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Video: Managing flash sales for apparel retailers

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The hallmark of retail’s digital transformation is a radical and evolving shift in the way consumers shop — and the resulting change in the options retailers need to provide their customers.

David Marimon, CEO and co-founder of Catchoom, knows the story well. His Barcelona, Spain-based company provides image recognition tools, including a way to automatically create written product descriptions from photos of products. It’s another example of the vast ecosystem of technology providers that retailers are turning to to keep up with customers and their rising expectations.

For instance, Catchoom’s product annotation and description tool has helped apparel companies launch flash sales, those seemingly chaotic, but precisely planned promotions in which a limited number of products are sold at an attractive price for a limited amount of time.

Sounds fun, right?

Flash sales require incredible speed and scale

That’s one way to look at flash sales. Marimon took a few minutes to talk to me at Shoptalk 2018 about the flip side of flash sales — the remarkable speed and scale that retailers must achieve to make sure the sales attract new customers without ending in the kind of disappointment that drives customers away.

So yes, flash sales put a tremendous strain on ecommerce operations. The sound advice that retailers should automate those processes that they can automate holds especially true when it comes to the popular fast-paced and short-lived sale events.

Marimon talked about having to photograph and display the flash sales’ products quickly. The same goes, of course, for tracking inventory, filling orders and shipping. And an extra challenge exists when it comes to preventing fraud, given the sudden spike in orders and the need to fill the orders quickly — the essence of a flash sale.

Marimon, who in particular talked about Barcelona-based retailer Privalia’s use of flash sales, said that retailers he’s familiar with require customers to log in before participating in a flash sale.

Registered accounts aren’t the whole answer

And while that seems a reasonable defense against fraud, it turns out that logging in might not provide the assurance some retailers believe it does. Signifyd recently studied two years of ecommerce fraud data and concluded that account takeover fraud — which involves fraudsters logging in to established accounts on retailers’ sites — has risen dramatically.

In fact, account takeover fraud rose 80 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to Signifyd’s Ecommerce Fraud Index, a sign that more than established consumer accounts will be needed to tamp down fraud committed during flash sales.

It seems a good bet that flash sales are here to stay. The tools and tactics that retailers use to overcome some of the challenges that come with flash sales, however, will be changing as rapidly as consumers’ tastes and shoppers’ preferences.

Contact Mike Cassidy at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.

Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at [email protected].