The Ultimate eCommerce Guide to Successful Flash Sales in 2021

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Irresistible deals always feel good. Something that you have been eyeing for suddenly falls to a bargain of a price and you just know you have to click on buy! Add a countdown to this offer and you’ve added the thrill factor that is known as flash sales. They speak to the buyer’s psyche in the perfect manner, because they create a sense of urgency better than any other kind of sales.

When you know you really like the product, and it is at a crazy good price too, putting a timeframe to the deal brings in the ‘fear of missing out factor’ and making the purchase turns into a no brainer suddenly. 

This analogy works for brands with eCommerce platforms too, putting out sales is a part of every business’s marketing strategy, but when you implement these foolproof ones, and you do it right – you know that you can reap benefits from it like never before.

But before we look at what it takes to create the most perfect flash sale, let’s break it down and understand how it can work for your business or not.

What Is a Flash Sale and How Does it Work?

As the name suggests, it is a sale that is gone in a flash. It can be a special discount or promotional scheme offered for a very limited period of time. Now the timeline can be anywhere between 24 to 72 hours and they’re a great way of bringing in some quick revenue. 

Flash sales can boost your sales, by selling a large number of products in a matter of a few hours, along with other branding benefits which makes these sales a favorite amongst the eCommerce platforms.

All in all, the role of these sales is to grab the eyeballs of old and new clients alike and direct it towards impulse buying, closing a large number of sales in a blink. This is made powerful by making the most of the power of the fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO is basically a psychological phenomenon that takes place when people are afraid of missing out on some significant opportunity. 

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Is a flash sale boon or a bane for your business?

The benefits of flash sales are the reason why they’re so popular. From increasing sales and bringing attention to building a larger customer base, it can be a boon for helping you boost profits and broaden the horizon of your company’s scale. It really brings the most lively traffic amounts and the best amount of sales during the offers. 

Especially for the case of 2020, statistics based on data from eCommerce merchants show that the online stores that ran flash sales this year, increased monthly GMV by over 64,000% with it.

But at the same time, there’s a flip side to the coin too. You really need to understand that it can bring all the bargain hunters to your store and the only sales that kind of clientele can handle is the one that depletes your margins. All the great benefits of the sales can be equally converted into a bane if you don’t plan a flash sale with the correct delivery, inventory, and other such promises.

Now let’s look at the pros and cons of these types of sales to know what you’re getting yourself into, and if that is something that fits your current business plans.

The Pros Of Flash sale

1. Make space for new inventory

If you have great products that didn’t sell in great volumes or certain brand specialties that often sell well and you need to get new ones in any way – then selling off these limited pieces can be a great way to clear off your shelves for new ones.

2. Attract new clientele

Good flash offers can even bring in new patrons by giving them an opportunity to try your products out at low stakes, but if they end up liking the experience then you get yourselves clients that come back for more. This is why such discounts are an efficient way to increase brand awareness too.

3. Boost revenue rapidly 

Working on the same lines as any Black Friday promotion, flash sales can really make your transactions soar, raking in substantial money very quickly. Certainly, the individual profit margins considerably decrease, but they’re compensated very well by the total profits in terms of volume.

4. Increase brand loyalty

When you offer deals and discounts at regular intervals, your customers realize that you care and it makes them more likely to continue making purchases from you in the future.

The Cons of Flash Sale

1.  Erode your profits

If you don’t calculate the amount of ROI on a flash sale, it can take away the profit margins considerably. More than that it can afford the long term sustainability and profitability if your company’s long term goals aren’t factored in.

2. Attract wrong customers

These sales also have a tendency to attract ‘one-time’ buyers, who have no intention to turn into a loyal customer of your brand. If you’re looking for more loyal customers then you need to watch out for this crowd.

3. Lead to disengagement

When you promote an offer too strongly, but at the wrong time or without having a target audience, you risk flash sale fatigue. This leads to people distrusting whatever your brand stands for or puts out.

4. Hurt your reputation

Manifesting a flash sale isn’t an easy task, given you have to take care of the selected inventory, returns, deliveries, and safe payments. If you fall short in any of these aspects, the sour experience faced by the customers will hurt your brand rep.

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Keep the long-term CLTV in mind

Getting in extra revenue is amazing for investing in the business’s goals, but it isn’t the best metric to measure your sales performance. The best way to see the overall impact of such sales is through customer lifetime value (CLTV), to know how it works for your long-term strategies.

Look into your new customers’ flash buys to look for –

  • you are able to upsell to them
  • there’s cross-selling happening
  • these customers are loyal to your brand

Keeping a tab on your CLTV helps get an insight into the quality of the flash sales customers. If such sales don’t fare well for your CLTV, then reconsider the strategy you’re putting into use.

If they do compare well with the CLTV, push the target to match them with better top-line growth as well. Research suggests that happy customers come back to spend another 385% of the first purchase.

3 Flash sales ‘fail’ that you need to avoid

1. Website crashes

The most common and the worst kind of failure during a flash sale is when your website crashes, which isn’t uncommon for even the big brands. It beats the whole point of it as potential buyers are unable to load your site. For the majority of cases, this happens due to server overloads and mistakes in estimating the incoming web traffic.

2. Inventory oversell

If you do not put correct inventory management in place, you can end up selling way too many products. This can often end up in a situation where you’ve made more sales than what your inventory has. When merchants have to cancel these surplus orders it often causes a lot of disappointment on the consumer’s end, which affects your brand image too.

3. Shipping delays

After completing a purchase, the customer’s are holding their breath for their timely deliveries. Now although it isn’t uncommon for flash sales to delay deliveries, the customers can easily get annoyed by this post-sales experience, which you should avoid at all costs.

Strategies to plan a flash sale

After comprehending all the ups and downs of a flash sale, and realizing that you want to run a flash sale for your own business comes the most critical part of the process – the strategy you make.

1. Plan Your Timing Carefully

When should you run a flash sale is a vital part of its success. This planning for the same depends on your eCommerce business and the customers. Along with that, you need to consider the aspects below.

Based on your business

It is recommendable to base your sales scheduling on the type of product you wish to sell and when your customers make purchases the most. You can go over your order data history, and make a better decision on when to sell what for your online business.

Look for purchasing patterns like such in your analytics:

  1. What day(s) of the week do your customers buy your products most?
  2. What time of the day do they prefer to do so?
  3. When is your email opening rate the maximum?

Before the holiday season peaks

The easiest way to cause flash sale fatigue is during the holiday season. In this online shoppers receive tonnes of marketing emails and ads. This is in general the busiest period for eCommerce businesses, which causes the chockablock on supply chains and delivery providers.

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If you seize the festive season with coordinated ads but hosting the sales before the holidays, you can actually win new customers and beat the competition, whilst making room for new inventory. This will increase your fanbase before the holiday shopping event commences.

After the holiday season

When the holidays come to an end, the number of returns always rises. This is because unwanted gifts are being returned. This can also be a good time to upsell other products to the ones that come to your platforms primarily for making returns.

2. Narrow down on the target customers

As the topic suggests, now it’s time to work on what will sell the best.

Keep it to insiders

Starting off with informing loyal customers through the flash sale email campaign through your subscription list or private groups.

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Segment customer list to avoid an awkward situation

Sending “50% off” sales to customers who just bought your items at the actual price isn’t very wise. That’s why you should always segment. It always helps in sending offers to the correct audience.

Win back, inactive customers

Flash sales can be a great way to bring back your lapsed customers, by making them a part of a win-back email campaign. This serves as a great reminder of why they signed up for your emails in the first place.

Target people who abandoned carts

It’s a well-known statistic that 75% of the customers leave their carts, and fail to complete orders. A discounted price of flash sales fixes this issue substantially. 

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What products should you sell?

The key to having a flash sales lead to a “sold out” point is the curation of the products that will end up in it. The planning differs according to your catalog size and what your customers have gone for so far, let’s look into how to go about it better.

1. Products with Strong Demand

Promoting the products with the highest search volumes is the best way to appeal to new customers as you’ll find more people who are looking for it already. 

2. Your Brand’s Signature Products

Signature products are a great way to boost brand awareness, and when more people try it out through the sales, they come back for more and rave about it too.

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Marketing your flash sale

1.  Promote scarcity and value

No amount of hard work can come to fruition if the flash sale doesn’t offer great merchandise at a deep discount. And that’s how scarcity forms the foundation of your marketing plans for the sale. This depends on the optimal quantity to offer and the time limit you wish to set. 

It also depends on, where will this news grab the maximum attention? While email campaigns are the most lucrative ways to provide short notice to the target audience, you need to see if paid ads can work in your favor too. 

The key to finding which channel will generate the best ROI is usually hidden in the data – 

Where do your prospects and consumers spend their time the most? Are they coming from organic efforts or through paid ads? Make sure your SEO and paid ads teams collaborate well.

How much of your marketing is invested in those platforms?

Which channels yield the highest click-through-rates (CTRs) and enhance CRO, along with the lowest customer acquisition costs (CACs)?

2. Build hype for your flash sale

After knowing which exact agencies you will opt for promoting scarcity, comes how to do so.

Be available on social

Leverage the power of Facebook, Instagram, and other channels to efficiently engage with your customers through the entire sale. Plan an effective social media strategy and ensure you don’t get trapped in any of the myths around social media marketing.

Remind your customers

Use all your social channels to remind your followers that the sale has entered its final hour, to push through more sales at the eleventh hour.

Use a countdown/timer

A countdown timer is almost compulsory to go with your flash sale landing pages and announcement emails, as it inherently keeps the viewers on their toes.

Keep your copy concise

Always frame the most articulate copies for your flash sales info. Give all the spotlight to the products and the timeline in which people should make the purchase, without wasting their time.

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Show the discount in your subject line

Subject line: Holiday-Flash-sale: Our Flash Sale Starts Tonight!

It’s a no-brainer to put the exact discount description in the subject line, as they have better conversion rates than the emails that don’t.

3. Prepare Your Shipping & Fulfillment Strategy in Advance

To make sure that all the purchases made in your flash sales turn successful, you need to ensure that you are all set to get the products to your customers seamlessly. 

What you need to ensure that customers bear in mind

  • The specific details of your shipping turnaround time.
  • The shipping rates and the respective policies.
  • Communication of delays or changes needs to be proactive.

What you need to ensure on your end, to fulfill the order

  • Enough inventory is stocked up as and when the sale is live.
  • Pre-packing of the products to fast-track deliveries.
  • Hiring extra help, if you handle the shipments in-house.
  • Informing the 3rd third party fulfillment service (3PL), about the fulfillment in advance, if you have one.

Get Your Payment Solutions in Order Beforehand

Providing hassle-free payment options to your customers is crucial for you to get your worth of the effort. Making sure you have set everything in place for this step can be done through the following steps.

  • Connect a payment provider and verify your account before the sales.

It is wise to do this process very early, as you will need your account to be approved by the payment provider before your flash sales are about to start. This can be time-consuming as the verification for new merchants with a payment provider takes many steps to undertake. If not, all the payments made will be refunded.

  • Be responsive to customer requests and understand that some refunds will happen.

Promptly respond to your customers and process refunds ASAP, before they turn it into a chargeback. This can hamper your chargeback ratio and bank history as a merchant.

  • Clearly communicate your refunds and returns policy on your site.

To avoid customer disappointment and complaints, ensure that all your refund and returns policies are visible and legible on your website.

  • Keep records of emails and calls with dissatisfied customers that reach out.

This can aid you a lot in handling disputes and chargebacks that might happen so that you can have the deciding factors in your favor.

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The Sum Up

All in all, flash sales can help you make a lot of money in a flash for the benefit of your company. They provide small term pros like inventory clearance, completing sales and revenue generation, but they also double up to leave you with long term advantages like enhancing brand awareness, customer loyalty boost, and business growth. 

Depending on your targets, holding flash sales can help you get a taste of what this eCommerce sales phenomenon is all about along with all its perks. But do know that you will have to invest time and effort to make sure they get you the maximum benefits. 

So get your research going and make sure you continue to provide great customer service, as the arrival of new clients and crazy sales will bring along a lot of curiosity too!

Guest Post by

Shweta Jain is the founder of BitWise Branding, a digital marketing agency in Ahmedabad, India. A passionate blogger and consultant of online marketing, she has been in the industry for the last 8 years. She is currently exploring the constantly changing world of eCommerce. 

About the author

Karthik Ramachandiran

Google Ads Expert From Bengaluru. Share his Expertise Here