Flash Sales: Are They Effective?


This past holiday season brought a lot of flash sales to customers – flash sales can be announced in advance or completely random, giving customers special discounts during a specific time frame. There are a few goals in this type of marketing:


1. Drive sales during a specific time frame. When announced, it can create word of mouth advertising, as customers may tell others, and gives the company a simpler way to track the effectiveness of a marketing strategy.


2. When unannounced and completely random, it can keep customers more closely tied to a company’s website or social sites where they are known to make such offers.


There are a couple of ways flash sales can be done, and I’ve seen them offered by a variety of businesses, including retail and gas stations.
Gas stations? Yes.


Gas prices have been falling across the nation, and in the Chicagoland area, we are celebrating the almost $2.00 per gallon prices. I recently became a loyalty card member for Thorton’s, as they tend to offer the lowest prices in the area and are convenient to me. What I didn’t know is that part of being a member included flash sales. Imagine my surprise when I randomly received an email that let me know that if I purchased gas the following day, I would receive an additional $0.10 per gallon. It’s happened once since that time, but I will admit I do look forward to those emails, never knowing when they will come.


In the retail world, there were many flash sales offered during the holiday shopping season. I personally received many of these emails offering high discounts over a short period of time. Depending on the sale and the retailer that is offering the sale, this could be a successful way of increasing sales.


Below are some tips for creating a successful flash sale:


1. Random vs pre-planned: the first time around, let customers know ahead of time that you will be hosting a flash sale. Give advance notice and build excitement. If you are sharing the flash sale on social sites, such as Instagram, let customers know that this is the first one, but you will randomly offer additional flash sales in the future. This way, if they cannot make the first one, they will be checking your social site more frequently in hopes of hitting a deal.


2. Keep the window short: keeping the flash sale to a two or three hour timeframe is a good idea; any longer and it may not be as effective as you’d like. The idea is to build excitement and offer great deals over a short period of time. The longer a flash sale is live, the weaker the participation. Studies show that the most activity comes within the first hour to hour and a half of a flash sale.


3. Keep in mind the time of day: historically, evenings have proven better to host flash sales. Weekends are no exception. By offering such sales in the evening, there is a chance for better participation.


4. Be very clear in the announcement: it’s the little things, such as identifying the times of the sale by time zone and creating a page for customers who visit outside of the designated time that indicates the flash sale is over, will go a long way in preventing issues and/or dissatisfied customers.


Flash sales can be a fun way to reward customers while increasing sales. It can also help gain traction on social sites if this is where you choose to host your flash sale. Careful planning and consideration are needed to ensure a seamless experience for the company and customers.




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