Private Event Retail, or flash sale sites can be great tools for online retailers to reduce the cost of customer acquisition while fostering customer loyalty and increasing the likelihood of repeat purchases. In fact, retailers that leverage these types of sites see the cost of customer acquisition drop by 44% while repeat purchases jump 35% when compared to traditional eCommerce sites. There is a ton of opportunity out there with flash sale sites and Private Event Retail, however a key component to seeing this type of success is having a detail-oriented marketing strategy. Here are just a few things to keep in mind if you’re already running a flash sale site, or plan to implement one in the future.

Mind the data and tell a story

Storytelling and hard numbers might not seem to go hand in hand. However, in the realm of flash sale sites, it’s absolutely critical to follow the insights garnered from your membership base.  There are two key ways to do this. First, require some initial questions to be answered when a new member signs up. These don’t need to be intrusive or far-reaching, but make sure to get a sense of their general demographics and interests. This is a great starting point and it allows you to build a persona of each different type of shopper. As your members begin to browse your site and make purchases, be very mindful of what type of content they’re interacting with. Which emails did they click through? What social media copy resonated with them? As you collect these insights, be sure to refine your personas so you have a general understanding of at least 3-4 key types of shoppers.

Once you have strong personas and a good sense of what drives each one to your flash sale site, you can tailor various stories to draw each type in. For example, if you’re an apparel retailer, instead of presenting a general event for your winter line, break it into a few, persona – specific events. Let’s say you’re trying to liquidate your excess inventory of winter jackets. If you have an “active” persona that has indicated a preference for outdoor activities, you might want to create a “Winter Sports Survival Sale.” This could be juxtaposed with a sale for your high income persona, or those who have a indicated a preference for fashion the following day. This might look like: “24 Hours of Apres Ski Wear” – which is the place to be seen for winter fashionistas (whether or not you’re actually a skier).

Be aware of the share

Your advocates can be one of your biggest marketing assets. Know who they are and treat them well. This is especially important because some of the most valuable event-based shoppers are not always the ones who buy the most.  More often than not, it’s the ones who like to sing about their most recent deal from the top of the social media mountain that matter most. Not only are they providing free, authentic endorsements for your flash sale site, they’re attracting like-minded buyers.

To encourage this, when building out your flash sale site, be sure to weave social sharing and dialogue throughout your customer experience.  This could include simple sharing mechanisms, co-shopping capabilities or social influenced merchandising such as “what other shoppers are buying now” type of mechanisms.

As discussed in a previous post, incentivizing customers to invite others is a key tactic to grow your subscriptions and it’s also a great way to gain some social media ground. Savvy customers will leverage Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to broadcast a mass invitation in their name (in hopes of a large referral bonus bounty), so why not make it easy for them? Be sure to provide social sharing buttons every time you encourage them to invite friends directly and it will pay dividends in terms of your reach. 

Timing, timing, timing

Flash-based shoppers are conditioned creatures of habit. It’ll behoove you to be consistent in all aspects of your timing. This isn’t limited just to what time of day you launch and close each event, but encompasses all of your marketing messages, especially email. Your emails should appear in inboxes with regularity and create an expectation that special deals will arrive at a certain time.

This level of consistency pays off in three key ways. First, and most simply, your shoppers will be conditioned to check their email at a certain time to be sure that they’re on top of any urgent deals. Second – it will allow you to leverage (but please, don’t overuse!) the element of surprise. Every now and then, it helps to throw a curveball and release a small event, or adjust prices for a very short supply or short period, just to keep your members on their toes. This will give them a reason to keep coming back and checking your flash sale site to make sure they’re not missing out on something special.

When building a private event retail site, there are some key considerations and best practices that can make or break your success. Take a look at our latest white paper, The Next Wave of Private Event Retail: Moving Beyond Flash Sales and Daily Deals.