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When you need a fresh way to build hype about your brand, to boost awareness, or to draw in new customers, a flash sale can be just the thing to spin up some buzz around your business.
A flash sale, which is a promotion that only lasts for a short time, can generate excitement among your audience while giving your sales (and brand image) a quick lift. If you’ve got new inventory that has limited availability, consider doing a product drop, which involves drumming up intrigue around the launch of a new product.
Both flash sales and product drops succeed by using either time or quantity to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity: The discount is available for a very limited time, or there is limited availability of products. Flash sales can be announced with short notice, giving customers the delightful element of surprise and the feeling that they get to participate in a special opportunity to save big. Product drops are marketed ahead of time, hinting at a date, time, or location with a sense of mystery as to what the product will be.
The mix of short notice, urgency, and major savings spurs customers to act quickly and share with their friends to make sure they don’t miss out.
Here are seven ideas for how you can execute flash sales and product drops.
1. Target a narrow segment of your audience and get specific.
Don’t cast too wide of a net for who you want to target with a single flash sale. The strength of a flash sale lies in personalizing your messaging and tailoring the story you tell to a specific audience.
Determine the goal of your flash sale: Are you looking to draw in new customers whom you can then nurture into long-term customers? Do you want to re-engage inactive customers? Are you aiming to reward loyal long-term customers and nurture them into brand advocates?
Narrow further from there to focus on a specific subset of your target audience so you can tailor your messaging to them. When planning how you’ll promote your flash sale, look at data on your target audience’s interests, behaviors, and preferences. This can help you strategize which channels and social platforms to focus your promotional messaging on and how to craft a story for your flash sale that appeals to the people you want to engage.
2. Plan the logistics of starting, running, and ending the sale.
Running a flash sale or a product drop requires advance planning so you can maintain operations as usual alongside your sale.
A flash sale requires a certain amount of active management during its runtime, so preplan as you can before the sale kicks off. Identify tools and processes you can use to make the logistics easier to manage. What steps will you need to take to activate the discount and then deactivate it when the sale ends? How will you ensure the sale closes when inventory runs out? Will you need to update the sales price for each item individually, or can you adjust the price for all items within the sale at once?
With scheduled item updates in Square Online, you can schedule item visibility and sale price changes ahead of time to run special sales or to launch new products during set time periods. You can schedule updates for individual items or for multiple items via bulk actions. You can also choose when you want items to be updated and view upcoming and completed schedules on the item details page. You can also use inventory management software to understand better how much stock you should have on hand.
3. Prepare ahead of time for order fulfillment and customer service.
Before you drop your prices and shout out your flash sale with a virtual megaphone, make sure your business operations are ready to handle a sudden influx of orders.
Remember that both new and existing customers will form an impression of your brand not just before and during a flash sale, but after it as well. If it takes months to receive their special sale item in the mail, this can deflate some of the excitement and delight they felt when they purchased it.
Plan ahead for what you’ll need to handle shipping, to keep enough inventory on hand, and to ensure your website and servers can handle a sudden spike in traffic during the sale. Test your website ahead of time for load speed, server capacity, and user experience. Consider increasing your staffing levels during the dates of the sale to have more customer service representatives or order fulfillment team members on hand and to keep things running smoothly.
4. Seek partnerships or collaborations.
Aside from building hype for your flash sale or product drop on your own social media platforms, look for opportunities where others can help you promote and widen your network.
Partnering with online influencers is a great strategy for a flash sale, as influencers can lend compelling word-of-mouth marketing to your promotion. Having your sale promoted by an individual online can lend credibility to your sale and help people feel like they’re participating in a community event. Audiences can enjoy feeling like they’re capitalizing on an exclusive insider scoop from their favorite influencer. Collaborating with a celebrity, an artist, or another relevant brand in your industry can help you reach a whole new audience and get the promotional power of your partner behind your sale.
5. Choose the right timing.
Deciding when to run your flash sale or product drop is extremely important, because it will only last for a limited time by nature. If your sale only runs for two days, ensure those are days that your audience is likely to shop online or spend time on their social platforms.
Optimize the times when the sale will be active, and when you will promote it in the days ahead, to grab as many people in your target segment as possible. Look at audience data for your target segment to see when they are most active on social media, when they do most of their online shopping, and when they are most likely to check their inboxes.
Email is an extremely effective channel for marketing a flash sale, so aim to align your sale start time soon after the timeframe that most of your audience opens their email. That way you can send an announcement just before the sale begins and have the highest chance of your audience opening and engaging with it.
6. Ask people to register ahead of time.
One way to build hype leading up to your sale is to give people a compelling reason to get in on the sale before it even starts. This could mean making the sale registration-only, so your customers have to sign up ahead of time to be part of the sale, adding to its exclusivity. Or, it could mean offering an early bird perk. Perhaps your customers don’t have to register ahead of time to get the sale, but those who do will receive an extra giveaway gift. This helps you estimate better how many people will participate in the sale while simultaneously adding to the customer experience by making your early bird registrants feel even more special. It’s also a great way to capture email leads.
7. Keep them sporadic.
Flash sales and product drops thrive on the thrill of scarcity — a flame that burns bright and fast. These types of sales will lose their spark and become less effective if you run them too frequently or on a predictably consistent basis.
This strategy is best used sparingly to boost engagement and brand awareness, to reignite inactive customers, and to draw in new customers with whom you can then build relationships. Consider tying your flash sale to a specific season, time of year, or holiday to make it feel less commonplace and more extraordinary. Whenever you choose to run your next flash sale, be sure to keep the spirit of unpredictability and surprise that makes these sales so delightfully enticing.