Everything You Need to Know to Plan a Successful Flash Sale

Flash sale image depicted on laptop screen

As an online e-commerce business, there is a lot to think about with the holidays right around the corner. How can you improve the mobile shopping experience? What will your shipping strategy be? And, perhaps most importantly, what type of sales can you use to entice customers new and old to spend more with you?

One tactic that might do the trick is a flash sale. A flash sale is a promotion that runs for a short period and offers customers deeper-than-usual discounts. The goal is to offer highly attractive deals, framed within time-critical context.

Whether you are building a flash sale into your holiday strategy or just interested in attracting more (and new!) customers when they least expect it, creating a limited-time flash sale is a great way to boost revenue and move inventory.

The Pros and Cons of e-Commerce Flash Sales

A flash sale is not something to go into lightly, so you do need to know the pros and cons before you jump in. Here are some of the pros to think about:

  • Because consumers already understand the concept of a flash sale, there is no need to explain how it works.
  • Flash sales are a great way to reward and build loyalty with customers that pay attention to your communications.
  • You can use flash sales to lure in new customers and expose them to your standard inventory, which they might not have otherwise encountered in their searches around the web.
  • Flash sales can help you effectively unload inventory that wouldn’t move on its own or that needs to clear out before the next season, helping you recuperate money you might not have been able to make back.
  • Flash sales can boost revenue. So long as you handle the promotion the right way, you will profit from your efforts. (More on that below…so keep reading!)

A flash sale is not as simple as switching on a promotional pop-up on your website. Without the proper planning, you could find the flash sale costs you more than its worth. Here are the potential cons you should consider:

  • It could fall flat due to a lack of audience or competitor research, which takes time on your end to collect and analyze.
  • If you are not careful about choosing which items go on sale and at what price, you might find you attract low-value, one-time customers that are merely bargain-hunting.
  • Poor execution—in marketing, fulfillment, or shipping—could hurt your online store’s credibility when customers usually enjoy a positive shopping experience with you.
  • Flash sales put significant pressure on web servers. If your site slows down or, worse, crashes, customers will not even bother with the sale.
  • You might end up spending more money to run the sale than you make from it, especially if you do not pay attention to shipping costs.

How to Plan a Successful Flash Sale

There is a lot to gain by running a flash sale and a lot at stake if it does not go as planned. So, here’s what you need to do to successfully plan a flash sale:

  1. Create the flash sale with a primary goal in mind. Are you moving inventory or trying to improve your brand’s bottom line?
  2. Know who you are targeting with the sale. What do they need? Which deals will appeal to them most? When do they shop? Don’t be afraid to segment based on your findings.
  3. Cut prices deep, but not so deep that you lose money after shipping, handling, taxes and other costs are factored in.
  4. Set the timeframe, which should ideally be no more than 72 hours.
  5. Be smart about when you run it. For instance, the holiday season might make sense, but not if you run out of high-demand inventory.
  6. Know your inventory inside and out.
  7. Consider how shipping comes into play. Is it still worth it to offer free or rush shipping? Can your fulfillment team process a massive amount of orders in such a short time?
  8. Prepare your site for the increased traffic (i.e., contact your web host).
  9. Create a social media plan to promote the sale, both before you launch it and during the sale.
  10. Don’t forget to inform your email subscriber list about the flash sale—56 percent of businesses have higher click-to-open rates on flash sale emails compared to their yearly click-to-open rate.
  11. During the flash sale, monitor everything: visitors on your e-commerce site, conversion rates, site performance, customer service issues, and, of course, shipping.

Marketing campaigns, inventory management, shipping and delivery execution…all of these genuinely matter to the ultimate success of your sale. So long as you plan and execute each moving piece well, you should find a flash sale to be a truly beneficial and profitable venture for your e-commerce business.

About Endicia

Endicia is a leading provider of internet-based postage services that make it easier and more affordable to ship parcels through the U.S. Postal Service®. We know that shipping can be complex and our goal is to simplify your shipping operations so you can focus on doing what you do best. Visit us at endicia.com to learn more.

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