pop-up uses a combination of black, white, and pink colors to help it stand out more; and the content of the pop-up is as short as it can be. From first glance, customers can know that a flash sale is going on, with availability of said sale restricted to “Today”.

short and simple limited time offer

2. Be painfully obvious about the offer

Don’t use hints or anything that can leave your customers confused. In fact, it’s better to be painfully obvious in the way that your offer is laid out—and this means use phrases like “This is as cheap as we’ll ever go”, or use countdown timers to stress the urgency of the offer.

Obvious limited time offer
An example of an obvious—but effective—limited time offer

3. Focus on the customer’s benefit

Your limited time offers should be about your customers and their benefits only. Talk in their languages, use “you”, “your” repeatedly, and try not to use vague terms that your customers might not understand. 

For example, in the banner below, with just a limited number of words, Hootsuite managed to tell customers that they can get Hootsuite free for 90 days, and that they can proactively claim the offer by clicking on the “Claim Your Offer” CTA. This is one of those limited time offers that focuses on the customer’s benefit—on what they can get out of this offer, rather than the urgency of this offer.

Hootsuite limited time offer

4. Timely placements

The timing of your offers can be one of the things that make or break your marketing campaign, especially for time-sensitive promotion campaigns. There are various places where you can place your offer without making it intrusive to the shopping experience, and when properly timed, you can even create more incentives for customers to buy.

5. Don’t overdo it

With all this in play, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture and go overboard with your limited time offers. 

For example, because limited time offers are effective, some brands have it run all the time. What happens then is that regular customers of those brands will see that the store is always on sale, words will spread, which might consequently damage the brand’s credibility. 

To preserve the magic of your limited time offers, you’ll want to keep your offers limited to holidays, seasonal events, or special occasions only. After all, if the customers who have bought from a year-long limited time offer might even come to resent a business as they’d feel scammed, and if we’re being honest here, you got to admit that you’d feel the same way if you were in their shoes.

Fake limited time offer Udemy

Examples of best limited time offers

Creating an ideal limited time offer is tricky, which is why we have prepared for you some examples of the best limited time offers to give a better idea of what works and what not.

1. Victoria’s Secret

Your ad needs to include only the details relevant to your prospects and must not be overcomplicated. In the ad below from Victoria’s Secret, we can see that the brand utilized a rather simplistic approach that uses the FREE element to grab shoppers’ attention. And before that, the attractive model instinctively helps make the ad appeal to both their male and female audiences.

Victoria's Secret limited time offer

2. PrettyLittleThing

A simple promotion banner can go a long way. PrettyLittleThing knew this and had their limited time offer banner the first thing that customers see when they come to their store. The banner does everything right: it is short, simple, and includes every information a shopper would need to take action on the offer.

PrettyLittleThing limited time offer

3. Loft Outlet

Similar to the two examples above, Loft Outlet also makes sure that their limited time offers are as concise as possible. Relevant information about the direct customer benefits (i.e., 50% off, extra 20% off) are capitalized, in bold, and given special attention. And while you might think two promotional banners on top of each other sound like pushing it, the brand did manage to pull it off here.

Loft Outlet limited time offer


Truth is, there are very few marketing tactics as effective as limited time offers. That’s why you see brands can’t stop using this tactic, and some of them even use it a little bit too much by having limited time offers run all year long. With the above-mentioned tips, hopefully you can craft for yourself effective limited time offers that will convert well for your business.

Luke Vu

A content writer with a passion for the English language.

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