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The Insider’s Guide to Flash Sale Ideas That Really Work

Many companies use flash sales as a tool to drive a higher number of sales, and revenue during a condensed period of time. A flash sale is a special offer around price (online or offline) that is for a short, limited time. So, have you ever flashed someone?

You should! Well, this kind of flashing. It’s one of the few ways to literally boost sales overnight. Flash sales can be a great way to drive urgency around purchase decisions for small business, large businesses, and ecommerce businesses.

Flash sales provide customers with novelty – or a sense of newness – which gets everyone intrigued. This can lead potential customers to visit your site to buy products on sale, and if you help them explore through great user-experience design, they might end up buy items not on sale, too.

Flash sales generate an average 35% lift in transaction rates. Along with increased revenue, flash sales can help your business get rid of extra inventory you want to clear out. 

Explore the many types of flash sale campaigns:

Flash sales have a number of different variables you can mix and match to keep each sale enticing. Think of it sort of like a build-a-bear. Here we cover the parts of the bear you can mix-and-match together to make your flash sale unique, at any time of the year.

1. Time of the sale

Length of time

A flash sale can be anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Ideally 24-72 hours because you want to drive urgency, but you also don’t want to have irate customers who got the email a bit too late. Don’t throw any five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minute sales please.

Timing of the day, week, or year

Offer the sale for late in the night, for example an after hours sale, or early in the morning for an early bird sale. Pick your time based on when your website traffic tends to be high, or use Google Trends to figure out what time of day more searches are happening for products like yours.

2. Pricing for the sale

Offer a percentage discount

Take a certain percentage off your products, such as 30% off. Or you could do “an extra 30% off” to let your new discount apply to existing products already on sale.

Use dollar amount discount

Take a certain amount of money off each purchase, such as $20 off.

Mystery pricing as your sale promotion

Offer a selection of different products on sale at different discounts, or give each person a different sale code providing them with their own unique discount.

3. Product selection for the flash sale

Create tiers

You can select tiers of items, at different discounts. For example, shop all 30% items, and shop all 20% items.

Handpicked selection

You can identify a grouping of a few items to offer the discount on. Remember to make it easy to navigate to just these items by creating a landing page featuring them and linking to it from your flash sale email.

All items on sale

Often called site wide this can be a way to drive a ton of traffic and sales, and it best saved for a few times a year.

Sale on “your” saved items

This is a great personalized offer, and a way to move people over that last purchase hurdle. Offer each person a discount only on items they’ve favorited, stored, or expressed interest in previously.

4. Alternative offers for flash sales

Use shipping as an incentive

Try free shipping or free expedited shipping.

BOGO sale

Offer buy one get one free on certain products. Also called two for the price of one.

Bonus offer sale

Buy now and also get another product. This sale will do best if you pair products typically purchased together.

Buy for a chance to win

Buy three items for a chance to win another item. This helps drive additional purchases.

Now that you’ve selected the components of your flash sale, you need to name it to differentiate it from other sales your customers have seen from you and your competitors. You’re well on your way!

57 #marketing flash sale ideas: BOGO, discount, $ amount off, bonus gift, sale on your saved items & more… Click To Tweet

Here are the best flash sale name ideas:

The best names for flash sales highlight the urgency of the offer. Good names are also short, intriguing, and include a benefit (why the customer should care – hint: big savings). Great flash sale names also make reference to the time of year to introduce a sense of newness. And even better sale names are customized to your customers’ interests. All these things catch humans’ eyes and make them pause to think a little. Here are a few examples:

  • Tick tock race the clock sale
  • Huge flash sale
  • Mystery flash sale
  • Major savings flash sale
  • 25% off flash sale (the steeper the discount, the more sales, but that’s a decision you’ll need to make based on your goals)
  • Click to win flash sale
  • Unlock savings flash sale

Fall flash sale name ideas & themes:

  • Back to school flash sale
  • Fall flash sale
  • Halloween flash sale
  • Thankful for you flash sale
  • Falling for it flash sale
  • Spooky savings
  • Savingsfest

Winter themes flash sale ideas:

  • Black Friday flash sale
  • Cyber monday flash sale
  • Christmas flash sale
  • New years flash sale
  • New year new you flash sale
  • Flurry of savings

Spring themes flash sale ideas:

  • Spring into savings flash sale
  • Savings are blossoming flash sale
  • Day light savings sale
  • April showers savings
  • Hop into savings
  • Easter savings eggs
  • No April Fools here sale

Summer flash sale ideas:

  • Smooth sailing flash sale
  • Splash into savings
  • Fiesta of savings
  • Savings scavenger hunt
  • Huge summer flash sale
  • Site party flash sale

Now that you have a flash sale name and theme in mind, it’s time to design the specifics of your flash sale marketing materials.

Discover effective flash sale design ideas:

1. Clear call to action

Include a clear call to action button above the fold – both on your website and in an email you send about the sale. Add a banner or section to your website’s homepage highlighting the items on sale and the name of the sale. In your email, make sure the button appears near the top, and that it’s a color that stands out from the rest of the colors you use.

2. Show the offer prominently

Your customers need to know what the special pricing is in order to be compelled. Be sure to mention the specific discount they can receive. Or use a sense of mystery that gets them to click through to the website to unlock their offer. Either way, let them know there’s something special waiting for them by saying so in the email’s subject line and on a banner once they hit your website.

3. Drive urgency

The excitement about a flash sale is that it’s a limited time offer. Be sure to say how many hours or days customers have to make their purchase decision. Highlight that in your email subject line and ads. You can even use text such as “24 hours only!”, and “last chance!”.

4. Personalize the flash sale designs

Where possible address customers by their names, and feature products they’ve expressed interest in or are most likely to care about. You can do this by showing recommended products within the body of your email. Or by showing recommended categories of products that are popular.

5. Automatically apply the discount & reinforce it

Don’t make your customers have to remember a code, because that’s an extra step of friction between their purchase. If possible, automatically attach the discount code to the website page you’re sending them to. Be sure to show on your website, in a banner, a pop-up, or on-page text, that the discount will be applied, reinforcing they’re in the right place and will get the goods!

Don’t make customers have to remember a Flash Sale coupon code – that’s an extra step of friction between a purchase. Automatically attach the discount to the landing page. #marketingtips Click To Tweet

6. Simplify the offer

When your offer has three different parts, customers can get confused, and that confusion can prevent them for purchasing. You want to avoid choice paradox (for example, see how Trader Joe’s succeeds by reducing choice). So don’t do an offer that’s $15 off $30 OR $40 off $100 OR $75 ff $200 – it’s just too much to comprehend quickly!

7. Make the whole email/banner clickable

Help customers get to your website fast by ensuring every image in your email is clickable, and that every part of the banner on your website is also clickable.

See top flash sale email image examples:

1. Victoria’s Secret 60% off semi-annual sale

What works: This email conveys the offer clearly, and provides ways to navigate directly their most popular product groupings. They also convey novelty by including “new markdowns”. And they show the number of items, which can intrigue customers.

Victoria's Secrets semi-annual flash sale email design example

2. Chewy’s today’s deals sale

What works: By highlighting offers on a new set of products each day, Chewy intrigues people to come back to their site to explore. They also showcase the free shipping offer prominently at the top. And they feature specific products that each customer has expressed interest in previously. And there’s a dog – OMG people love pets!

Chewy's flash sale example email design

3. Hotels.com’s 50% off sale

What works: The offer is clearly displayed above the fold, and the call to action button is very large and also above the fold. They inspire you with a beautiful benefit drive photograph. They’ve also highlighted the sheer volume of offers there are (40,000!) and used the word “secret” to create intrigue, which are all best marketing practices.

Hotels.com's flash sale email design

4. CB2’s free shipping flash sale

What works: CB2 uses urgency right at the top of their email by showing it’s today only. They also include their entire website navigation embedded within the email because it will help people get to products they care about quickly, and builds familiarity from a branding and interaction perspective. They also feature categories of products that are most popular, along with enticing images.

CB2's example flash sale email design for free shipping

5. The NBA Store’s free shipping event

What works: The NBA Store shows the offer right at the top and drives urgency with the 1-day only call out. Also they play up the novelty by saying there is “new gear”. This can help drive clicks, even if the price offer itself isn’t compelling. They also feature multiple types of customers, so a reader is more likely to relate.

NBA Store's flash sale email design

6. Express’ end of season sale

What works: Express shows a clear discount, and a prominent button above the fold. They also allow readers to shop by size, which is a helpful splicing of their products.

Express' end of season flash sale email design

Now that you have some ideas for flash sale offer imagery, let’s take a look at the subject lines and copywriting that can ensure people actually see your emails and sale.

See top flash sale email subject line examples:

Try to keep subject lines less than 50 characters to be mobile-friendly. Include surprise, urgency, and numbers – they attract attention. And improve your flash sale email deliverability with these tips.

  1. Reminder: your bonus is waiting inside
  2. CLEARANCE EXTENDEEEEEED!!!!!
  3. End-of-season savings are going, going…
  4. Take 50% OFF at the Semi-Annual Sale!
  5. Unlock your offer. 24 hours only!
  6. Save Up to 75% On Top Brands & Get It Shipped FREE
  7. Last Call! Extra 40% Off Sale Ends Tonight
  8. Psst…200+ styles on sale!
  9. It’s now or never
  10. Shop ‘til you drop on markdowns up to 60% off

Pro tip: The best way to get ideas for your own flash sales is to subscribe to other companies’ emails! That’s a great way to get discounts you can use while also seeing the latest techniques.

Here’s an easy promotion plan for your flash sale that actually works:

Just follow these steps for a simple flash sale offer playbook.

1. Launch the sale to promote your flash sale: Put the sale live! Launch the sale on your website on in your store by displaying your discounts, and sale name messaging. This can appear on your product pages, product collection pages, and also on your homepage.

2. Spread the word about the sale via email: Send a just launched email to your lists, and send a last chance email 24 hours before the sale is over.

3. Put ads live to drive new leads: Run ads on your most effective networks where you can put ads up and take down quickly with minimal effort, such as Facebook, Instagram, Google display, and Youtube. Make sure your ad creative says “limited time only” or “hurry” to indicate urgency, rather than the specific amount of time so you don’t have to update it.

4. Send notifications on every channel: Send text messages and send website push notifications for anyone who has subscribed to those forms of media.

5. Drive home the urgency: Add a countdown clock to your website, which can be done through a pop-up, or manual updates to the on-page text on your homepage or collections pages.

It’s as easy as that to have a successful flash sale!

Want to know even more about promoting your b2c or b2b business?

Here are the answers to a few common flash sale questions.

How do you promote a flash sale?

Send a kick off email and a last chance email. Feature your sale on your website’s homepage. Run ads on your most effective networks where you can put ads up within 24 hours, such as Facebook, Instagram, Google display, and Youtube. Send push notifications via text or web.

What is flash sale strategy?

Flash sale strategy is prioritizing the goals of your sale which can include revenue projections, getting rid of excess or stale inventory, or driving multiple purchases in each cart check out.

What are some examples of sales promotion?

Big sales, flash sales for short periods of time, coupon codes, discounts, BOGO, buy for a chance to win, free shipping, and expedited shipping.

How long does a flash sale last?

A flash sale can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Flash sales drive urgency, so typically 24 hours to 72 hours is best, as it gives customers time to see your sale and respond.

Now learn everything about offers & promotions to round out your research:

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Up next, get up to speed by reading the best digital marketing practices.

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Types of flash sales: 48 hours, coupon codes, discounts, % off, BOGO, mystery, your unique discount, buy for a chance to win, free shipping, & expedited shipping. Click To Tweet

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By Megan Mitzel

I'm the wearer of overalls behind the marketing advice website Marketing Overalls. I'm also a senior marketing director with more than ten years of experience leading acquisition and lifecycle marketing at successful startups. Before that, I got a business degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before that, I owned a seashell shop. And that's the tea on me.