How to Run a Successful Ecommerce Flash Sale [Case Study]

Have you experimented with flash sales yet?

It’s something worth your consideration. According to Reuters, sites using flash sales during the holiday shopping season grew twice as fast as online sellers who did not.

ecommerce flash sale abstractSo what is a flash sale? It can be many things. On sites like Groupon and Zulily, everything they’re selling is a flash sale. Their whole business model is based on the flash sale concept.

That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking specifically about a short term discount or promotion offered by an ecommerce store.

What is a flash sale?

At the end of the day, a flash sale is just a sale. There are 3 things that typically differentiate a flash sale from a standard sale:

  • Your discount is deeper
  • The sale item(s) are limited
  • The availability of the sale is very short

Instead of churning out a bunch of hypothetical examples of flash sales you could run, I thought it’d be much more interesting to give you a real life example. So you can see how it’s been successfully done in the real world.

I give you Cindy Collins, founder of Euphoric Herbals [www.euphoricherbals.com]. I came across Cindy’s story when she posted in a Facebook group we’re both members of. Euphoric Herbals produces and sells herbal products that help nursing women increase milk production.  <– That’s a niche!

Cindy was clearly excited about a record day she just had. And I can see why. Take a look these numbers:

euphoric herbals case study

On this day, Cindy’s site had just over 600 visitors, pulled in about $5,500 in sales, and had a staggering conversion rate of 12.68%. In case you didn’t know, that’s a super good ecommerce conversion rate!

So I decided to ask Cindy how she did it. We did a little Q&A which you’ll find below. Get ready to take some notes, and enjoy!

Cindy Dishes About Her Flash Sale Success

Ryan: Can you give us a little background on you and your current website (euphoricherbals.com)?
[IE – Is this your first online venture, how old is this website, what kinds of products do you sell, are they unique/custom/whitelabeled, etc?]

Cindy: My current website is custom designed by Aeolida and launched in May 2016, but previously I sold my products in Etsy, Storenvy and BigCommerce, in that order. My product line is botanical based, they are my own formulas. I started making these in 2009.

 

Ryan: How did you get your first sale?  How about your first $1000 in revenue?
[IE – What strategies did you employ, what marketing tactics, etc?]

Cindy:  I don’t remember my first sale online to be honest. However, my first sale in general was probably through my own doula clients. When I stared making herbal goods I was a doula. At that time I was just making them for my family, friends and the clients I served.

I was still selling on Etsy when I achieved my first $1000 in revenue. It was 2012. Pretty much everything had grown by word of mouth. I didn’t do any marketing or know much about marketing. My brand looked completely different then!

 

Ryan: How is the website currently doing?
[IE – any numbers you’re willing to share, visits, unique visitors, sales volume, sales $, etc]

Cindy: Since it’s new launch in May, I average around 10K visits per month, 4K new visitors, about 600 orders in July and for August we might break 1000 orders! 1000 orders in a month is my end of the year goal, so hitting it so soon would be wild. As far as revenue we do five figures monthly.

 

Ryan: What inspired you to run this flash sale?  Is it the first one you’ve ever run?
[Had you seen success others have had with this tactic?, etc.]

Cindy: I don’t run sales often, in fact rarely. About 2-3 times a year. This sale was in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, which aligns with my brand since the majority of my customers are women that are breastfeeding or pumping. I have run a sale or a giveaway like this before last year but it wasn’t as successful as this one.

 

Ryan: I understand this flash sale resulted in a record day for you in terms of Sales.  What was your highest day prior to this? 

Cindy: I think my highest day prior to this was my Cyber Monday sale in 2015, I don’t remember the exact number but I think that was about $3,000 then.

 

Ryan: What were the terms of this flash sale?  What was on sale and how did you execute it?

Cindy: I like to keep sales simple. 25% off everything, 48hrs only. I posted about it on Instagram once each day and cross posted to Facebook.  Really that was it.

 

Ryan: Let’s talk about the success of this flash sale.  What do you attribute to its success?  How did you promote it?
[Include anything you did to advertise, promote or notify people that you were having the flash sale]

Cindy: I promoted it on Instagram, on my profile, and some of my brand ambassadors also shared the sale. I even had friends share it, though I never asked anyone to. I promoted the sale on my FB page, which actually has less followers than my Instagram account. I can convert better on Instagram than on FB. I also sent out an announcement to my subscriber list (it’s abut 6000 people i think) both days of the sale.

 

Ryan: Your conversion rate was 12.68%!! That’s REALLY impressive.  Any thoughts on why it was so high?  Is that significantly higher than your normal conversion rate?

Cindy: My conversion rate for a long time was typically around 9-10% after the launch of my new site. It averages 6-9% now. I think the fact that my products are unique and can’t be bought anywhere else but my website, is what keeps my conversion rate so high. I also think the conversations I have, and how I interact on social media, help convert customers when they are ready to buy.

 

Ryan: Any advice for folks thinking about running a flash sale of their own?
[Anything to plan for, tools/services to use, or pitfalls to watch out for?]

Cindy: Yes one thing I didn’t think of, and wish I had, was to remove my free shipping offer when a minimum order met $75+. When I run flash sales my AOV (average order value) increases because repeat customers buy 2-3X more than normal. So quite a few customers saved 25% off, plus got free shipping, and some orders costed me $12 to ship. Eeek! So don’t do that.

Ideally run the sale on a weekend after people get paid and not around a holiday. Notify your customers via email the day before, the day of and the last day depending on the length of your sale. Share on all your social media channels at least once a day. Also I suggest boosting your sale post (I didn’t do it this time) on FB and IG, be sure to target it too for maximum results.

 

Takeaways

Impressive right? It’s inspiring to see an ecommerce case study like this. Especially when it’s from someone who is just like most of us.  Not a big company, but a small business. Cindy does almost everything herself, from her home, all while raising 3 boys. If she can do it, so can you!

I thought it was really interesting to see how she had such success without spending a dime on advertising. No Facebook/Instagram ads or boosted posts (yet notice that she recommends giving that a try too). This was all just simple promotion to her audience. That should tell you something. …the value of an engaged audience! She posted about the sale in the places where she engages with her audience. In Facebook and Instagram, an in email.

This highlights the value of an email list. Cindy has a nice sized list of ~6000 email subscribers. That’s great. And they clearly pay attention when she emails them, as they were responsible for 30% of the sales during this flash sale. She’s not just collecting email addresses. She’s engaging with them.

I’ll leave you with one final observation about Cindy’s business. She has perhaps the two most important ingredient to a successful small business. High quality, unique products that people not only want, but return for. And products that cater to a very specific niche.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this case study. Leave a comment below!

Cindy Collins is a certified herbalist and certified breastfeeding counselor, and the Founder of Euphoric Herbals. Euphoric Herbals (euphoricherbals.com) has helped families, friends, and sisters in lactation increase milk supply, naturally, since 2011.

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