3 insider tips to running profitable flash sales

October 17, 2019

flash-sales-how toPlanning your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales well in advance is always a good idea.

They need to get deal-hunters excited but still be profitable. That means careful planning and strategy should go into every promotion you offer.

A flash sale can be a great weapon in your BFCM promotional arsenal — but only if you do it right. Your sales need to be Black Friday-worthy without breaking the bank.

A well-executed flash sale will have loyal customers flocking to your store for that item they've had their eye on, and also be mind-blowing enough to get new customers excited about visiting your store.

At the end of the day, a good flash sale is what Black Friday (and Cyber Monday!) is all about. They're the door-crasher deals that get shoppers' blood flowing!

via GIPHY

Here are four strategies and considerations to help you run profitable Black Friday flash sales shoppers will love.

But first, what exactly is a flash sale?

A flash sale is putting products on sale for a considerable discount for only short period of time.

Retailers use them all the time. They're basically the cause of all those Black Friday stampedes!


While flash sales are usually an easy way to lift your gross sales, you should be careful and make sure they ultimately make you a profit. 

That's why it's important to remember the money you make from selling those discounted products usually isn't your main source of profit. The goal should be to upsell and cross-sell so shoppers who came for the deal check out with bigger orders. It's also a way to attract new consumers with the goal of turning them into repeat customers.

Here are some strategies to help you do just that.
 

1. Offer deep discounts on high margin products

A big discount on an item you're selling at a high profit margin creates an exciting deal for shoppers while still making you money on every sale.

But that's not the real money-maker.

The idea is that you attract traffic to your store with the big mark down of a more expensive product, and then make up for that discount — and then some — by persuading customers to add additional items to their order.

Musicians-friend-flash-sale
Musician's Friend uses flash sales with discounts up to 30% off to drive traffic to their online store.

You could do this with complimentary upsells offers, offering additional priced options, or by offering customers free shipping if they reach a spending goal.

But the trick is to make the free shipping threshold just over the amount of that big sale item. This gives customers the incentive to spend a little bit more so they can get free delivery.

That "little bit more" can be relative to the cost of a "main attraction" sale item.

For example, if your flash sale item is $15, make the free shipping threshold $20. But if the big ticket sale item is $100, you could consider upping the free shipping threshold to $125. 

The bigger the purchase, the easier it might be for shoppers to justify buying a proportionally more expensive item.

Make it even easier for customers to get to that threshold by setting up a strategic upsell offer. When they add the sale item to their cart, shoppers will automatically get offered a product that brings them to that free shipping minimum. 

Putting a moderate discount on other items in your store (5%-15% off) could also help increase your average order size without cutting into your margins. This could be a good opportunity to move old inventory.

Remember: The idea is to attract customers with that markdown, then make even more of a profit by selling them more once they get to your store, or turning them into repeat customers.

2. Drive conversion with urgency: sales should be for a short time only

The key to a good flash sale is using the short availability time to create urgency. This gives shoppers a specific timeframe to take action and actually buy.

Think a power-hour lunch sale, one evening only, or a countdown to a midnight special.

morphe-flash-sale
Morphe used a limited-time only sale and a minimum free- shipping amount to create urgency and increase average order.

Those are the kind of deals that made Black Friday the exciting sale event it's become!

To decide when to run a flash sale, look at your store data to see when you get the most traffic. That could be the best time to run your promotion since you'll typically have more people visiting your store anyway.

Conversely, you might want to use a flash sale to attract shoppers to your store during low-traffic times. This can help you make money during times that are usually slow.

Running your sale at an unorthodox time can also help make your sales more exciting. Bargain hunters will feel like they're getting a more exclusive deal when you run it as a lunchtime power hour, or midnight special.

If you sell in different regions and time zones,  just schedule your sales for your local time and add an extra hour or two on either side. Your customers don't have to know that your window is actually a little wider. 

But make sure you're sending emails based on customers' local time zones (a lot of email services have this function automated), so it's consistent with your messaging and feels more personalized.

You might also want to look at sales data from last year to figure out how much traffic you need to reach your selling goals.

For example, if you know that on average you have a 10% conversion rate on your store, and you want to move 1000 items, you'll need to drive at least 10,000 visits to your store.

From there, you can get a better idea about how much marketing you need to reach those numbers, including email and paid advertising.


3. Use scarcity and exclusivity 

Advertising that you're only selling a limited number of products can also create a sense of urgency for customers, because they know your low-priced products are finite.

Having a little notification on your product page copy, like "only 10 left at this price," can motivate your customers to make the purchase right away.

You can even include this messaging in your marketing for a flash sale:

"We're selling 50 couches at 50% off! First come, first serve!"

Travel sites like Expedia do a great job of using scarcity to encourage customers to book immediately. A similar tactic could work for your doorbuster flash sale as well. 

expedia-flash-sale

Then once shoppers get to your store, use the other tactics we discussed above to get them to add more to their order, including upsells, BOGOs, discounts, or a strategic free-shipping threshold.

The shoppers who missed your door-buster product will see that you have other sale items available — albeit at a lesser discount — and they might be enticed to buy something else during their visit!
 

Quick tips for turning flash sale customers into repeat customers:

  • Use an email pop-up with messaging that lets visitors know they need to sign up to know about the next flash sale. 
  • If you have a loyalty program, try offering new members bonus points for signing up during your flash sale.

Bonus tip:

Keep track of analytics on your promotional items. If one sale item you're discounting is getting a lot of views but not converting as well as you hoped, consider adding a further discount.

Calculate how much more you can afford to discount on that product. If you crunch the numbers and discover that a further discount can make a profit if you move a goal volume, you could try it out.

Once you have the bigger discount applied, use remarketing to get customers back to your store.

Send out a retargeted email to shoppers who abandoned their cart or a blast to your whole list advertising the bigger discount. This could persuade them to come back and buy, helping you reach your targets and turn a profit.

Flash sales summed up in a flash:

A well-executed flash sale, or even a series of flash sales, like daily deals, can be key to getting dollars from digital deal-hunters.

Bold's suite of apps allow you to offer buy one get ones (with Bold Bundles), schedule sales ahead of time (with Bold Discounts), and advertise your sales with in-store banners (Bold Motivator). All our apps come with a free trial, and are backed by the industry-leading support merchants expect from Bold (just look at our reviews on the app store!)

We want your Black Friday and Cyber Monday to be the most successful one yet! We hope this helped spark some exciting ideas. Time to make them a reality! 

Topics: How-to guides

John Bruce

Written by John Bruce

John is a full-time copywriter, part-time boxing coach, and former cable-access host.

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