When we received an email from AfterPay about their millionth customer celebration, we knew we had to act. It was a great opportunity to run a flash sale alongside their promotion and if we timed it right we could run our promotion before any other businesses did the same. So we did and…

We sold $3000 worth of product in 72 hours

With an investment of $100 advertising spend and 3 hours of work.

In today’s blog post, I’m going to show you how we did it and 4 core takeaways you can apply to your own business:

  1. How to recognise an opportunity for a flash sale
  2. How to structure a flash sale for maximum results
  3. How to pick which platforms to use for a flash sale
  4. How to present your flash sale to your customers

Let’s do this!

The Opportunity

As a business owner and marketer, you should always be looking for opportunities to celebrate with your customers, whether that’s giveaways, competitions or sales. That’s why when you see an opportunity to celebrate, like AfterPay’s millionth customer announcement, you must act to make something of it.

Here are a few examples of opportunities you could take advantage of:

  1. We regularly receive emails from a company we’ve purchased wholesale chocolate from. Whenever they run a sale or launch a new product, we buy enough units to run a Gift With Purchase campaign. This gives us leverage with their own marketing for a product launch or we get discounted prices which makes a Gift With Purchase campaign more feasible.
  2. We are often approached by brands and influencers to giveaway free product. We don’t do this very often, but when brands that are larger than us approach us and are negotiable with the marketing terms, we’ll usually take the opportunity for the potential upside.
  3. We randomly do #freemaskfridays where we send an extra mask with every order, just because. These are fun, easy to deploy and encourage spending on a day that is typically quite slow for eCommerce.
  4. At the start of every month, we check for obscure public holidays and peak shopping periods (like Black Friday or Mother’s Day) to capitalise on.

Spotting these opportunities isn’t difficult, all you need is a little preparation, creativity, and interest in seeing what you can create.

Taking Action

1. Creating a strategy

We knew that we wouldn’t be the only business celebrating AfterPay’s milestone and we wanted to get in before other brands sold to our customers. So we made a conscious decision to launch the sale before the official celebration dates.

Because there is very little complexity to a flash sale, the only things we needed to decide on were:

  1. How long the sale would run for
  2. Where we wanted to distribute the core content
  3. What offer we were going to give our customers

How to choose the timeframe for your sale

There’s really no right or wrong answer when deciding on a timeframe. Most of the time, it comes down to your capabilities to deploy a campaign –

  • Do you have the time or resources to execute across multiple platforms?
  • How big your audience is on those platforms?

We usually do 48-hour flash sales because it’s enough time to launch the campaign and send a follow-up email. In this case, I wanted to include a third email to touch base with anyone who hadn’t purchased – that’s why I decided to extend the flash sale to a 72-hour timeframe.

How to structure a flash sale for maximum results

With campaigns like this, email is a no-brainer. It’s easy, it goes straight into your customer’s inboxes and you can follow them up throughout the campaign duration with reminders about the offer and looming deadline. For the other platforms, it again comes down to your resources. How many platforms are you currently on and how well are they performing? There’s not a lot of point advertising on your Snapchat if you only have a few views per Snap.

In our case, we have a small but engaged following on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat so we decided to use these plus our email list to promote the flash sale.

How to choose the right offer for your flash sale

Again, this comes down to your product and specifically, your margins.

What can you afford to discount or give on top of your customer’s order?

Here are a few examples of what you could do:

  1. Run a Gift With Purchase campaign with a light item that won’t blow your shipping costs out
  2. Offer a discount ladder – 10% on launch, 15% on the second day, 20% on the final day
  3. Offer one discount that is higher than you usually would

In this case, we chose to match AfterPay’s discounts to merchants (15%) with no further increases. We very rarely do sales, so we knew that it was a great deal and our customers would act when we offered it.

At this point, we had the bare bones of the campaign planned out and the next step was to create the content.

2. Structuring the pillars of content

Once you’ve designed the structure of your flash sale, you need to build out the content of the platform you’re executing on. We had Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Email to plan and this is how I laid it out.

Launch Phase

  • 1 Email
  • 1 Facebook Post
  • 1 Instagram Post
  • 1 Snapchat Series
  • 1 Instagram Stories Post

Build Phase

  • 1 Email
  • 1 Instagram Stories Post

Climax Phase

  • 1 Email
  • 1 Instagram Stories Post

You’ll notice that I didn’t include Instagram and Facebook posts in the last two-thirds of the campaign. I personally don’t find blasting a flash sale with daily posts to be effective. Often times, you actually lose when you do this because people get sick of seeing your spam and stop engaging with your posts.

What has worked really well for us is putting advertising spend on the initial post and leveraging the other platforms in the campaign to continue promoting the flash sale.

3. Creating the content

A really important aspect of any campaign is the positioning or how you present your campaign to your customers. Here’s what I mean by this –

We didn’t say –

“We’re running a flash giveaway to capitalise on AfterPay’s milestone and save on a discount we’d usually have to pay for”.

We said –

“We’re celebrating AfterPay’s milestone because we’re proud to be a business who offers AfterPay (an amazing service) to our customers”.

Both are true, but one is more customer friendly than the other.

But how do you know how to present your campaign to your customers?

It’s really simple…

  1. What caused you to run this flash sale? Write this down.
  2. What are your business goals for running the campaign? Write this down.
  3. Look at the two different sentences and find a connection that’s relevant to your customer.

In our case, AfterPay is a service that benefits both the business and the customer involved in the transaction, so the milestone they are celebrating is something everyone could be a part of, no matter if you’re buying the product or selling it. This is what helped me to decide on our final messaging for the campaign.

Once I had the message, I wrote the content for the emails and used the same copy, albeit slightly altered for each platform, to power our social media posts. Then, I created assets that would stop our audience in their news feed tracks.

4. Deploying the campaign

The final stage of the campaign was deploying the posts. There was the scheduled content that we could set up and leave:

  • Setting up the email series to send the first email on launch day, second email 24 hours after and the last email another 24 hours later.
  • Scheduled the Instagram and Facebook posts and boosted them once they were live.

The other content on Snapchat and Instagram Stories could only be done manually, so every day I uploaded content to both of these to continue promoting the competition.

That’s it!

The Analysis

First up, I’m going to go over the expenses for the campaign.

Expenses

  • 3 hours of time to create and deploy the campaign
  • $100 on a boosted post

Results

  • $2968 in revenue ($2768 from email, $200 from Instagram Stories)
  • 9% conversion rate on our store throughout the flash sale duration
  • For every 1000 subscribers on our list, we made $553 (you can use this as a benchmark to compare how your list is performing)
  • 18% conversion rate on our Instagram Stories posts

For 3 hours of work and $100 spent, this is a fantastic result.

What did I learn?

There were two core lessons that I took from this campaign:

  1. A third email on a slightly longer campaign timeframe was extremely effective in generating more sales because of the impending deadline reminders. On my next flash sale campaign, I would add a fourth email a few hours before the deadline as one last reminder to anyone who hasn’t purchased.
  2. Using Instagram Stories for a targeted action such as swiping up to make a purchase was extremely effective. I have previously underestimated the channel and its ability to convert. After this flash sale, I will include it in all of my sales campaigns.

Final Thoughts

You might be thinking about running a flash sale like this in your own business. To that I say –

Go for it, but not too often.

Yes, campaigns, and particularly flash sales, are extremely effective in generating revenue. But they can also be detrimental to your business if you run them too frequently. Here’s why:

  • Nobody likes being sold to constantly.
  • When we, the consumer, are sold to all the time, we stop listening and opening emails except when we want to buy. If you’re trying to build a community that cares about your companies emails, this can be damaging.
  • When we, the consumer, know that a discount email is likely to come from a company, we sit back and wait for that email before purchasing.

Choose to deploy flash sales wisely and creatively.