Associate Director, Content Marketing

Account Manager

Digital Marketer’s Guide to eCommerce Flash Sales

Flash sales offer a prime opportunity for eCommerce brands to boost sales and brand engagement by using a limited-time offer that is more enticing than a typical discount. These 20% to 90% sales are only live for a day or two but can leave a lasting impression and garner quick results, when done right.

The overall goal of a flash sale goes beyond revenue. Incremental profits are always welcome, but flash sales can also introduce additional products to loyal customers and bring disengaged customers back into the mix, whether or not they convert during the sale itself

After you define your flash sale goals, determine the products, and review your inventory, it is time to make a media plan. Rise takes a cross-channel, audience-first approach to all things digital marketing and user experience. We’re sharing that approach and how we make the most of flash sales!

Name Your Sale Strategically

Your consumer needs to understand this flash sale as the once-in-a-lifetime, FOMO-busting deal that it is. Brands need to choose the right language to make that limited-time discount message clear. Here are some data-driven strategies to start:

1. Research suggests that verbiage emphasizing savings is generally more effective than verbiage emphasizing achieving a gain.

      • YES: Save $5
      • NO: Get $5 Off

2. Make sure to highlight the sale with “starting at” or “up to’ language to lure users into viewing all sale items. 

  • YES: Running shoes starting at $30
  • YES: Running shoes up to 50% off

3. Consumers have been proven to prefer one or the other depending on if the product is over or under $100.

  • Under $100: Use a % ($75 Jeans that are 15% Off)
  • Over $100: Use $ Off ($15 Off a $110 Pair of Jeans)

Regardless of your chosen approach, make sure to constantly be testing to determine how different copy variations perform with your customer base.

Keep Things Engaging

Various strategies and tactics can be used to keep new and returning customers engaged, such as:

1. A “mystery” component: Customers have to click a call-to-action button to see what type of deal they are getting. Rise used a mystery tactic with Ulta Beauty for a successful holiday sale using Reddit’s spoiler posts. 

2. Discount tiers: greater discounts can be offered for those shopping earlier on in the flash sale, or by being one of the first X number of customers to check out using the discount code.

3. Hone in on niches: flash sales that target more specific audiences can be hyper-tailored to elements that could be more likely to entice them.

4. Countdown timers increase the sense of urgency for customers to shop and checkout.

5. Bring attention to priority features: flash sales can help draw attention to new product availability or customer experience options, such as Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) or Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO). 

Generate Buzz

From organic and paid media to emails and website notifications, your flash sale needs strategic promotion to generate buzz and traffic. 

1. Social, Email, & SMS: Blast the flash sale news to your audiences early and throughout the day with posts on organic social, emails, and SMS marketing. Actively engage with your consumers and keep the flash sale top of mind with concise copy and timely reminders. These outlets are especially important to build awareness prior to and during each flash sale with engaging content such as sneak peeks and teaser videos. 

2. Paid Media: The optimal paid media mix depends on your audience and goals. Align your tactics and targeting with the desired outcome to plan for the most explosive campaign. When appropriate, consider directing relevant and desirable traffic to the flash sale landing page rather than other landing pages on the site.

3. Website Experience Musts:

Sitewide: Add a link to the flash sale landing page in the main navigation when the sale is live. Permanent banners can be used so users can navigate to the flash sale from any other page on the site. 

Main Navigation: Prominently feature the flash sale on the home page. Consider using edited pop-ups or different color text to emphasize the time sensitivity of the sale.

Subcategory Flash Sale Pages: if a sale features several landing pages for various aspects of the flash sale, they should all be linked to the main flash sale landing page. 

After the Sale UX: Leave space on the site for those who missed the sale but still drop in. This could share when to check back for the next flash sale. Keep links to other sale sections of the site, such as Hot Deals or Clearance, on this lapsed landing page.

Don't Forget About SEO

1. XML sitemap: If you are using a constant URL for a recurring flash sale, include that URL in an XML sitemap. “Robots.txt” files should not block the page; it should be indexable and followable.

2. Keyword Research & Metadata: Relevant keywords will vary depending on the nature of each unique flash sale. Due to the long-term nature of SEO improvements, day-of changes to the flash sale landing page may not be indexed in time for it to be re-ranked by Google and Bing. However, updating metadata components that are visible in search results (title tag and meta description) could potentially improve organic click-through rates.

Note that organic search results for broader terms, such as “flash sale” and “one-day sale” have a tendency to vary by user based on the sites they frequently visit or the types of terms they typically search. Optimizing your flash sale page could still help target returning customers shopping online for sales.

3. Linking and syndication are key to supporting the main flash sale landing page through other sale pages on the site and homepage features. Combine your efforts to reach your audience and increase your opportunities to be found by new consumers. Try the following techniques to increase effectiveness: 

  • Incorporate several internal links, or a constant banner, across the site to help users easily navigate back to the flash sale from category, subcategory, and product pages — this can also be accomplished through the main navigation and breadcrumbs, when relevant.
  • Leverage external links, especially from partner sites, to help syndicate and spread the word about recurring flash sales to different audiences while building the main landing page’s authority.

Ready to start planning for your next flash sale? Connect with our experts at Rise for more guidance on developing a successful e-commerce strategy.   

Originally published in 2021; updated in 2024.

03/04/2024 at 11:40