Flash Sales – Serious New Trend or Flash in the Pan?

In the lighting fast changing world of E-commerce trends hop over each other like jumping beans.  Entirely new ways of doing business appear like wildfire, especially with retailers desperate to get access to the extra few free dollars still floating around in the dismal economy.  Into this tenuous economic climate appears the newly popular flash sale.

Think of it as the next generation of the Home Shopping Network, without the irritating announcers.  Amazing deals appear on products, but only for a limited time, with a timer usually right there next to the product.  The deals really are excellent, with 60-70% off discounts not uncommon.

So far so good

The early numbers indicate that it is definitely giving the E-commerce world a shot in the arm.  One study indicates that since 2009 visits to flash sale web sites have been more than doubling each year., with some of the central flash sale hub web sites quickly moving up the traffic rankings.  What’s more is that the same study indicated that these sites are popular across all income levels.

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A greater sign that this is catching on is that the concept is spreading beyond the major flash sales web sites.  As usual, Facebook is leading the charge on the social networking front.  A plug-in already exists for Facebook store fronts to add flash sales to their site.  And major retailers themselves are now integrating flash sales into their own web sites.

The Danger – An exhausted consumer base

In addition to the fact that liquidity is becoming a thing of the past (ie, we’re all broke or in debt), the success of this trend has the potential to be its undoing.  One study reports that more than 50% of subscribes to flash web sites are finding themselves overwhelmed by the number of offers they are receiving.  Clearly this is an economic tactic that is more sensitive than normal to saturation.  The whole appeal to this type of tactic, after all, is its spontaneity.  When spontaneity becomes the expected it defeats its own purpose.

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One solution – integration

If you are someone who is running a store front and thinking of integrating flash sales into your business, one suggestion that some observers remind you of is to link this idea with the power of socialization.  This does not so much mean a major networking site.  It simply means giving consumers a way to communicate with each other, to share thoughts about a product, as well as to just make it more of a social occasion.  There are more products out there today that integrate this into their ecommerce technology.

At the same time don’t shy away from social networking as a tool here.  Twitter, in particular, is especially attuned to being useful to these ends.  Nothing will help sales to your product like a shout out from someone to 500 people who trust them that a certain product a lot of them like is available for dirt cheap for another 4 hours.

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In short, while there are always pitfalls to any new idea, the early verdict seems to be that flash sales as a marketing technique have serious potential; and thus, the serious ecommerce user should be taking a serious look at using them. In addition, make sure you pick reliable hosting for your ecommerce website.

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