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Finding success with flash sales

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What is a flash sale? Much like the name suggests, they are here today, gone tomorrow. These sales present a unique opportunity for retailers to move around merchandise, promote sales and increase customer engagement.

When you break it all down, flash sales are really as easy as they seem. They require planning, business intelligence and strategy — just like any other sale or promotion a merchant could run. If you are ready and willing to put in the work, your next flash sale can be a smashing success.

Successful flash sale campaigns require a few key ingredients. To help you prepare for your next flash sale, BlueSwitch and Signifyd have teamed up to put together a how-to guide for merchants on how to do a flash sale. But act soon — these tips are moving fast! (See what we did there?)

Flash sales explained

It’s more than a flashy title. A flash sale is a limited-time discount or promotion offered by ecommerce stores. In this model, business owners choose to offer highly competitive prices for a finite supply of products in a limited amount of time, adding urgency to each moment and hopefully influencing buying decisions.

In many cases, products offered in flash sales are either out of season or have been collecting dust in the back of your warehouse. By dropping prices, merchants can publicize their brand identity with increased website traffic and move leftover merchandise as well.

Success starts with defining your goals

Merchants can plan for success with flash sales by setting goals. Flash sales aren’t as simple as setting out old merchandise with the hope it’ll move quickly. A good flash sale requires investing time and effort into key details, specifically pricing and products.

Flash sales may seem ephemeral to your customers, but a good flash sale strategy requires a lot of planning and project management. You want everything you do to look effortless. After all, the best shopping experiences are breezy and fun for the customer. Make your customers feel like VIPs with consistently great shopping experiences. You don’t have to break a sweat after you flip the switch to start a flash sale — the right preparation goes a long way. Defining your goals is a big step toward securing the best shopping experiences for your customers.

Each merchant takes a different approach to  promote a flash sale, based on their goals and desired outcomes. Some businesses may be looking to increase traffic to their site to build brand awareness. Others may be looking to push stale merchandise and make space for newer products or models.

Before you begin working on your flash sale strategy, define your priorities and goals for promotions and the sale itself.  It’s an easy way to build benchmarks to measure the flash sale’s ultimate success.

Elastic capacity is in the flash sale’s secret sauce

When a flash sale goes right, it’s a big win for a merchant. But when increased traffic from a flash sale promotion causes orders to spike beyond capacity, any gain in revenue is offset by a rapid drain on resources. Without a plan to implement elastic capacity as needed (to address order spikes or other cases when your ecommerce website can’t handle the incoming traffic), your flash sale could end up backfiring.

More orders coming in over a short period of time can put a strain on operational functions. Highly automated fraud protection can ease some of that pain. An increase in orders means the merchant must review more orders to screen for fraud. Retailers have traditionally brought on temporary help to review orders during high-volume periods. Temporary workers often lack fraud expertise, leading to more bad orders getting through and more legitimate orders being declined.

But forward-thinking retailers have increasingly been turning to fraud protection models that use automation to provide the ability to scale up order review and chargeback management without bringing on additional employees. A few of these models, like Signifyd’s, provide guaranteed fraud protection, which means the fraud protection provider pays the costs for any approved orders that later turn out to be fraudulent.

There’s little offseason for ecommerce. Holidays and major events dominate spending trends. Changes in weather dictate when and where customers will shop. Start thinking of how to handle fraud and order spikes in a proactive way. You’ll see the difference in your revenue stream.

Demand attention for flash sales with strong promotions

If an ecommerce business promotes a flash sale without customers to sell to, what’s the true outcome? Flash sales are time-bound, which can throw a wrench into even the best laid marketing and sales plans. When it comes to flash sales, it’s crucial for merchants to promote their sale on all channels starting about a week before the sale goes live. This is sound advice for any sale, but especially critical for a blow-out sale.

Social media is made for the quick and urgent drivers of flash sales. As content flies by when users scroll through their feeds, you can capture eyeballs looking for something interesting. Stop these potential shoppers in their digital tracks by developing a can’t-miss media promotions plan that covers all your bases: social media platforms, email, social ads and site banners.

The objective of your flash sale promotion should be to reach as many potential clients as possible. All of them may not become loyal customers, especially if their sole interest is the sale products. But a flash sale could be the handshake that leads to a long-term customer relationship that’s worth nurturing. Any effort to attract more customers opens the door for potentially increasing conversions.

Timing is everything

One of the most challenging things about flash sales is nailing down the right dates and times to run these promotions. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all template for flash sale success. Instead, turn to your customer interactions and products for inspiration.

For many businesses, holiday flash sales are easy wins because of consumers’ mad dash to complete their shopping lists before the big day. , Other merchants can find flash sale success by basing their promotions on the flow of their merchandise. Some strategies are best for launching a mini flash sale to test the promotional waters, while other strategies allow merchants to go all in.

Start working with your data to understand your company’s peak sales months compared to product volume. You have loads of business intelligence at your fingertips — use it! This data is critical for determining the best time to drop a flash sale.

But act fast because the clock is ticking! (See, we did it again.)

Photo courtesy of Justin Lim on Unsplash

Chris Martinez

Chris Martinez

Chris is a content strategist at Signifyd.