Vicki Campana

We see many brands promoting flash sales throughout the year, but there is a surge in these quick hit sales during the holidays. They create excitement, build a sense of urgency, and help move merchandise in a timely fashion. A flash sale promotes a limited time offer, typically a deep discount. These sales can run from two hours to a day, depending on the amount of merchandise you wish to move. However, if you run a flash sale for too long, shoppers may lose interest and choose not shop at all. Creating a high sense of urgency will help customers make that quick decision to purchase, as long as the offer is strong and enticing…

A flash sale can also be utilized to capture new email sign-ups with a gated sale page. This would require a customer to enter their email address before being able to access the sale page. Promoting this type of sale in paid search, display, affiliate, and all social media channels, will help you to grow your email list by driving more new (and qualified) traffic to your site.

If you did not achieve the Black Friday/Cyber Monday results you were expecting, consider a flash sale to help make up for the loss.

What to consider for a flash sale:

  • What is the largest discount you can offer without hurting your margin?
  • How long can the sale run for?
  • Can the discount be applied sitewide?
  • Will the sale be limited to certain categories to help move product?
  • Will the sale include items that have already been discounted?
  • Will there be any exclusions, such as items that have already been pre-ordered?
  • Are you able to offer a percentage off all items, or a dollar amount off a specific price point?
  • Is a buy one, get one (BOGO) offer feasible to keep things fresh from promotion to promotion?
  • Are you prepared for increased demand and shipping needs?

How to promote a flash sale:

  • If you’re offering free shipping on top of the sale, emphasize this in all promotional creative to help drive home the benefits of the sale
  • Clearly state the parameters of the flash sale on your site – this includes the home page carousel as well as any banners
    • Let customers know when the sale starts and ends, the promotion code needed for checkout, and what is (and is not) covered by the sale
    • If there are limitations, be specific and note items such as pre-orders that may be excluded
  • Send an email when the sale begins, and again one to three hours before the sale ends to help drive the final urgency to shop
    • If the flash sales only runs for two hours, then one email is sufficient, but for sales that run for up to 48 hours, two or three emails can be sent to help drive traffic and revenue
  • Display ads should run while the sale is active, emphasizing the limited time frame and the discount amount
  • Utilize the affiliate channel where the younger generation of shoppers is consistently looking for deep discounts
  • Social media channels should be used also to allow you to reach brand fans who might not have access through other digital marketing channels

Optimizing creative for marketing materials:

  • Emphasize shipping discounts and thresholds for free shipping
  • Utilize short and enticing call to action buttons that quickly drive customers to your site from email, social, display, PPC, or affiliate channels
  • Keep creative simple and engaging
  • If the sale will run for more than 24 hours, incorporate ‘Final Hours’ or ‘Last Chance’ messaging to help drive the urgency
  • Send an email when the sale begins and a reminder when the sale is about to end to keep the customers interested
    • If there are new items that have been added to the sale, let your customers know

If you experience a lull in traffic or revenue at any point during the year, a flash sale is something to consider to boost traffic to your site and to help move seasonal merchandise. You do not want to promote flash sales all the time, but they are extremely effective when used once a quarter or every six months. If you offer frequent flash sales, your customers will come to expect these discounts and will be less likely to pay full price.