Flash Sales first became popular back in the 2000s. Since then, it has been deemed as an excellent business strategy for online brands and sellers. But that doesn’t mean that running a flash sale is easy. As a matter of fact, some companies have experienced tremendous loss due to failed flash sales and there are also ones who owe their huge success to these flash sales. In this post, we are going to tackle the nuts and bolts of flash sales, how long they should be run, when to run them, how flash sales can go wrong, and what you can do to ensure a success on your flash sales campaign. 

What is a flash sale?

Just like its name,a flash sale is here at one moment and then it’s gone. It is a kind of sales promotion that brands and sellers offer for a limited time. If you have a large number of products, a flash sale is a great way to make short-term sales in just a few hours. But there are cases when you need special preparations if you are expecting to make more than ten times your usual sales in just a few hours. 

How long is a typical flash sale?

The sweet spot for high click rates and best transactions is 3 hours. 

One of the keys to a successful flash sale is the time length. We recommend short flash sales because it creates a sense of urgency among buyers. This is backed up by a study by Monetate that states that 50% of flash sales orders occur during the first hour of the promotions. Hence, customers are encouraged to act quickly due to FOMO. 

What are the best times to run a flash sale?

If you are an experienced brand, the best way to decide when to run a flash sale is to look at your historical data. 

But if you are just starting out, we recommend that you run flash sales at these times of the year by default:

Before A Holiday

Holidays, also known as peak seasons are a busy time for brands as well as customers because this is the time when they are bombarded with marketing emails and notifications. And so, there tends to be a flash sale fatigue for buyers. 

But if you run a flash sale (coordinated with well-optimized ads) before the holiday, you have a chance to get ahead of your competition and even win some new customers. You will also be able to make space for new inventory. Hence, you will be able to increase your customer base before the start of the holiday season. 

After The Holiday

After the holiday shopping season, you will typically notice an increase in order returns. To make up for your loss sales in this aspect, you can run flash sales after the end of the holiday. At the same time, this can also build customer loyalty if previous flash sale customers make a second purchase on your next flash sale. 

Apart from these two time triggers, it is also important to run flash sales every few months. Once you’ve collected enough historical data, you can generate insights that will help you determine the best months to randomly run a flash sale. 

Should you run a flash sale?

You should run a flash sale if your goal is to satisfy at least one (or all) of the following:

  • New customer acquisition
  • Unload excess inventory
  • Lift your profits
  • Grow your top line
  • Grow your bottom line
  • Increase customer loyalty

The real value of flash sales

Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) is a critical component of one’s long-term business strategy. Apart from profitability, CLTV is the second best metric in determining sales performance. 

Your CLTV can be an indicator of whether or not your sales work for your long-term business strategy. 

Flash sales help you enhance your CLTV because it will aid you in answering the following questions:

  • Will you be able to upsell?
  • Do you have loyal customers?
  • Will you be able to cross sell your products?

Flash sales can also fail: 4 ways your flash sale can go wrong

It’s hard to envision a failed flash sale. If a customer gets notified about marginalized prices, more often than not, the customer would be inclined to make a purchase. 

But historically, there are multiple businesses built on a flash sales model that suffered in terms of revenue. 

Back in 2013, Totsy, a flash sales site had to lay off 83 of its employees and hire Consensus Advisors to sell off their assets. 

GSI Commerce also sold RueLala to eBay due to the fact that it dragged down their profits back in 2011. 

Site crashes are typically the main cause of flash sales failures. Other times, they are caused by the following:

1. Failed Deliveries/Prolonged Shipping

One of the most important factors that shape customer experience is what happens after a purchase. 

It is a common issue for customers to receive their merchandise for several weeks and it is a bigger issue if the products come in installments. 

Based on an Invespcro study, 25% of their surveyed shoppers would abandon a product order if same-day shipping wasn’t available. Meanwhile 49% of the shoppers say that fast product delivery is one of the things that make them want to shop online. 

2. Failure To Assess The Needed Inventory

Flash sale items sell out faster compared to regular items by 45%. One way you can disappoint your customers is to build excitement around in the form of a flash sale, only to know that the product is already out of stock. 

There is a flash sales study that states among the reasons some people avoid buying from flash sales is that they don’t want to be disappointed when the item that they want is no longer available.

If you leave a customer disappointed, they will usually vent through word of mouth or social media. Not only will you suffer from sales loss but a disappointed customer also has a negative impact on your brand.  

3. Failure To Provide A Personal Response To All Inquiries

During a flash sale, there is an expected increase in product demand and inquiries. 

Setting up automated replies is good for answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) and for telling customers that you will get back to them soon. However, it does not help you get to the core of the customers’ problems. It does not help you resolve their concerns. 

A lack of personal response to a customer inquiry leads to an upset buyer and could cost you some profit or worse you could lose a loyal customer simply because you were not able to accommodate his concern. 

For example, a buyer has ordered an item and then decided to message you for a follow-up question on shipping. If the customer is unable to receive a reply from you within a day as a maximum, the excitement brought by the flash sale could be replaced with disappointment and lack of interest which could result in an order cancellation. 

4. Neglecting Product Listing Basics

Let’s say you and a competitor were selling cosmetics. Your competitor was able to optimize his product listing but yours have not been sprinkled with the right keywords, it does not have good main images, and you were not able to identify the product benefits in the product description section, your product will have a lower chance toward conversion rate vs the competitor product. 

In flash sales promotions, there is typically a separate module and algorithm set at play. However, consumer behavior remains the same. 

Despite low prices, if you don’t have main images that are appealing, the customer will not be enticed to buy. 

If your product listing has not been sprinkled with the right keywords, the customer will not feel any connection to your PDP. 

If you fill the product description with specifications/features instead of the actual benefits, the value of what you are selling will not immediately register into the mind of your customer and will reduce your chances of conversion. 

5 best practices in running a successful flash sale

Here are some of our best practices in running a successful flash sale:

1. You Should Have The Right Timing

When deciding at what time to run a flash sale, it’s worth asking these two questions:

  • What days of the week do your customers typically make a purchase?
  • What times of the day do your customers usually buy from your shop?

We have the following recommendations when it comes to flash sale times:

  • 12 midnight
  • 9 am
  • 10 am
  • 11 pm

But we recommend that you check with your marketplace analytics tool for more accurate data. 

An Introductory Guide To Flash Sales For Online Brands & Sellers

If you’re a Shopee seller, simply head to the Shopee Seller Center and then click Business Insights.

Head to the Sales tab. 

An Introductory Guide To Flash Sales For Online Brands & Sellers

Here you will be able to determine the dates when you commonly receive orders and then you can just sort your data to figure out what exact days of the week these sales belong to. 

And then you can set the calendar to a specific month and date. That way, you can analyze the exact time when you get the most sales. 

An Introductory Guide To Flash Sales For Online Brands & Sellers

If you are a Lazada seller, go to the Lazada Seller Center and then head to Business Advisor. 

There is a graph that will show you the trend of your sales as well as the exact dates as to when you received these sales. Sort the data out and then you’ll know what days of the week you receive the most sales. 

An Introductory Guide To Flash Sales For Online Brands & Sellers

Then check which time most of your customers make purchases simply go to Finance.

And then click Account Statements. 

An Introductory Guide To Flash Sales For Online Brands & Sellers

Go to Order Overview. From there, you will see the exact time when orders have been made. 

2. Narrow Down Your Target Market

Don’t just rely on your marketplace flash sales marketing. You can narrow down your target market by doing as follows:

  • Identify the consumers who have shown interest in your soon-to-be sale products (show interest by adding to cart, liking your product, or by asking inquiries)

If you are a Shopee seller, you can send products to these customers for recommendation. If you are a Lazada seller, you can use Lazada CEM. You can check out our post on Lazada CEM – Intro To Engagement Management In Lazada to learn more about this feature.

  • If you want to attract new customers, you can run a limited-time Google Ads campaign that is triggered when a customer searches for a specific keyword.
  • Create a buyer persona for your target market and use your demographics data to run a suitable Facebook Ads campaign

3.  Put The Right Products On The Flash Sale 

  • Target high-traffic products for flash sale

If you are a Shopee seller, go to Shopee Seller Center > Business Insights> Products. Go to the bottom of the page where you will find the views of your top products. 

In Lazada, go to Lazada Seller Center > Business Advisor > Traffic. 

An Introductory Guide To Flash Sales For Online Brands & Sellers

You will be able to see how many page views/attention your products have been receiving. 

  • You can use Split Dragon’s Keyword Suggestion Tool to identify search volumes for specific products 
  • Identify products that has had negative product reviews in the past and then put them on a flash sale (flash sales will help you improve the algorithm for that product and potentially have better reviews moving forward)

4. Estimate Your Needed Inventory And Then Add 50%

Even if you sell good products for good prices during a flash sale, it will still end unsuccessfully if you are unable to satisfy every customer due to product scarcity. 

During flash sales, there is almost always a tremendous increase in product demand. Hence, we highly recommend that when preparing inventory, you should:

  • Estimate the product quantity you need
  • Add 50% to that quantity 

Even if you have one or two excess products at the end of the flash sale, that’s nothing compared to the revenue loss you will experience if you went out of stock too soon. After all, you can still utilize these products for future flash sales or sell the excess products for a regular price thereafter. 

5. Pile Up On Manpower

When running a flash sale, you need to prevent two things from happening: 1) late shipping 2) unresponsive CS. 

During a flash sale, you can almost always expect exponential growth in terms of product demand. Therefore, you will most likely receive more orders than usual and more product inquiries than usual. 

Even if people already placed an order, remember that they can still push for a cancellation if you take too long to ship the product. It would be best to have some extra hands around your warehouse to make sure that all transactions are coordinated timely and efficiently. 

Some people like to ask for inquiries before placing an order and there are also people who prefer to place an order and then ask for inquiries. 

Either way, if you fail to respond to their concerns in a timely and helpful manner, you could lose customers during your flash sale. You could even lose customers who already placed an order due to lack of CS capability. Hence, we suggest that you employ a few friends or family to help out during flash sales. 

Let’s say that you were expecting X customers on a flash sale but you only got Y customers, having enough people to delegate tasks to is worth it because you will get to keep track of the operations on a larger scale during the flash sale. Therefore, you will be able to make all transactions move more efficiently and improve customer experience. 

Logistics also play a role in flash sales

After you ship your products in a timely manner, there is one more factor that could impact a positive or negative experience for your customers in terms of delivery: your logistics service. It’s not too late to choose the right logistics partner that’s perfect for your business. Check out our posts on SE Asia Logistics Providers For Brands & Sellers

Lazada Flash Sales – How To Join

Flash sales are a prime module in the Lazada marketplace. When you join a flash sale in this platform, your products will be put in display in the flash sale section during the following time slots:

  • 7 AM to 1 PM
  • 1 PM to 7 PM
  • 7 PM to 12 AM

According to Lazada statistics, these are the times when buyers are most active in adding to cart and placing orders on the platform. Hence, there is a promised higher conversion rate for Lazada flash sale participants. As a matter of fact, it is said that you will also experience 30% more store visits even after the flash sale is over. 

To join a Lazada Flash Sale, go to the Lazada Seller Center and then hover the pointer to Promotions. Click Campaign. 

An Introductory Guide To Flash Sales For Online Brands & Sellers

Click Daily Sales > Flash Sale > Available Campaign. Choose a flash sale that you want to be a part of and then click Join. 

On the next page, you will see a summary of the campaign details. Pay attention to this section because this is where Lazada will indicate the minimum requirements for discounts for particular product categories. Once you’ve understood and agreed to everything, click Join Now. 

An Introductory Guide To Flash Sales For Online Brands & Sellers

Afterwards, you will be asked to select the products that you want to include in the flash sale and then set your campaign price. Submit. 

Shopee Flash Sales – How To Join

Flash Sales is an exclusive feature in the Shopee marketplace. It is considered to be one of the most popular features of Shopee Seller Center because it garners sellers with the most clicks and views. When you join a Shopee flash sale, there will be a dedicated section for your product in the homepage which means that your brand will receive maximum exposure. 

Shopee Flash Sales Requirement

  • Start and End time (the campaign is only a limited time offer)
  • Stock requirements (The Shopee system has an integrated stock requirement that your product must meet based on the product quantity you have listed in your PDP)
  • The Right Product Category (Some flash sales are only available for specific categories. You cannot add products to a flash sale that does not meet the required category)
  • Product Variations (Not really a requirement but if you have different product variations, you can set a different price for each one)

Unlike Lazada, a seller cannot voluntarily join a Shopee Flash Sale. Shopee selects products to feature in the Flash Sales campaign based on multiple factors. If a seller has been selected for the Flash Sale campaign, he will receive a notification and will be instructed on how to proceed with the campaign application.  

Flash sales can be a quick and easy way to instantly drive quick revenue or traffic to your product, but only if done strategically. What’s your flash sales story? We’d love to know in the comment section. 

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