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How to boost profits for your Shopify store with a Halloween flash sale

How to boost profits for your Shopify store with a Halloween flash sale

Wouldn’t it be great to get a fang-tastic amount of sales this Halloween? If this year is anything like last year, we could expect to see online sales surpass $3 billion! Halloween is one major shopping bonanza you won’t want to miss out on - and we’ve got all the marketing tips you’ll need to make sure that you don’t!

Halloween is actually the holiday event leading the way when it comes to e-commerce sales, beating Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, the back-to-school season and even Christmas. More than a third of Halloween items are now purchased online with seasonal goodies, like sweet treats, scary costumes and Halloween decorations seeing double-digit growth during 2018 compared to the previous year.

Last year, a new spending record was broken also. In the U.S., Halloween shoppers spent $86.79 on average! And online search was the number one method for sourcing Halloween products! That’s no hocus pocus!

All these facts are good news for you as a Shopify store owner. But what you really want to know is how you can capitalize on this ghoulish goldmine and start raking in extra profits, right? Well, we believe a flash sale is the answer to this question. Read on to find out why.

Why run a flash sale?

A flash sale is where you run fast-paced, often heavily discounted sale, lasting only a short time, perhaps 24 hours. They’re designed to instill a sense of urgency in shoppers, particularly those who are already tempted to buy or those that tend to buy on impulse. With a flash sale, potential buyers are given just a moment’s notice and are offered only a limited inventory of top quality products at incredible prices.

Flash sales can do very well on social media, often going viral if you offer the right products, at the right prices. Add the limited time factor into the equation and a flash sale can be a recipe for success! Who doesn’t want to bag a bargain?

Why is Halloween a good time for a flash sale?

A successful flash sale is all about timing. You want potential buyers to recognize an exclusive sale when they see one, so you shouldn’t hold them too frequently. It would be difficult to build up enough hype around a flash sale if you were to hold one every week, for example. And why would shoppers flock to buy from you if they expect you to hold another one in the near future?

Flash sales work best when they are a rarity. So you don’t want to be hosting them all the time. With that said, the adage “strike while the iron is hot” certainly rings true when it comes to Halloween - this is a smoking-hot time of year to hold a flash sale!

As indicated earlier, there are massive amounts of shoppers spending considerable sums on Halloween merchandise. Many of them are searching online for ideas. Now is the ideal time to excite potential buyers with an exclusive flash sale and get people talking about your business!

The after-effects of a Halloween flash sale

Did you know that creating publicity around your store and brand for Halloween could result in prolonged exposure that will set you up for even more profits as you get ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM), and even Christmas? This research suggests that happy flash sale buyers may return to spend even more money, equating to 385% of the value of their first purchase!

Once you’ve grabbed your target audience’s attention with a flash sale, you can encourage them to continue their relationship with you. You could ask them to sign up for your newsletter so they don’t miss out on future promotions, or offer them rewards or incentives such as a discount or free shipping if they opt-in to your Messenger bot or SMS and Push Notifications.

Then you’re all ready to remarket to these shoppers during those other major shopping holidays. At this point, you’ll be able to benefit from customer insights to inform you as to what other products those people might be interested in.

What’s more, because it’s usually hair-raisingly expensive to run paid adverts (Google Ads etc.) leading up to BFCM, you might just find that running a Halloween flash sale will be much more cost-effective in bringing in new leads. Flash sales present a fantastic opportunity to build customer loyalty and encourage repeat business without having to deal with new customer acquisition costs.

Six considerations for a Halloween flash sale

Hopefully, by now, you’re convinced that you need to be running a flash sale in time for Halloween. So let’s now consider what you need to think about, and do, to carry out a flash sale that will bring home the bacon.

A word of caution before we get into this: be careful not to get carried away with your flash sale in case you overstretch your resources. You’ll need to be able to cope with an influx of orders, so your inventory must be well-stocked and your shipping schedule should be watertight.

Planning is the key to any successful marketing campaign; this one included. So now is the time to create your Halloween flash sale marketing plan, which should clearly set out measurable objectives, the specific promotion(s) you’re running and the communication methods needed to spread the word about it.

Consider these six points as you put your plan together:

Target audience Products Timing Duration Promotional methods Inventory, shipping, and delivery

Let’s explore each of these points in detail below.

1. Define your target audience

One of the first things to consider is who you want your flash sale to appeal to; new customers or existing ones. If you’re aiming to bring in new customers, bear in mind the following:

  • Prioritize your marketing activity so that new customers get a chance to purchase first, before informing your existing customer base.
  • Paid advertising through platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads can work well to attract “cold traffic” - people who have zero awareness currently of your store and brand and have never purchased before. Include keywords linked to the products you want to include in your flash sale.
  • Take to social media to reach prospective buyers; target those who like flash sales and follow your competitors’ social media pages.

If you want to work on customer retention and target existing customers only, look at:

  • Those customers who have previously indicated an interest in flash sales, or have purchased products in your inventory before.
  • Loyalty factors - dig deep into your customer insights to see which customers are the most valuable and which ones you need to “win-back” due to them being inactive for a while. Reward your most loyal customers and carefully nurture the ones whom you want to turn into repeat buyers.
  • Separating out, and avoiding marketing to, those customers who have already purchased the products you’re including in your flash sale - they’ll probably be a bit miffed to learn that a product they bought at full price recently has had a price slash!

2. Choose your flash sale products carefully

If you’re a small business with a limited range of products, choosing your best-selling product and heavily discounting it in a flash sale could be a great option. However, if you have a huge inventory, you’ll need to decide which ones are best-suited to a flash sale. Here’s how you might select them:

  • Halloween-related items, like costumes, accessories, home and garden decorations, food ingredients and candy are all popular choices for a Halloween flash sale, as this is what people will need to be buying in the run-up to this holiday. However, you could also shift seasonal stock such as remaining summer items to create room in your warehouse for the other major holidays in the year. Whatever you choose, focus on high-profit margin products.
  • Do some research to find out which products your customers or prospects have expressed an interest in previously when they’ve inputted keyword searches into your site or clicked on certain adverts. This is a good way to personalize your flash sale.
  • Consider discounting niche products. Though they won’t appeal to your mass target audience, you might be able to flog some high-ticket items this way and reap plenty of profit in the process. Learning who is interested in your niche products is always a good idea, for future retargeting purposes.

In any case, a flash sale should reek of exclusivity - offer a limited number of products only (this will make your sale manageable too). At the same time, remember that meeting your customer expectations is of paramount importance, so ensure you have enough stock to deliver on the orders you receive.

3. Get the timings right

We touched on the importance of flash sale timing earlier in this article. Timing really is everything. A flash sale must be short and fast-paced, and this means that if you pick the wrong time, some potential buyers may not realize you’re running a flash sale and end up missing out.

To get an idea of when the right time might be, check your analytics for purchasing patterns. Look at which days of the week your customers prefer to buy and what time of day your customers are most active. Also, check the days and times that your email open rates are at their highest.

Case study: Case-Mate

How they chose the best time

To learn the optimum time for their flash sale, Case-Mate (a mobile device case manufacturer) ran mini-flash sales while comparing their performance against non-flash sale KPIs. Case-Mate explored its website data and found that site visitors were at their highest, most active levels, between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the evening. Using this information, Case-Mate decided to set its 24-hour flash sale to run from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

How they decided which day was best

Case-Mate’s Email Marketing Manager, Ruth DeFeo, said, "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.” After learning this information, Case-Mate decided to launch their flash sale on a Monday.

How they promoted their flash sale

Case-Mate sent two emails to promote the sale. The first one was sent at 1 p.m. and announced the start of the sale. The second email was sent at 6.30 p.m. and was designed to create a sense of urgency by stating that there were "only hours left" to save 30%.

DeFeo said, "The results were great. 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."

As you can see, analytics can be hugely powerful when it comes to determining the timings of your flash sale. However, is there a “sweet spot” timewise that you should be considering during the Halloween shopping period? Yes!

Erik Mandell, CEO of CostumeSuperCenter.com, says that traffic and sales typically ramp up by the end of August as consumers start to put together their Halloween outfit. “August makes up about 5% of Halloween-related sales, with September bringing 25-30% and October bringing in the remaining share,” said Eric. “Sales for Halloween peak during the 10-day stretch Oct. 10-20, with Oct. 15 as roughly the high point.”

With that in mind, it’s best to opt for the mid-October period when running your flash sale. Look to your analytics (website traffic data, search keywords, and email open rates) to narrow down the precise date and time that would get the best reaction from your audience.

4. Decide on the optimum flash sale duration

When it comes to timings, half the battle is deciding the start date and time. The other half is deciding on the length of your flash sale. In our opinion, you should keep it short.

Flash sales are geared up for purchasing on impulse. That’s why they work so well - potential buyers get that sense of urgency and feel they need to grab a bargain “now”, while they can, or they’ll miss out!

You might be surprised to know that flash sales lasting a mere 3 hours boast the highest transaction rates of 14%! With that said, you might want to consider holding yours for longer, to allow a wider audience to take part, especially if you’re selling internationally, across different time-zones. Also, some buyers will want a little time to consider their purchase, even if the amount of time for thinking is limited. A general rule of thumb is to run your flash sale for no longer than 24 hours.

5. Put together a promotional plan

A robust promotional plan can do wonders to ramp up anticipation and excitement ahead of your flash sale. Bill it as a “sale of the century” type event, promote it in the right places to the right people, and you’ll have stacks of potential buyers just waiting to click “add to cart” as soon as your flash sale goes live. Remember to focus on exclusivity and scarcity in your promotional copy.

Email, Facebook Messenger, push notifications and social media are all communication channels that you can take advantage of to spread the word about your flash sale. We explain more about each of these below.

Email

A sequence of cleverly-timed emails can build up the hype about your flash sale very effectively and lead to lots of conversions. For best results, keep sending emails to your list of subscribers as your Halloween sale is happening, emphasizing that there is a limited amount of stock left each time.

Take a look at this email campaign sequence from Bonobos below, as an example. The first email highlights how long their sitewide sale will last and how much of a discount shoppers can expect to receive. The visuals are clear and elegant and the eye is drawn to the important information about the sale.

Halloween sale example with scary teeth visual(Source: Emma)

 

The following day, subscribers receive a second email. The visuals look similar in terms of style, but the font color has changed along with some of the copy. Red is used, a color that resonates with Halloween and is also believed to stimulate the heart rate. The top part of the copy now reads “ENDS TOMORROW”, which evokes a sense of urgency. The prospect doesn’t have long left to act!

Halloween sale example with nose and glasses visual(Source: Emma)

 

The third and last email is sent on the final day of the flash sale. Notice that the font color has changed again, this time to green (another Halloween-inspired color). The copy reflects that potential buyers have just one more chance to take advantage of the sale. The tone of voice presented isn’t desperate - there’s no “BUY NOW OR MISS OUT!” type statement. It’s just a classy reminder that an awesome sale is about to come to an end.

Halloween sale example with scary mask visual(Source: Emma)

 

Check out the text towards the bottom of these Bonobos emails: “The more you add to your cart, the bigger the discount.” Bonobos have added thresholds to their discounts to tempt their customers to buy more items and receive a bigger discount. This indicates that Bonobos are looking to increase the total order value per customer, which would make their sale more profitable - a smart move. They can effectively make more money per customer without any additional marketing spend.

Push notifications, SMS and Messenger marketing

Messenger bots and SMS and Push Notifications provide an excellent way to reach subscribers via their mobile devices. These types of messages are delivered and received instantly, which is ideal in a flash sale situation. You can inform your audience, “we’re running a flash sale right now - come and look at what’s on offer”.

We’ve put together some SMS and push notification templates you could use the day before your flash sale is launched:

Our MONSTER SALE starts tomorrow!

Be ready at {time} to make some scream-worthy savings on a huge range of products, including:

{Deal example 1}

{Deal example 2}

Here’s another message that you could use for your Messenger bot:

There’s pumpkin you should know…

Halloween pumpkin with a big smile

Our MONSTER SALE starts tomorrow!

Be ready at {time} to make some scream-worthy savings on a huge range of products, including:

{Deal example 1}

{Deal example 2}

(Image source: Weird hut)

There are many Messenger and SMS flows to take advantage of that focus on the Halloween holiday - here are 3 Halloween Messenger flows to start with. As for timings, follow the same principle we highlighted for emails - send a message the day before your flash sale, and then another when it starts.

Make sure your SMS campaign is sent as early as possible on the actual day of your flash sale, just in case network services are busy for any reason - you don’t want your customers to miss out.

That said, do think carefully about what constitutes a “reasonably early” time. Although it’s tempting to send an SMS or Messenger message at the crack of dawn so that your subscribers see it first thing, note that many people keep their phones beside their bed and may not set their volume to silent! Annoying your subscribers with an early wake-up call isn’t recommended, even if you are running the sale of the century.

Here’s one simple template that would work for all communications - SMS, Push and Messenger:

Thriller! Our Halloween sale is live NOW.

Visit our store for some bat-tastic savings while they last.

{Number} hours only!

Alternatively, if you’re using a countdown timer within your message (we’ll explain this shortly), try this template instead.

The COUNT is coming.

No, not Dracula. It’s the countdown to the end of our spine-tingling Halloween sale!

Head over to our store now for some fang-tastic discounts.

Firepush offers a whole host of automated features for web push notifications and SMS marketing. Consider these options for your Halloween flash sale:

Three WICKED web push features

Power push - you can incorporate a much bigger visual or banner with these notifications. So, whether you’ve added a spider, a pumpkin, a vampire or some other Halloween-inspired visual, your push notifications will jump out (in the right way) at your subscribers. See the image below for an example of how this might look.

 

Firepush halloween sale example

Countdown timer/discount - this type of push message includes a countdown timer that shows customers how long they have left to buy at a discounted rate. It works really well to increase urgency. What’s more, you can directly add a discount code to this push notification that will be applied at the checkout, which means that your subscriber doesn’t need to worry about copying and pasting the code anywhere.

Lifetime push - this feature is ideal when you’re running a sale with a short duration. You can choose to set a specific period in which your push notification will be displayed, for example, 24 hours. Once that time period is up, the push notification will no longer be shown, so users won’t ever see out-of-date notifications.

Four THRILLING SMS features

Buyer filter - it’s possible to filter out customers who’ve already bought from your store. This means you can reward your loyal customers and offer them a special incentive for Halloween.

Active subscriber filter - you can also filter out subscribers who have clicked on at least one of your campaigns. This means you can focus on targeting prospects who are most likely to react to your marketing messages.

Other filters - you can also filter your customers/subscribers according to their location, number of orders or tags that you’ve set up. These filters help you segment your audience so you can send them a more personalized marketing campaign.

Countdown timer/discount - just like with push notifications, you can send SMS campaigns with a countdown timer and include a discount that will be automatically applied at the checkout.

Social media marketing

The last marketing channel to mention that’s important to utilize is social media. Paid advertising through Twitter and Facebook can be very effective when promoting a flash sale, particularly if you tweak your ad copy and visuals, optimizing them every hour before launch. You can then shift your budget towards the ads that are getting the most engagement.

One agency netted 81% of total sales with this strategy through Facebook advertising on behalf of a home decor retailer who was running a flash sale. The conversion rates were a nifty 2.9%.

You can also leverage social media to create stories on Instagram, for example, that relate to your flash sale. You might want to take photos and videos of your products and showcase them in quirky or exciting ways. Stories work really well to boost reactions from customers and prospects - and we all know what can happen if a social media post goes viral!

6. Anticipate your inventory and shipping needs

A flash sale can be immensely popular, especially if you get all the elements right; the timing, the product, the promotion, and the marketing campaign. If word gets out, your flash sale could take off really fast. While you may be jumping for joy at the sight of multiple orders rolling in at the start of your sale, you might end up breaking a sweat if you haven’t paid enough attention to stock, shipping and delivery.

If you sell out of your flash sale product(s) too quickly, potential customers can end up feeling disappointed and annoyed after all the buzz they’ve seen you drumming up. This is the exact opposite of what you want to achieve with your Halloween promo.

To avoid this from happening, ensure your inventory is well-stocked - it’s best to be ambitious and have a back-up plan for if you do happen to run out of your sale product (an alternative “amazing” product perhaps). You might want to pre-empt any possible complaints or queries from customers who miss out on your sale and set up your Messenger bot to automatically respond to them with some other incentive.

As far as shipping and delivery are concerned, your customers will, of course, want their flash sale items to be delivered asap. Same day and next day delivery are a common request these days. Customers don’t want to wait weeks for their orders, so be prepared to hire extra customer support staff to deal with queries and help with packing and shipping over your flash sale period. You could even consider hiring a logistics expert to help if you think you’ll need more assistance.

Top takeaways

The benefits of running a flash sale are abundantly clear! There are many sales to be made from a short, fast-paced Halloween flash sale providing that you:

  1. Define your audience - decide whether you want to bring in new customers or retain existing ones. Be clear on your audience - it’s best to choose one or the other - but not both.
  2. Choose your product(s) wisely - go for Halloween-related stock or pick your best-sellers for ultimate success. You could also shift excess stock left over from the summer season to make room for BFCM or Christmas inventory. Whatever you offer, put a limit on the quantities available.
  3. Pick the perfect timing - the optimum time for Halloween shopping is between October 10-20th, so plan your sale around these dates.
  4. Set a short duration - short flash sales work well. 3 hours is the ideal time, but don’t be afraid to host your sale for longer to capture buyers from further afield. We recommend no longer than 24 hours. Choose the time carefully and use customer insights to uncover shopping patterns.
  5. Plan for promotion - don’t wing it. Put together a well thought out marketing plan that includes an omnichannel approach. Include the major channels; that’s email, SMS, push notifications and Facebook Messenger marketing to ensure word of your flash sale reaches the right people, and as many of them as possible.
  6. Anticipate delivery - avoid running out of stock. Plan for the best-case scenario. Have the required inventory, shipping and delivery solutions in place. Think of a good back-up product you can offer if you need to and source extra staff to deal with customer service.

If you consider and implement all of these points, you can create a tremendous amount of hype and excitement around your store and products during one of the busiest online shopping holidays of the year. Remember, a third of Halloween shopping takes place online. Make sure you get a slice of that lucrative (pumpkin) pie!

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