4 Marketing Best Practices for Retail Flash Sales

In today’s competitive retail market, many brands now rely on constant flash sales and promotions to appeal to customers.

When it comes to driving impulse purchases, this strategy works. “Two-thirds of consumers have made a purchase they weren’t originally planning to make solely based on finding a coupon or discount,” according to RetailMeNot research cited by Inc.com

As the holiday season approaches, consumers will be looking to Black Friday and Cyber Monday for major savings. But, what about the rest of the year?

We’ve compiled some best practices for retailers to ace their year-round promotional strategies. 

1. Use countdown timers wisely

Creating a sense of urgency around a deal is a great way to drive demand, and many retailers have employed countdown timers to do this. 

But, if you’re going to use this tactic to indicate how many hours are left in your sale, make sure you stay accurate. If the promotion is actually running for 36 hours, don’t create a timer for 24. This may seem like something minor, but consumers will notice.

“Timers counting down to the end of an online promotion have recently come under fire for being misleading and pressuring customers into spending money,” wrote Mike Austin, Co-Founder & CEO of Fresh Relevance, in an Essential Retail post. “It might be tempting to create a fake deadline to boost short-term sales but doing so risks the integrity of the brand and could lose customers for good.”

2. Create personalized deals for your loyal customers

Retail flash sales are often designed to appeal to all shoppers, e.g. “$10 off a $50 purchase” or “20% off all appliances.” 

But, people respond really well to offers that are tailored to their preferences. In fact, a study from RedPoint Global discovered that nearly 60% of shoppers said they are more likely to purchase from retailers who send them personalized content and offers. 

“It’s clear that consumers have had enough of irrelevant communication from brands that fail to leverage personal preferences and engagement history,” said John Nash, Global Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at RedPoint Global, in a MarketingLand article

There’s a massive opportunity here for marketers to put their data to good use. Take a look at your loyal customers’ previous purchases and send them offers for complementary items. If they purchased some booties this fall, send them a promo code for 30% off jeans that match their new shoes. Create messaging that lets them know you’re paying attention to their preferences, that you value their transactions, and that you want them to keep buying from your brand. 

3. Don’t underestimate the power of free shipping

Marketers tend to play up the savings customers will get from a particular deal, but free shipping does a lot to sway purchase decisions. 

The National Retail Federation found that most consumers consider shipping costs before the checkout process. In fact, 65% told the NEF that they look up the free-shipping thresholds before adding items to their online shopping carts. In other words, if they know they aren’t going to make the $75 or $125 minimum required for free shipping – there’s a chance they’ll abandon the purchase altogether. 

If free shipping is on the table, highlight exactly how much time they have to get this deal. This could even be a chance to utilize that countdown timer in an effective way. 

4. Make discounts feel a tad more exclusive

There’s frequent debate in the retail industry about the pros and cons of running constant flash sales. Some experts say that it could send the wrong signal to consumers.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Jon Weber and Chris Randall wrote that when it comes to markdowns, it’s important to set apart the products that are essential to your business. “Promoting too frequently may cause consumers to equate your brand with low prices, which is probably not the profile you want to communicate unless you’re a low-cost retailer.”

This is a huge reason why Amazon Prime Day is so successful. As a whole, the retailer isn’t known for having coupon codes or offering special deals. They reserve that one day in July for their deep discounts. To consumers, it feels like an exciting, can’t-miss event. While Amazon’s strategy isn’t viable for every single retailer, it is worth thinking about what you can do to make deals feel more exclusive.