Of the many social commerce models that have emerged over the past few years, daily deals command the most attention. Yet flash sales—typically defined as a sale less than 24 hours in duration—continue to flourish as well. Fashion-focused flash seller Ideeli was the fastest-growing private company of 2011 according to the Inc. 500, and One Kings Lane, a site devoted to flash sales of home décor items, secured $40 million in funding this month.
And the landscape is constantly changing. According to Compete data, in August 2011 the three leading flash-sales sites in terms of online buyers were relative newcomers with lower numbers of unique visitors than the big four.
With flash sales still a nascent channel, it is possible that shoppers are being swayed by the affiliation of an established brand like Amazon or eBay. Fifty-one percent of US online buyers surveyed by Compete cited reputation as the most important feature of a flash-sale site.
Sale shoppers are reliant on email announcements for sales events. Experian Cheetahmail found that 18% of traffic to flash-sales sites was driven by email, a figure higher than social (13%) and search (11%). Overall, 56% of businesses had higher click-to-open rates for flash-sales emails compared to regular campaigns.
Best practices also emerged from this survey. Shorter time frames for flash sales were most effective: 2-hour sales had 14% higher click-to-open rates and 3-hour sales had the best transaction-to-click rates, 59% higher than standard promotional emails.
Time of day was also important. Emails sent in the evening had 9% higher open rates, 33% higher total click rates, 20% higher transaction rates, and 27% higher revenue per email compared to lunchtime messages, according to Experian Cheetahmail’s calculations.
No matter the timing, a short sales window influences shoppers. At the recent Shop.org conference, Aaron Shockey, Neiman Marcus’ VP of advertising and digital, explained that the company’s “Midday Dash” emails had higher open and click rates than its standard emails, and cited an expanded customer base and improved engagement as additional benefits.
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