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Sell

The quintessential guide for a flash sale

Versha Kamwal
September 21, 2020
6
mins read

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Promotions and phenomenal marketing tools have made online shopping a mainstream interest. From this standpoint, revenue-driving sales channels seem accessible, but only a strategic approach can act as a force multiplier.

The word ‘sale’ brightens up online shoppers and boosts revenue for businesses. A well-executed sale does more than that; it uncovers a broad spectrum of long-term benefits.

What is a flash sale?

A flash sale is an event where products are sold at a substantial discount, for a short duration of time. It aims at enticing online shoppers to impulse buy and increase brand awareness. Moreover, it compels customers to check out other product listings which aren't on sale.

Typically, it spouts deals of 50%-70% off regular MRP (Maximum Retail Price).

Flash sales are dissimilar from ordinary online sales in 3 particular ways:

  • The discounts and promotions offered are strikingly better than what your business usually offers
  • The time duration of a flash sale is significantly shorter than your standard sale window
  • The selection of products offered for sale is limited, generally combined with reduced stock availability
According to research, a flash sale gets satisfied customers to return and spend an average of 385% more.

H&M Flash sale
H&M Flash Sale banner helps create a sense of urgency for online shoppers

Why do businesses need flash sales?

The modern era has equipped online customers with a multitude of tools to analyse and compare products, especially the price. A flash sale serves as the ultimate answer to customer demand, but for a short timespan. A sense of urgency is created to boost sales quickly.

Break-even on overstocked and poor-selling items

Flash sale is a great way to sell items that are sitting in inventory in enormous quantities for quite some time. It results in lower operating and inventory costs on the backend. Overstock and poor-selling items sit on shelves alike. They hoard warehouse space for no good and don’t let you break even. A flash sale on these items can recuperate some of your initial costs.

Make room for new inventory

Seasonal and speciality products consume more time to stock-out as compared to regular products. Getting rid of them can be challenging. A flash sale can make this task easier by clearing out old inventory fast. Fashion brands execute it very often as they have seasonal inventory intake, coming in every few months. However, a flash sale is suitable for any type of product to make way for new ones.

Boost revenue and NPS

Flash sales act as a wildcard for businesses. Even a short duration is capable of helping you to meet your projections, optimise your profits and NPS. You are most likely to witness massive website traffic and tremendous increase in sales numbers during these events.

Based on Wix data from ecommerce merchants who ran flash sales in 2020: On average, online stores increase monthly GMV by over 64,000% with a flash sale.

What is the best time to do it?

There is no established “best practice” to schedule a flash sale as it truly depends on the type of product you’re selling and when customers tend to purchase it the most. Analysing your historical order data can give you deeper insights pertaining to consumer behaviour and purchasing tendencies. But if you’re new in the business, here are some preferable times:

Before the festive season

Often termed as the peak season, online businesses are bustling with orders amid festivities. The entire ecommerce landscape is busy with vigorous sale promotions. If you run a flash sale before the festive season, you can seize the day with great opportunities. You can get ahead of the competition, win new customers, and also make room for new inventory before the festive season even begins.

Amazon Flash Sale and Flipkart Flash sale
Flipkart Flash Sale and Amazon Flash sale before the festival of Diwali

After the festive season

A spike in order returns can arise once the festive season is over too. Customers tend to return unwanted products, but that doesn’t imply you have to lose out on money. Businesses can start a flash sale right after the festive season. It serves as the perfect opportunity to balance out the loss due to returns.

Amazon Flash Sale
Amazon Flash Sale, after the new year, highlighting their exchange offers, affordable prices, no-cost EMI's, and wide range of products

Yearly occasions (every few months)

A frequent sale schedule can affect your brand’s reputation negatively. It can raise concerns in customers, questioning why products were so expensive before the discounts were imposed. A strategic schedule can retain the customer’s faith in your brand. It’s often advisable to run a sale every few months when online shoppers are eagerly looking for deals. For example- Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Independence Day, Valentine’s Day, and more.

Reebok Flash Sale
Reebok Flash Sale hosted on Independence day slashing down its prices to 50 per cent

Studies suggest that 50% of flash sale orders occur within the first hour of the sale.

Strategies for running a flash sale

A flash sale is short-term in nature, but it creates a long-term impact on a business. Right steps can reap positive results and turn this marketing tool into a revenue-generating machine.

1. Determine the goal of your sale

Flash sales enable businesses to accomplish a variety of different things, and following an objective can help you scale up your success. A deep-discounting methodology cannot stand on its own; you need to ascertain several things to work out a course of action. For instance, do you have a sufficient quantity of a particular product that isn’t selling? Do you want to encourage buyers to focus on not one but many products to stabilise your inventory? Or, do you want to amplify your website traffic by discounting a high-quality product? By focusing on a goal, you can decide the most eligible products for sale.

2. Deep discounts on high margin products

An exciting deal on a high margin product can still add up to your profit. But that’s not the real money-maker. After attracting traffic, your goal is to persuade customers to add additional items to their cart. Set a free shipping threshold as an incentive to spend a little bit more. You can even set 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. You can also put a moderate discount of 5%-15% off on other items in your store to increase your average order value without cutting into your margins.

3. Promote sale ahead of time

Pre-announcements create the necessary hype among online shoppers for the upcoming flash sale. It builds the vital exposure needed for your sale to succeed. Giving your shoppers a heads up through exciting social media countdowns and promotional emails can broaden your reach significantly.

4. Word it correctly

You cannot miss out on context and the criticality of it. Phrase it right!

“Save ₹99 on a ₹500 purchase” won’t attract as much attention as you want. It would be best if you phrase your offer that ensures optimal reach. There are different directions you can take with your words. For instance, “Get ₹₹ off” emphasises on gain. Whereas, “Save ₹₹” emphasises on avoiding loss. Your target audience doesn’t want to miss out on a good deal. And, the degree of good is established by your words.

5. Drive conversion with urgency

The most distinctive feature of a flash sale is its time duration. A short period availability is what creates the critical factor of a sale, i.e. urgency. A specified timeframe makes the shoppers take action and buy. You can either run your sale when your website gets the most traffic or attract them during low-traffic times. The former is conventionally a good practice. However, the latter can lure online shoppers for more exclusive deals.

6. Capitalise on exclusivity

Advertise that you’re only selling a limited stock. It can also trigger urgency for customers. A little notification on your product page like “15 products left” can motivate your customers to make the purchase right away. You can include upsells, free shipping threshold and BOGOs (buy one get one) can increase order size. Moreover, those who missed your limited stock can also view similar products with lesser discount and might buy something during their visit.

7. Prepare for fulfilment

After receiving massive orders after a sale, fulfilment becomes the most challenging task. Usually, it’s where a flash sale fails. Delays in deliveries may result in losing customers. You need to prepare ahead of time for mass shipping and delivery to offer a seamless experience, from start to finish.

87% of online customers state that shipping speed is a crucial factor in deciding whether to shop with an ecommerce brand again or not.

Role of fulfilment in a flash sale

Customer's experience with your brand begins when they click on "checkout" or "buy now". Their satisfaction level is dependent on the delivery of their order. You need to prepare your inventory and analyse how accurately and quickly you can get your orders out.

Fulfilment during peak sale events can be troublesome as orders scale up exponentially when compared to BAU (Business as usual) order volumes. Capacity planning prior to a flash sale is the key element to make sure your supply chain is adequately equipped to meet the demand. Plan daily capacity and manpower needs for optimum efficacy. Meanwhile, reallocate all the available resources from other functions like kitting, refurbishment, et cetera to develop a core purpose- flash sale fulfilment.

Optimising the pick and pack process can help you improve your order processing rate. Orders can be grouped according to their delivery date, picking zones in the warehouse, type of order, customer location, and frequency of orders. However, convenient placement of high-selling SKUs can facilitate picking optimisation.

You can partner up with a 3PL (Third-party logistics) to make sure that you are fully prepared for the surge in order volumes. The benefits of outsourcing fulfilment are countless; you can fulfil orders effectively while maintaining the branded experience.

How Eshopbox helps deliver a successful flash sale?

Notify Eshopbox about the surge

As an Eshopbox client, all you need to do is to inform Eshopbox about the expected surge in order volumes and the duration of the flash sale. Eshopbox will increase the daily pick capacity by allocating more resources and intimate you with expected dispatch dates for your customer orders.

Set clear expectations

To ensure your customers get the accurate delivery date of their orders, you need to know two things:

  1. Dispatch date of your order (it can be calculated by the total number of orders / daily pick capacity)
  2. Time taken by shipping provider to deliver your order

Your shipping provider will inform you exactly how much time it would take to deliver orders to your customers based on the PIN codes they serve. For instance, zonal orders can be delivered on the same day, inter-state orders take 2 days, and so on.

Now, based on the dispatch date and the estimated delivery time, you can set clear expectations with your customers.

Provide real-time order updates to your customers

Eshopbox provides continuous order updates to your customers. Every step of order fulfilment, i.e. order processing, ready-to-ship, in-transit, out for delivery, and more is communicated via emails and text messages. Apart from this, your customers can track their orders whenever they want. In case of any delays or interruptions, your customers will be notified proactively.

Eshopbox empowered Pureplay cosmetics to deliver peak order volumes while maintaining the branded experience

We work with Eshopbox for the fulfilment of orders and their solution has helped us deliver more than 300K orders in 6 months with incredible accuracy. We often run flash sale events for our customers which means 5x orders to pack and ship. Eshopbox handles these sudden peaks in a very organised way and ensures that our orders are delivered on time. We've been able to focus on the branding, product, and other customer-centric aspects of the business, as opposed to fulfilment operations which used to take up a lot of bandwidth earlier.

- Shankar Prasad, Founder, Pureplay

Bottom line

When executed wisely, a flash sale not only helps in time-bound wins but attains long-term goals. It increases customer lifetime value (CLV). As we’ve seen, real opportunities exist for ecommerce companies that are willing to go the extra mile. A flash sale can be a double-edged sword, but the right fulfilment strategy can help you boost your revenue and NPS exponentially.

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