Business Glossary

What are flash sales?

This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute financial, legal, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

Whether you’re releasing a limited edition Smartwatch or want to offload excess inventory, flash sales are a great way to do it. Unlike normal sales, flash sales are short-lived and usually give consumers a heavy discount, hence the name flash; they’re here and gone in a heartbeat.

While retailers will launch flash sales all year round like regular Friday deals, you’ll often see seasonal trends, such as Black Friday, Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday and Christmas.

Definition of a flash sale

A flash sale or flash deal is defined as the discount or promotion of products for a short period. The urgency surrounding a flash sale taps directly into the FOMO or fear-of-missing-out consumer mindset.

A retailer will offer their goods at heavily discounted prices for a limited time to increase sales, raise their profile and attract new customers. It’s also a great way to get rid of inventory.

For the consumer, such limited-time deals are great news: they get a big discount, can save money and get acquainted with a brand they might not usually shop with.

Flash sales can last for several days, a single day – or sometimes even just a few hours. Some retailers will offer a daily deal, others will promote a particular flash deal or reduced price in a short window.

While brick-and-mortar stores often run flash sales, they apply equally to ecommerce sites, with shoppers receiving flash sales marketing emails featuring click-to-open incentives and countdown timers to deal day.

How flash sales can help grow your business

The benefits of a flash sale are innumerable. They appeal to new consumers and simultaneously persuade existing ones to buy on impulse. They’re therefore a valuable tool for any retailer looking to increase sales and revenue.

A flash sale will:

  • Sell a large amount of inventory in a short space of time

  • Encourage shoppers to buy more by offering large discounts and one-time deals

  • Can help sell out-of-season inventory or stock that’s been sitting around for a long time and aid inventory management

  • Can act as a vehicle to launch exclusive products

  • Can raise the profile of a brand and, in some cases, save a brand from liquidation

  • Can lead to lower inventory and operating costs

  • Can aid long-term growth in your business by appealing to your target audience and attracting new customers

    How to run a successful flash sale

A well-executed flash sale can raise brand awareness, boost revenue and attract new customers. However, it requires good planning to ensure success:

  • Make sure you understand what your target audience wants.

  • Be clear about your flash sale goal. Do you want to sell more of a particular product, sell lots of products and boost overall revenue or simply raise your brand profile?

  • Think carefully about the discount. It should be large enough to attract shoppers but not so big it negatively impacts your margins.

  • Keep it short. A flash deal is defined by its urgency which encourages shoppers to impulse buy.

  • Make it simple; the process should be quick and encourage sales. This may involve offering free shipping, making sure your ecommerce store is easy to navigate, offering coupons to incentivize customers and ensuring the checkout process is simple with checkout links

  • Use social media to spread the word about your flash sale and any specific flash deals. It’s a cost-effective way to reach your target audience, particularly if you’re in ecommerce and don’t have a physical store.

Frequently asked questions about flash sales

How long do flash sales last?

A flash sale is for a limited period so keep it to a few days or even hours to create urgency and encourage impulse buying.

How do flash sales work?

A flash sale or deal works by offering products at a heavy discount for a short period of time to boost sales. For example, Apple or Amazon will offer huge discounts on goods like phones, computers, appliances and t-shirts etc.

Do flash sales cost money?

It can cost money to promote a flash sale if you’re getting flyers printed or taking out costly billboard ads. But you can announce your flash deals on social media which is a cost-effective way to reach your target audience.

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