January 20th, 2011

A Flash of Etail Brilliance?

Flash Sales are gaining in popularity in the UK, having gathered momentum in the US as an exciting new online business model. Goods are offered for large discounts (up to 90% off) and run for a limited time – anything from 15 minutes to a fortnight. Particularly popular for fashion and high end brands, the concept is now being used in all sectors, including travel and homeware. The sales provide exclusive can’t-be-beaten offers and could spark a new wave of interest for savvy online shoppers, who still want quality branded products but do not have the income to afford them at full price. There are even innovative websites that are exclusively for flash selling, dealing mostly in supplies of unsold or last seasons stock.

Their success relies on cutting the price dramatically to secure a quick sale – and higher spends tend to be feasible as the time incentive means people are unable to search for comparisons and feel pressure to move quickly. The concept relies largely on impulse buying, and there is often a hype surrounding the sale if the goods are particularly desirable and hugely undercut.

Another way of maximizing the flash sales is that many sites will not allow participation until signing up to a mailing list – meaning a customer database can be formulated and then targeted for further sales, also providing data capture and sales insights. Marketed well, flash sales create hype and brand awareness but rely entirely on websites functioning to their full capacity to deal with the large flow of traffic, and the right payment methods in place to ensure fast and successful sales. Product listings also need to be updated on a minute by minute basis to ensure the most up to date availability is shown at all times.

I think that flash sales have huge potential to continue to grow in popularity; high street retailers are beginning to introduce ‘pop up’ sales to their websites and offer consumers a chance for a bargain. Retailers keen to try the trend need to ensure their online site is functioning to maximum capacity to ensure satisfied customers and sell out sales. As the recession saw a dramatic decline in the impulse purchase, the flash sale seems to be introducing the concept back, maximising the fluid and fast paced nature of the Internet and its rapid turnaround time. Excitement and a fresh idea are always welcome in the online sector, and the flash sale seems to be offering just that.