The Effect of Time-Pressure In Mobile Advertising

Often, messages such as “Only 10 slots left!” or “Only valid for 24 hours!” are shown somewhere along a user’s path to purchase. These are calls-to-action encouraging users to act now, driven by the idea of limited availability and scarcity. To a certain extent, these messages are meant to inflict stress upon users, via time pressure. Time pressure involves a situation in which our need or want for time exceeds the amount of time currently available to us, and thus is sometimes seen as a source of stress.


Time pressure can occur via external cues through messages signalling scarcity as mentioned above, alternatively it can occur via internal cues. Internal cues usually occur when users are on-the-go, more often than not when they are on their mobile devices. On-the-go users are most likely multitasking, or searching for information on products or services right in front of them. For example, searching online reviews about a product while standing in the store aisle.


A study conducted required participants to choose an apartment either under time pressure or in the absence of any time pressure. Some of the elements to consider in the purchase decision include size, quality, amenities and distance from work. Those participants placed under time pressure primarily focused on one element, distance from work, and underweighted all other criteria. Thus, their decisions were based mainly on the process of elimination.


The study showed how time pressure increased the likelihood of narrowing in on negative attributes during decision making, and ruling out products based on the attributes they dislike. On the other hand, in the absence of time pressure, selection processes involved optimising based on the attributes they do like, for instance the size or quality of the apartment.


The Implication For Mobile Marketers

The presence of time pressure significantly narrows users’ focus, giving marketers only a brief moment to capture their attention and influence their decisions. This has led to significant differences in purchases made on mobile devices versus those made on desktop devices. When users are on desktops or laptops, they are usually in a stress-free situation, not facing any time pressure. In these cases, their decision making process is likely to take place over a longer period of time, possibly cross-screen over different devices, and some might not even convert until the fourth or fifth visit to your site.


Users on mobile are usually the ones who are faced with time pressure, as there is a certain commonplace mindset about making purchase decisions immediately when on-the-go. Contextual situations affect the degree of time pressure users are under. For example, the decision making process about a hotel booking is extremely different when your trip is two days away, versus taking a last minute flight out for work and only making the booking upon landing overseas. Even though there is time pressure in both situations, the user in the latter situation is under substantially more stress.


When users are faced with stress, in this case time pressure, brands need to be there for them and provide relevant, useful, concise information. These are the moments where consumers are most likely to be receptive to ads that address their need, and most likely to click and convert. Ads that do not address their need in anyway will definitely be disregarded, as users are going to be directing their full attention towards fulfilling their immediate and most pressing need.


Bear in mind that mobile is the one device users constantly have on hand, and they are consulting these very devices for almost every decision, especially purchasing ones. Knowing this, marketers should optimise all ads to not only make them mobile friendly, but ensure they are targeted towards relevant users.



YOOSE is a global audience intelligence platform that aims to connect marketers with their most valuable consumer segments. We have been delivering innovative and powerful mobile campaigns for global brands since 2008. Evolving beyond location based solutions, YOOSE understands how a combination of location and audience profiling is changing the way brands interact with their consumers. We combine cutting edge innovative technology with deep expertise, experience and passion to help global brands and advertisers capture the opportunities of this fast-paced, ever-changing world of location based mobile advertising.
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2016Christian Geissendoerfer