What is a Flash Sale?

You’ve undoubtedly seen those ads on TV or heard them on the radio where the announcer shouts almost incoherently about, “ONE DAY ONLY!,” and “UP TO 75 PERCENT OFF!” and other such proclamations. In an online setting, such sales might appear in your news feed with a timer next to them indicating how long you have to respond. This kind of a sale is called a flash sale.

The Science Behind the Concept

Successful companies study both their own sales trends and those of their competitors. By sifting through these data, a company’s strategic planners can determine what items or services the public wants now, what they have wanted in the past, and what they might want in the future. Thereafter, the company can make changes to its inventory and even to its products themselves to meet those trends.

A flash sale will attract customers like ants to sugar. The lure of deep discounts and, in the case of online orders, free shipping and quick turnaround guarantees is tough to resist in a world with ever-increasing inflation.

You can also use such sales to get rid of old stock that isn’t selling at regular price to make room for new stuff. To entice customers even further, you can offer package deals and other such bonuses.

Avoiding the Many Pitfalls

Although these sales attract thousands of customers, they are not good for profit. Often, you must discount items so deeply that you are selling them at cost or even at a loss. If you’re not careful, you can do serious damage to your bottom line.

To mitigate this risk, you can do things like offer incredibly deep discounts, even those that produce losses, on certain products but also include cross-sales or other stipulations. One of the most famous examples of this was the old Columbia House promotion where people could buy 10 record albums for a penny as long as they bought eight records at the normal price over the next three years.

The best way to pursue a flash sale is to make it appeal to a niche market. In the case of Columbia House, that market was audiophiles. In the case of one of the most famous websites that features these sales, Zulily, the market is overworked soccer moms. It’s much easier to sell things to a few people than to many. Let’s say you have 100,000 items you no longer need. If you tried to sell them to everyone, customers would pass by the sale because they would have to look for stuff they wanted. In a world of four-second attention spans, people don’t want to search. They want what they want right now.

So, instead of having one giant sale, you need to break up those 100,000 items into as many categories as possible and have a one or two-day sale on each category separately, backed up by aggressive, on-point marketing.

Flash sales are an outstanding tool for finding new customers, rewarding old customers with great deals, and sparking new marketing campaigns. Use them judiciously, and you will be successful.