Acquisition

How To Organise And Run A Halloween Flash Sale For Your Shopify Store17 min read

Big pile of orange pumpkins

 

What’s up for grabs over Halloween? Plenty of candy, for sure. But also more than $3 billion in online sales. That’s one treat you don’t want to miss out on.

And what’s even more thrilling is your Shopify store is perfect for taking advantage of this bonanza. How come?

Halloween has the highest e-commerce penetration of any holiday! OK, let’s translate that into a real sentence. Out of all the sales made over Halloween in 2018, 34% of them were online, which is higher than for any other holiday. In other words, Halloween is THE e-commerce holiday.

Good news. But how do you take advantage of this to boost sales on your Shopify store? The answer is a flash sale (it even sounds kind of Halloweeny!)

What is a flash sale?

If you’re not already familiar with them, flash sales are fast-paced, short-lived discounts designed to provoke a sense of urgency. Customers are given little notice about the flash sale and a limited inventory of quality products are offered – first come first served – at unbeatable prices.

The combination of limited time and great deals can result in your sale going viral on social media as people share the news with their friends. Nobody wants to miss out on a bargain!

Why Halloween for your flash sale?

For flash sales to be effective, it is important to think carefully about timing. That’s because you want to maintain a feeling of exclusivity, which you lose if you hold them too often. Instead, flash sales should be kept unpredictable and relatively rare to maximize the ‘hype’ around each event. After all, if customers know there is another flash sale just around the corner, where is their motivation to take full advantage of this one?

So you don’t want to be running flash sales all the time. But, as the old saying goes, you do want to “strike while the iron is hot.” And over Halloween, it’s practically on fire.

Last year, Halloween shoppers in the US spent $86.79 on average, a new record. What’s more, shoppers are active online looking for ideas and inspiration – online search was the No.1 method for finding halloween products in 2018.

So we have huge numbers of shoppers spending considerable sums, and mostly searching online for ideas. It sounds like the perfect time to drop an exclusive flash sale and get people talking about your business!

From Halloween through to BFCM

And creating buzz around your brand and stores isn’t just going to help you over the Halloween holiday. Research suggests that satisfied flash sale customers return to spend another 385% of the first purchase. In other words, they’re a great opportunity to build a base of loyal customers.

Whilst you have people’s attention during your flash sale, you can sign them up for your newsletter and offer them incentives like free shipping if they opt-in to your Messenger bot or SMS and Push Notifications.

Then you’re all set for remarketing campaigns over the biggest shopping season of the year, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas. In fact, because paid advertising is so expensive in the run-up to Black Friday, there’s a good chance running a Halloween flash sale will cost you less than a paid ad campaign. Plus you’ll have better customer profiles as you’ll already know what they have purchased. That sounds spookily smart.

6 key components to running the perfect Halloween flash sale

So now we know the benefits of a Halloween flash sale, let’s turn our attention to how to effectively carry one out. As exciting as the potential opportunities are, it is vital not to overstretch your resources – failure to deliver on things like inventory and shipping promises can have a devastating effect on your reputation in the long term. So start off by developing a plan that clearly defines your flash sale, its objectives, and the methods you will use to successfully pull it off.

Here are 6 key points you’ll need to consider when putting together your flash sale master plan:

  1. Products
  2. Timing
  3. Duration
  4. Target audience
  5. Promotion
  6. Shipping and delivery

Let’s take a look at each of these in detail.

Factor 1 – Finding the Products Best Suited to Flash Selling

You could simply choose your most popular and desirable product and run with it – this is likely to be the best option for small businesses with a limited inventory.

However, if you have a large catalog of products to choose from, there are some methods you could use to identify which are best-suited to flash selling:

  • High-margin seasonal inventory is always a good option around Halloween, which signals the beginning of Winter. You can either quickly move summer items and create room in the warehouse for the Christmas period. Or you can select high traffic items related specifically to Halloween itself. Costumes, candy and pumpkin spice, anyone?
  • Personalizing your sale is also an idea. Find products in your inventory that customers have expressed an interest in before by clicking on an ad, searching for specific keywords or visiting a product page.
  • A niche focus can also be a smart approach. Choose products that your target audience will closely identify with, especially if your number one goal is building a base of loyal customers. Your potential long-term customers want to find the best prices on the things that they love the most!

And remember:

  • Limit the number of products in your sale to make it manageable and create a feeling of exclusivity.
  • Think carefully about stock and meeting customer expectations when you choose the products for your flash sale.

Factor 2 – Choosing the Right Time

With flash sales, timing is everything. Why? Because they are short and sharp. Pick the wrong time and potential customers may only find out about it when it’s too late.

Look at your analytics for purchasing patterns, focusing on things like:

  • Which days of the week your customers prefer to purchase on
  • What time of day your customers are active
  • When you have the highest email open rates.

Case study: Case-Mate

Choosing the best time

In order to discover the optimum time for their flash sale, mobile device case manufacturer Case-Mate ran mini-flash sales to compare their performances against non-flash sale KPIs. The sales team reviewed its website analytics and found site visitors were most abundant and active between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. each evening. To capitalize on this time, the team set their flash sale to run from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Choosing the best day

As for choosing the best day, Email Marketing Manager Ruth DeFeo found an interesting pattern. “We saw people would visit the site a lot on Sunday but wouldn’t convert. Our thought was they are going to the site, checking things out on Sunday, but on Monday they are

coming back and actually purchasing the case they looked at,” she said. With this in mind, the team set the campaign to launch on a Monday.

The team sent two emails to promote the sale but used a different approach. The first email announced the start of the sale and was sent at 1 p.m. The second email was sent at 6:30 p.m. and added urgency to the message by making it clear there were “only hours left” to save 30%.

“The results were great,” DeFeo said. “It was some of the highest conversion rates that we’ve seen to date in our email program. We saw revenue, traffic and all the conversion metrics we measure go up, which was really exciting to see.”

This kind of analytical approach to the timing of your flash sale can really pay dividends.

But when is the absolute sweet spot during the Halloween period? According to Erik Mandell, CEO of CostumeSuperCenter.com, traffic and sales already start to increase by the end of August as consumers scope out their Halloween costume. “August makes up about 5% of Halloween-related sales, with September bringing 25-30% and October bringing in the remaining share,” Mandell says. “Sales for Halloween peak during the 10-day stretch Oct. 10-20, with Oct. 15 as roughly the high point.”

So for your Halloween flash sale, you’re going to be targeting the mid-October period. Then dive deep into your data (web traffic, search volume, email open rates) to select the exact date and time within that period.

Factor 3 – Deciding on Duration

Once you have your date and start time figured out, the next decision to make is how long you’re going to run your flash sale for.

The short answer is, keep it short. Flash sales are all about hitting that impulse, leaving little time for customers to change their minds. They need to feel the pressure – either they grab the deal right now or they’re going to miss out! The data suggests that flash sales with a duration of just 3 hours have the highest transaction rates at 14%.

But this doesn’t mean that you need to get it over and done as quickly as this – more time allows a broader audience across multiple time-zones to get in on the act. You should also factor in the pricing of your products and the typical amount of consideration needed. So think about how long your average customers need to research your product and decide if it’s for them? But even if your products do require more thought before clicking that “add to cart” button, your flash sale should not last longer than 24 hours.

Factor 4 – Defining Your Target Market

First, decide if the main aim of your Halloween flash sale is to bring in new customers or win-back existing ones.

If you’re looking to attract new customers, here are some considerations to take into account:

  • Give newbies a chance to get in first by holding back on marketing to your existing base.
  • You can try running Google Ads that respond to keywords associated with products that you plan to discount.
  • Use social media to reach out to customers who show interest in flash sales, or those who follow your competitors’ Facebook and Twitter pages.

However, if it is existing customers that you would prefer to focus on, you should target them based on things like:

  • Their previous interest in either flash sales in general, or products in your inventory.
  • Whether they are valuable customers who are likely to become more loyal or not – reward the most valuable and try to cultivate the least, reaching out especially to those who have become inactive.

Also be careful to differentiate between those you are targeting with your exciting and heavily discounted product and those who have already purchased it. Nobody wants to be offered something they bought a week ago at half the price, am I right?

Factor 5 – Creating a Promotional Strategy

Build up the excitement and anticipation for your flash sale with some clever promotion beforehand. You’ll want to emphasize the scarcity and exclusivity of the upcoming ‘bargain of the century’ event.

Email

Reaching out to people via email before the sale is to begin is a high converting strategy for flash sale marketing. Then keep the emails coming as your Halloween sale continues, emphasising scarcity (no pun intended) as you go.

This email campaign from Bonobos is a great example of how to carry out this strategy.

The first email clearly indicates the duration of the sale, along with some elegant visuals and witty copy referencing the holiday.

Bonobos halloween sale 30% with scary teeths visual
(Source: Emma)

The next day, subscribers receive a follow up email. Notice how, although the format of the email is the same, the copy at the top of the email and the color have both changed. Now it reads “Ends tomorrow.” Red is a stimulating color that increases heart rate – perfect for creating a sense of urgency.

Bonobos halloween sale 30% off with fake glasses and nose visual
(Source: Emma)

Email three is sent on the final day of the sale, with another change in color and copy. There is nothing desperate or over the top about this email campaign, but it steadily builds expectation and urgency.

Bonobos halloween sale 30% off with scary mask visual
(Source: Emma)

Marketer’s Tip: Did you notice the text towards the bottom of each of the Bonobos emails: “The more you add to your cart, the bigger the discount”? This means Bonobos have added thresholds to their discounts, which is a really smart move. By offering bigger discounts the more items a shopper purchases, you increase the total order value per customer. This makes your sale more profitable as it reduces the amount you spend on advertising or marketing per item sold.

Messenger Marketing and Push notifications

Then you have your Messenger bots, SMS and Push Notifications. These platforms are perfect for connecting with customers on mobile. Connecting with your audience via their phones can encourage the sense of urgency desired for your flash sale – “this is happening right now and we require your attention.”

Here’s a template for your SMS and Push Notifications for the day before the sale.

Our Spooktacular Sale starts tomorrow!
Be ready at {time} to make some fab-boo-lous savings on a huge range of products, including:
{Deal example 1}
{Deall example 2}

And here’s the same message adapted for your Messenger bot:

I’ve got pumpkin to tell you …

Big pumpkin with scary smile

Our Spooktacular Sale starts tomorrow!
Be ready at {time} to make some fab-boo-lous savings on a huge range of products, including:
{Deal example 1}
{Deal example 2}

(Image source: Weird hut)

There are actually a whole range of Messenger and SMS flows you can use focused on the Halloween holiday – like there 3 Halloween Messenger flows you can copy and paste. You can follow the same timing principle as with your emails – a message the day before, and then another as the flash sales starts. Just remember to adjust your timing based on mobile usage – sending an email at 4 am so it’s fresh in the inbox in the morning is OK for email. But an SMS or Messenger message at the same time is going to annoy your customers. On the day of your sale, make sure SMS are sent as early as possible. On days when network services are busy (such as Halloween), if you’re delivering large quantities of SMS messages they may arrive late if you wait. Send them at the earliest acceptable time so your customers don’t miss out.

Here’s a simple template for your SMS, Push and Messenger communication:

Thriller! Our Halloween sale is live now.
Head over to our site for some scary savings while they last.
{Number} hours only!

Or, if you’re using a countdown timer on your push notification or SMS (more on this in a minute), try this template.

The count is coming.
No, not Dracula. It’s the countdown to the end of our Fangtastic Halloween Sale.
Fly to our store now for some big discounts.

Don’t forget that Firepush offers a whole range of automated features for web push notifications and SMS marketing. Here are some smart options to consider for your Halloween flash sale:

Web push features for your flash sale

1. Power push. These push notifications allow for a much bigger visual or banner. So, whether it’s a pumpkin, a mummy or some other spooky visual you’ve added, your push notifications will really jump out at your audience.

Firepush special 50% discount for halloween holiday

(Source: Firepush)

2. You can set up and send pushes with discount codes and a countdown timer. With these pushes, a countdown is included in the push notification, showing customers how long they have left and increasing urgency. And what’s really smart is the discount code will automatically be applied at the checkout, with no need for codes or forms.

Coupon code halloween with ticking timer and orange box to copy code
(Source: Firepush)

3. You can set push lifetimes. This is a really handy feature for sales with short durations. You can set a specific period for showing your push notification, for example 24 hours. The push notification will only be shown over this period, which means users won’t get notifications that are out of date.

SMS features for your flash sale

1. You can filter customers who have already made a purchase. Want to reward your loyal customers and offer them something special for Halloween? You can apply filters so only customers who have already made a purchase receive your SMS. This can be good for the budget too.

2. You can filter customers who have clicked at least one of your campaigns. If you have a large list of SMS subscribers, apply this filter so you know you are targeting the best prospects.

3. You can filter by location, the number of orders or tags. These filters enable you to segment your audience and personalize both your message and the offer you make.

4. You can send SMS with discount codes and a countdown timer. Create that urgency and FOMO with countdowns on your messages. As with push notifications, the discount is automatically applied at checkout.

Social

Of course, social media is going to be important too. Try creating multiple ads with different copy, visuals, and messages, then optimize every hour in the run-up to your flash sale, progressively shifting budget towards the highest performing ads. This strategy helped an agency net 81% of total sales through Facebook advertising for a home decor retailer running a flash sale, and conversion rates were a healthy 2.9%.

Social media can also be harnessed to create things like Instagram stories that relate to your flash sale. For example, you can hold countdowns, showcase photographs and video of your products in fun and exciting ways, and hold the kind of public interactions with customers that can really broaden your audience and build up the buzz for what’s about to come!

Factor 6 – Checking your Inventory, Shipping, and Delivery

Don’t underestimate just how popular flash sales can be! If word spreads, they can pick up momentum fast. And that feeling of euphoria at the jump in sales can quickly be replaced by panic when you start thinking about stock, shipping, and delivery.

Selling out of your discounted product too quickly can leave people disappointed and with a sense of anti-climax after your promotional build-up – the very opposite of the buzz you wished to achieve. Ensure you have enough in your inventory for a best-case scenario, and you can even consider alternative ‘bonus’ products as a backup. Plus you can set up automated customer service tools to deal with any unhappy customers who have missed out – being responsive and service-oriented could save the day.

Likewise with shipping and delivery – with same day and next day shipping becoming the norm, customers will not stick around if it takes weeks for their order to arrive. Anticipate a mass shipping period and plan ahead accordingly by increasing the capacity of your customer support team. You could also consider consulting logistics experts to make sure you have all of your bases covered.

Takeaways

So there you have it. With the busy Halloween window rapidly approaching, consider planning a flash sale today!

The benefits are clear – not only do you create hype and excitement around your business, but you can also quickly shift seasonal inventory and get a slice of the most lucrative sales season for ecommerce.

And here are some key points to remember when you are organizing your flash sale:

  1. Products – If you have a small inventory, pick your best sellers for your flash sale. If you have a large inventory, focus on moving leftover stock from the summer so you can stock up again before Black Friday. And whatever your store size, keep the number of products in your sale limited to make it feel exclusive.
  2. Timing – Sales for Halloween products peak between October 10-20, so plan your sale for this period.
  3. Duration – Short and sweet is the idea here. 3 hours is the optimum flash sale time in terms of transaction rates, though you’ll need to analyze your target audience’s habits. Dig into your data to see what times of day you get the most site visits and make the most sales, then make sure your sale is long enough to take in your peak times during the day.
  4. Target audience – Be clear on your strategy here. Do you want to bring in new customers (a smart idea with the holiday sales period kicking off soon after) or do you want to reward loyal customers? Both options are good, but make sure you pick one or the other.
  5. Promotion – An omnichannel approach is a must. Email can be your foundation, then leverage SMS, push notification and Facebook Messenger marketing to be top of mind when it matters most.
  6. Shipping and delivery – Naturally, you don’t want your flash sale to be an anti-climax, so plan your inventory carefully. Line up alternative products for the sale if your main one sells out. And prepare your customer service to deal with any unhappy customers who have missed out.