How to Run a Flash Sale to Boost Profits Fast
Posted Aug 8, 2017 by Kristen Pinkman, Ecwid Team

How to Run a Flash Sale to Boost Profits Fast

A flash sale is a way to sell out your stuff in a wink. A countdown and a deeper discount provoke the impulse buying that most of us are guilty of.

It looks like quite an effective method, and it actually is  if you take care of everything before you kick off. As good as it may sound, a flash sale is not just about offering a discount and throwing a deadline. You need to take into account different factors that guarantee a successful or ill-fated outcome. That’s why we are here to tell you how to make your first flash sale fruitful.

What Is a Flash Sale? Does It Work for Me?

Performing a flash sale means offering a discount or promotion for a short period of time. This method is effective for a reason: higher discounts and limited availability inspire customers to buy on the spot.

A flash sale in Current

Current, a cards and wrapping store, chose prime shopping time for a flash sale — during lunch

Experian reports that two-hour flash sales have the best click-to-open rates, and three-hour sales have the best transaction-to-click rates.

Home Decorators Collection added just 5% more to the existing discount, which created a sense of urgency as well as a sense of missing out on a deal, but getting an even better one.

A Flash sale in Home Decorators Collection

When customers see they can get a better deal, they pay more attention, even if the discount isn’t too big

If you’re interested, but not sure if it works for you, check out the following statements. If you agree with some of them, then it is likely that a flash sale is a good tactic for you:

  • You need to sell out products that have been in stock for too long. Say you want to sell last season’s swimming wear before a new summer season. Doing so, you make room for newer products that are selling quickly.
  • You want to attract new customers, re-activate existing inactive customers, or drive traffic on typically slow times of the day.
  • You want to increase customer loyalty and brand awareness. Though a flash sale is more of a short-term impulse, it still tells customers about your e-commerce store.

If you want to launch a flash sale for any reason, you need to prepare thoroughly — a crazy short deal will attract people, but what should impress them is a perfect shopping experience.

How to Prepare for a Flash Sale

Follow the instructions below, and you’ll be ready for whatever a flash sale may throw at you.

Specify goals

Determine the goal of your flash sale: clearing out excess inventory, getting new customers, targeting existing customers, or raising brand loyalty. Keep your goal in mind during the other stages of preparation.

Choose what to sell and at what price

The first thing to do after determining the goal is to research demand and find out what people want to buy now.

A Halloween flash sale won’t interest anyone in December. Or maybe you want to throw a Father’s Day flash sale, meaning there will be a discount on the “For Him” segment.

A flash sale in Monat

Monat ran a flash sale for Father’s Day offering discounts on products for men

Here comes another decision: Do you want to put the whole store on sale or just some products? It may again depend on the season or on your stock, for example, if you have too many unsold products of one kind.

After that, think about the size of a discount. It should stand out, and the bigger it is, the more attention it gets, but keep in mind that you also want to make a profit here. According to Experian, strong offers like 50%-70% discounts and a selection of desirable products make for a successful flash sale.

Related: 10 Trending Product Ideas and Niches in 2017

Choose your target audience

Decide if you want to sell to new or existing customers, as it’ll influence the way you’re going to attract their attention.

If your goal is attracting new buyers, then you might want to pay more attention to Google AdWords than to your existing email list.

If you target existing customers, don’t rush to throw your sale at everyone who purchased from you. Create a segment for your newsletter based on the purchase history on your sales page. Consider the most and least valuable customers, or retarget those who visited a specific product page.

Say you’re putting a large discount on white sneakers. You’ll need to make sure you skip the part of your customer base that has bought those items recently. They won’t be too happy to see they could have saved money on those products.

In Ecwid, you can export your sales list with certain fields as a CSV file. Proceed to your Control Panel → My Sales → Export Orders.

Choose “Order email”, “Item name”, and “Date and time”, set the delimiter to “Tab”, and click “Download CSV file”.

Order export in Ecwid

Exporting customers who recently bought certain products

Open the file in Google Sheets. Right-click on your “Date and time” column and choose “Sort sheet A  Z”. There you’ll see the most recent purchases at the top of your list.

Sorting the most recent purchases

Sorting the most recent purchases

Select the column with product names and apply a filter in Data → Filter. Filter white sneakers. Then decide on the time range (everybody who purchased these sneakers after X day) and voila — here’s the list of email addresses that you need to exclude from your mailing list.

Filtering a certain product

Filtering a certain product

The same principle can be used if you want to filter customers that:

  • Have already purchased discounted products from you earlier
  • Have spent over X dollars in your store
  • Have used a coupon code.

Simply select the “Discounts”, “Coupons”, and “Order total” fields before exporting your file.

Consider time zones and shipping

If you sell worldwide, don’t forget about different time zones, especially if you’re planning a two-hour flash sale. To avoid confusion, you may also segment the sale for customers in your time zone only.

Here’s how you can promote your sale in case you restrict it to certain time zones:

  • Set your email campaign by country (ex. in MailChimp).
  • Publish a Facebook post with geotargeting (you can also target age, gender, and language).
  • Notify customers on other social media only if you have separate accounts for different countries, so you won’t confuse the rest.

In the case of worldwide selling, be careful with free shipping — your shipping costs can exceed your profits.

It’s vital to keep in mind that from the customer’s point of view, a great shopping experience means getting the order on time. So prepare to ship orders fast and on schedule, as it will influence whether customers return to your store or not.

Check your stock

On a flash sale, items may sell out faster than merchants expect. Make sure you have enough products in stock and prepare your supply chain. You’re walking a fine line here: you don’t want to run out of items too soon, and you don’t want to prepare too many products either.

One simple Ecwid setting can help you avoid confusing and misleading your customers. It’s called Stock Control. Go to your Catalog → Products, click on the product and define the number of items left in stock.

Stock Control in Ecwid

Stock Control in Ecwid (available on paid plans)

With every purchase, the number of products will decrease. When it reaches zero, your product will get the “Out of Stock” status and your customers will no longer be able to buy it.

You may want to hide out-of-stock products automatically. It’s possible in Ecwid: go to Settings → General → Cart and tick the box “Hide out-of-stock products”.

If you want your customers to see how many items are still for sale, make sure you enable it on your design page in the “Appearance” section.

Store appearance settings in Ecwid

Enable this parameter to let your customers know how many items are left for sale

After you’ve enabled that option and saved your changes, go to your store. You’ll see this:

Left in stock feature

Number of items left in stock shown on the product page

Not only does this setting prevent you from selling more items than you’ve got — it also creates additional Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).

Learn more: How to Control Stock for Product Options

Choose the day and time

If you use Google Analytics, check on what days of the week and at what time of the day you have more sales. Also, see when your email open rates are the highest.

Flash sale emails sent after 3 p.m. work out better than midday or lunchtime sales. In most cases, you need just a couple of hours for a flash sale.

Call off other discounts

Beware of mixing a flash sale with other offers on products — we’re trying to earn something here, right? Shipping, again, must be carefully thought out, but if you’re not selling worldwide, it might be fine to offer a discount with free shipping.

You can manage your discounts and coupons in your Control Panel → Promotions.

Check your terms of service

Make sure your terms of service are clear to your customers: shipping costs and time limits, refunds, exchange. When you create a sense of urgency, people buy on impulse, which means they need to understand the deal at once. You don’t want to have any complaints, right?

In case you’re new to e-commerce, these posts will help:

Set up your store

This section will help you to discover useful Ecwid features and get your store ready for a flash sale.

Add sale prices

One option to promote your store is to apply sale prices. Go to Control Panel → Settings → General → Cart and set up “Compare to” prices.

Compare to price

Setting up sale prices display rules

Then go to the product you want to put on sale, and set up the sale price. You’ll also be able to set up the discount terms for bulk orders.

Discounts for products

Setting up discounts for products

For a bulk update of multiple products in your store, use the Bulk Product Editor app.

Highlight your sale items

It’s best if your store has a sales-oriented landing page. If you have added Ecwid to your website (Wix, Weebly, WordPress, etc.), or if you sell on Facebook with Ecwid, you can create a category for your sale and assign it to the page.

Learn more: How to Set Default Category for Page

If you use a one-page Ecwid Instant Site, it’s possible to put your sale products forward by creating a “featured products” category for the homepage. You’ll be able to change the category name to “sale” or anything else you like.

It’s also possible to highlight your sale items with product labels.

Product Labels

Product labels like “Sale”, “Hot”, or “New” help highlight certain products

Target your sale

Your sale prices can be discovered by every store/page visitor. If you want to limit discounts to certain groups only, you can set up customer groups or use discount coupons.

A customer group is a sort of label that you can assign to customers to group them under certain criteria:

  • VIP
  • wholesaler
  • repeat customer
  • friends and family, etc.

Create a group you like, associate your customers with it, and provide special discounts for them. This feature is available on Business and higher-tier plans.

Note: Your customers will need to log in to use the discount.

Learn more: Store Memberships: Customer Groups

A discount coupon code is a secret code which a customer can use to get a discount when making a purchase.

Discount coupons are very flexible in Ecwid. They can be used for free shipping offers, percent and absolute discounts. You can limit them to certain products, categories, and number of uses.

Coupon codes at the checkout

Coupon codes are applied at the checkout

Learn more about this feature: Discount Coupons

Use Ecwid Mobile App

A flash sale requires fast and well-thought-out actions from a merchant. Ecwid’s mobile control panel makes managing your promotions easier, even if you are on your way to work, in a line, or looking after your kid.

Download the app for iOS and Android to be able to track your inventory, enable and disable promotions, and get push notifications for every order on your mobile device. The app is free and available on all paid plans.

Learn more: How to Run a Store From Your Smartphone

How to Run a Flash Sale

As soon as you have prepared everything, it’s finally time to put your flash sale to action. Following the right steps, you’ll ensure a profitable sale both for you and your customers.

Notify customers

As a flash sale is limited to a short period of time, it’s vital to make sure you have notified your customers in every possible way: via email, social media, on the website.

Use exclusive invitations and coupon codes, or create a “register for a sale” button to spark more interest. The latter is quite helpful when you’re targeting existing customers and have a limited offer during a sale.

Levi's flash sale

Invite your customers to a flash sale with an exclusive email or offer a personalized deal — it helps to get more attention and makes customers feel appreciated

Related: How to Send Trigger Emails That Keep Customers Coming Back

Attract attention

When customers are aware of your sale, it’s important to keep their attention. You can offer gifts or free shipping to the first 100 buyers. Try different sales models: a VIP flash, an early-bird flash (popular for selling tickets) in advance, and even a mystery flash sale, when people don’t know what will be on discount before the sale starts.

Mystery deal

Mystery deals help to catch customers’ interest

Create sense of urgency

Inspire impulse purchases — use a countdown timer on your website or on product pages that shows how much time there is left to buy on discount, bars, and banners with special offers. Use Instagram Stories to publish sales announcements that disappear after 24 hours. Try everything that makes it clear: you’re missing out on a hell of a deal right now!


Be ready to communicate with customers fast in case they have questions (and they will) on every channel possible: email, social media, live chats. When a sale is a matter of hours, people expect a quick and polite service even more than usual.

What to Do Next?

After you’re done with your first flash sale, it’s time to analyze the results: Did you set the right goal and were you able to achieve it? Where could you have paid more attention, and what were your strong points?

Flash sales perform best when customers are left with a positive shopping experience and perception of your store: that includes not only a good discount on a quality product but also customer service and timely shipping.

If everything worked out like a charm (and it probably did, if you followed our instructions), then it’s time to announce to your customers when the next flash sale is! The holiday season is coming, and you’ll turn to flash sale promotions again very soon.

About the author
Kristen is a сontent creator at Ecwid. She finds inspiration in sci-fi books, jazz music, and home-cooked food.
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