Your marketing strategy will feature numerous campaigns, potentially including flash sales. You can easily incorporate a flash sale into nearly any marketing strategy, from SMS to email to display ads. However, we will focus on flash sales as part of your SMS marketing strategy.

Learn more about what a flash sale is, why they work, and how to make the most of them to get the best results. 

What is a flash sale?

The term “flash sale” refers to a sale that is an incredibly limited-time offer.

Flash sales have three stand-out traits that make them different from most other sales.

  • They have a shorter timespan.
  • Their discounts are typically much better.
  • The sale only applies to a limited selection of products, likely available in limited quantities.

The most popular times for flash sales are Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but there is no limit to when you can use them. 

Why do flash sales work?

Special Deal Limited Time Offer Sign

Flash sales work for a few critical reasons.

To start, they take advantage of two common marketing strategies: generating a sense of urgency and offering a low price. The sense of urgency plays off customers’ fear of missing out and doesn’t give them enough time to think through the purchase. They have to act, or they will miss out. The low price gives them the incentive to buy a product, even if it is an impulse purchase. This is just an extension of the fact that people tend to purchase items that are on sale even if they don’t need them because they see them as a good deal.

Flash sales also work because they benefit both you and the buyer. Shoppers get a great deal on products, while you: 

  • Can get rid of excess inventory (including items in low demand)
  • Boost brand visibility
  • Drive traffic to your website if the sale is online
  • Increase sales of other items as well
  • Increase average order value 
  • Convert leads
  • Gain more loyal customers
  • Gain new customers 
  • Encourage impulse buying 
  • Get more valid email address opt-ins

Optimal times for flash sales

Part of knowing how to do a flash sale is understanding the ideal time to run them. Technically, you could run this type of sale anytime you want. However, sometimes make more sense than others for your flash sale strategy. Retailers should consider the following times for their next flash sales. 

Black Friday Graphic with Clock

On Cyber Monday or Black Friday

As mentioned, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are incredibly popular times for flash sales. People hope to find amazing deals on these days, and flash sales let you take advantage of that. You still make a profit by offering the deals in limited quantities and times.

It may also be easier to find new customers at this time, as they will be looking for flash sale ads on those days. That may even let you steal some competitors’ customers. 

A few months before the holidays

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not the only pre-holiday days that are popular for flash sales. The entire holiday shopping season is a popular choice. The caveat is that other brands will also offer flash sales at this time. So, try offering your sales a month or two ahead of them, such as in October, to draw in the most customers.

When you have excess inventory

It also makes sense to have a flash sale if you have excess inventory. The urgency and discounts should make your products sell quickly, clearing out the excess. This also works well for products that are selling poorly if you have new inventory that is about to come in and need to make room for it.

After the holidays

It’s very common for people to return unwanted gifts after the holidays. While this makes sense and is expected, it’s not good for your bottom line. You can counter this with a flash deal. After all, people who have just made returns now have some money to spend. 

This could also be an opportunity to get rid of excess seasonal or specialty products. 

What makes a successful flash sale?

As with any other type of advertising strategy, there are a few things you can do to maximize your chances of a successful flash sale. Ensure your business has excellent flash sales with the following tips. 

Set goals

You should always start planning the sale by setting your goals. Do you want to get rid of excess inventory? Do you want to boost brand awareness? Do you want more loyal customers? 

Think about your target audience

As you plan the sale, think about your target market and what products or services they want to get. In other words, research customer demand to choose what to include.

Limit the sales to two or three hours

The ideal length of time for a flash sale seems to be about two to three hours. This is short enough to give a sense of urgency but long enough to provide online shoppers a chance to buy the product.

Choose the right time

Make sure to run a flash sale during times of day that your customers are most active. Otherwise, they won’t be able to take advantage of it.

Price flash sales just above the lowest possible price

You want to make the deals attractive enough to lead to purchases but not low enough to eat into your margins too much. A good pricing strategy is to determine your lowest possible price, then price the products for the sales slightly higher. (Your lowest possible price is likely your deals for Cyber Monday or Black Friday).

Consider VIP flash sales

If you have a loyalty or VIP program, consider running a flash sale only open to those members. This is a great way to boost customer loyalty as you run a flash sale.

Segment your list so you don’t send the information to people who already bought the product at full price

Unless your product is something like fragrances or lotions that people will buy more than once, consider segmenting your flash deal list to exclude people who previously purchased the product in question, this can eliminate anger over missed deals and is one of the discount offer best practices.

Target inactive customers

Flash selling can be an excellent opportunity to win back previously inactive customers. If they see a great deal, they may remember why they opted in for texting in the first place. Think of it as a great example of how to use retention marketing.

Plan shipping ahead of time

Make sure that you can keep up with shipping during flash sales, even with the higher volumes needed for mass shipping. This will help from a logistics standpoint and ensure your products arrive on time. That, in turn, leads to customer satisfaction. Even better, if you plan to offer free shipping, you can get even more sales. The same is true if you offer overnight shipping from your online store. 

If you offer a buy online, pay in-store option, plan ahead so that you can process and prepare orders promptly.

Provide customer service

Even if you clearly outline the rules of the flash sale, expect questions. Reduce issues by making an FAQ section outlining exactly what is on sale and ensuring you have enough staff people to handle customer service for a successful flash sale. Consider using SMS as an option to eliminate hold times and resources required.

Don’t have too many

You should not have too many flash deals. Shoppers will start to feel that the sales are not really special events due to flash sale fatigue. They will begin to feel more like usual daily sales than rare flash deals, and it could damage your business’s reputation (and bottom line).

Announce the sale on SMS

While there are many ways to advertise a flash sale, SMS marketing is one of the best, thanks to the 98% open rate of text messages. 

While SMS is the best strategy, you may also want to run a flash sale email campaign and advertise on social media channels and through paid ads. Remember to make the subject line enticing if you use a flash sale email. 

Flash sales vs. longer-term sales

As you decide whether you want to run a flash sale and when to do so, you will want to look at their pros and cons compared with longer-term sales. Remember that flash sales should only run for a few hours, while a longer-term sale can go on for days or even weeks. Below are the pros and cons of flash sales. Longer-term sales offer the reverse. 


  • Flash sales can sell excess inventory and sell items via impulse purchases. 
  • They can increase your loyal customers.
  • They can bring in new online shoppers.
  • They help you move inventory, including excess or poor-selling items. Or you can use them to make room for new stock.
  • Flash deal customers will likely buy more than the sale item. 
  • They are only for a short period, so you don’t have maximized transaction rates for too long. 


  • Flash sales may attract customers who are only interested in outstanding deals or very cheap items.
  • They can cut into your already tight profit margins.
  • You have to make sure not to do them too frequently. Otherwise, it can hurt the effectiveness of future promotions. 
  • You have to make sure the rules and conditions of the flash sale are clear, or you may hurt the customer perception of your brand image. 
  • Fulfilling and shipping the orders quickly can be challenging.
  • Your website has to be good enough not to crash due to the high transaction rates if the sale is online.
  • You may alienate customers who have already bought the product for full price. 

Conclusion: Are flash sales right for your business?

You will have to think about your business and your target audience to decide if flash sales are suitable for your company. Successful flash sales generate new customers, customer loyalty, and sales. At the very least, most companies would do well to consider running a flash sale on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but you may want to have them at other times of the year as well. Just remember never to do more than a small handful of flash sales annually, as any more will reduce their effectiveness for your e-commerce business. 

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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