The Ultimate Flash Sale Definition, With Examples You Can Replicate

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Flash sales are a great way to draw attention to your brand and incite bursts of purchases. See how to pull off a successful flash sale right here.

Flash sale— it sounds…flashy, doesn’t it? But it’s so much more than a catchy clearance tag line. Flash sales are the ultimate retail tool for creating urgency and driving purchases during a specific time frame that you, the retailer, has set.

They can be an asset for retailers looking to increase sales during slow periods as well as those who are looking to simply drum up enthusiasm and drive traffic to your site/store.

What we’re getting at is the idea that flash sales are more than just an opportunity to unload older or overstocked merchandise. They’re an opportunity to demonstrate value to your customers and create buzz about your brand.

We’ll show you how by breaking down exactly what a flash sale is as well as give you some examples from successful retailers who are dominating the flash sale game.

What Is A Flash Sale?

By definition, a flash sale is a type of promotion run for a short time, and featuring a specific product/service. Another common hallmark of flash sales is a limited quantity of items up for grabs.

These elements are what separate a flash sale from a traditional sale, which merely offers discounted merchandise. The lack of abundance and ticking clock create a sense of urgency that results in a quick-action-purchasing.

In our introduction we mentioned that flash sales are more than just a sales tactic. That’s because, for some retailers, they’re a newsworthy event. If you’re a well-known brand, media outlets might advertise your upcoming flash sale as an inherently newsworthy event. And as a smaller organization, you can use the sale as a way to pitch your organization in an effort to secure coverage or get your social media following excited.

In addition to understanding the definition of a flash sale, it’s also important to get a clear picture of what makes a successful flash sale. Here are our top five tips:

  1. Go into your flash sale with a goal, and stick to it. Keeping your focus singular will benefit your chances of success.
  2. Keep your target audience in mind when setting your sale timeline. For example, if you’re targeting professionals, don’t make your sale fall into work hours.
  3. Prepare for an increase in customer service requests during your sale as you’re expected to have increased traffic.
  4. Keep your flash sale limited to around three hours.
  5. Advertise, advertise, advertise! Promote your flash sale across every platform possible to ensure the best chance of success.

Benefits Of Flash Sales

It’s all good and well to understand what a flash sale could do for your bottom line, but we’d wager you’re hungry for something a little more concrete. Luckily, because flash sales aren’t a new tactic in the business world, there’s a good amount of research pointing to some of the benefits these kind of sales can have.

To give you a better idea of what we mean, here are some of the most compelling flash sale facts:

Now, let’s give these statistics a leg to stand on with some real-world examples of flash sales in action. But more specifically, examples that anyone can replicate with their own business model.

Flash Sale Examples

While there are some retailers, like Zulily, that base their entire sales strategy on flash sales, but those aren’t the focus of this piece. We want to shine some light on retailers or e-commerce sites who have run flash sales as an isolated marketing tactic.

With that in mind, here our some of our favorite and most successful examples of flash sales.

Flash Sales With Tiers

The UK clothing retailer HYPE has a unique take on flash sales by offering tiers to their sale. This kind of early bird reward system is a way to take the feeling of urgency and elevate it even more. If you’re looking to incite the kind of impulse buying successfully employed by big retailers like Amazon and Wayfair, including tiers in your flash sale is an excellent way to do so!

Example of a flash sale from British e-commerce site Hype.

Flash Sales With Sticker Shock

Airline tickets are notoriously expensive, so a great way to capture attention is by boasting a too-good-to-be true rate. Offering flight tickets for prices as low as $15 is sure to get anyones attention. Some flash sales are successful because of their “deal appeal.” Even though it may be difficult to actually land the $15 ticket, it’s such a steep discount it’s worth sharing your email or phone number with the company for the chance at the deal! Don’t think this works? Just ask JetBlue, they’ve certainly seen success!

Example of a flash sale from JetBlue.

Uniquely Timed Flash Sales

Taking advantage of a unique time slot can create intrigue across various audiences. For example, Current decided to take advantage of most working professionals quick time off by launching a “lunch hour flash sale.” The logic here being: we know you’re not working during this time, why not maximize efficiency and do a little shopping!

Example of a flash sale from Current.

Mystery Flash Sales

This tactic is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not suited for every product. But for retailers who have a fairly wide variety of price points, you may have the opportunity to seize consumers curiosity with a mystery flash sale. Take advantage of the allure gambling has by offering a chance at scoring a top deal with mystery sales. Simply sign up for emails or texts, click a box, and be met with a chance discount code! One of the best examples of this we’ve seen is right on shoes.com!

Example of a flash sale from e-commerce site Shoes.com.

Members Only Flash Sales

A different kind of sales urgency is created by brandishing the allure of exclusivity. Retailers like Fabletics do this by constantly offering discounts for their VIP members (which anyone can become by giving an email address). However, if you’re not in the business of separating your customers, you can create that same experience through a kind of “Select Members” or “Friends and Family” flash sale. You do this by only advertising the sale to your existing contacts, and inviting them to do the advertising for you— just like Audible did with their big friends and family sale.

Example of a flash sale from Audible.

We hope the next time you see an ad for a limited time offer, you won’t write it off as a gimmick. Instead, we hope to have shed some light on the power a truncated timeline can have on your sales. If you decide to try out a flash sale with your business let us know, we’d love to hear around it! And if you use text marketing for retail to advertise your sale, we could even feature it on our site!

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