It doesn't matter which industry you're in, if you're selling something a sale is always a practical way to drive more business. It's especially useful in the seasons when consumers are expecting to find good deals. For most industries, this usually happens at the end of a season.
This is why at the end of summer, for example, you'll always find discounts on services and merchandise. It's a smart way for businesses to squeeze the last bit of revenue out of their most popular seasons and prepare for the new ones ahead. A popular model, especially in online marketing, is to have a flash sale.
What's a flash sale?
A flash sale is a special deal you provide to your customers for a limited period of time. These elusive sales play on a sense of urgency and offer customers something special in a way that feels unique.
Sales aren't as simple as they used to be. With the dawn of the internet, email marketing and online advertising have overwhelmed consumers. In fact, 81% of consumers in a recent study with Accenture said they feel best about brands that are there when they need them, but will otherwise respect their time and leave them alone.
Pair the advertising overwhelm with the expanding options for paying customers, and the tactics that business owners used to employ are becoming less reliable (which means, it's less profitable too).
So, what can we do? We manage our expectations and try to create the innovative approach.
It's easier said than done, but it all starts with figuring out what you're trying to accomplish. If you can create a clear list of goals, you'll be able to work towards your desired results.
Here are some goals a tour and activity company might have for a flash sale:
- Sell more during the season to boost profits
- Attract new customers
- Grow the gross sales or revenues
These are all great places to start in trying to identify your sale's purpose and manage expectations. Now, it's time to define the offer. Here are four themes to help you run a successful flash sale.
1. A deal on a rare experience
Every tourism company is working to create a special experience for their customer. From the location to the food, these accommodations play a key role in the way travelers will remember their trip.
Every summer in Provence, France, fragrant lavender fields begin to bloom. Their season begins in June and ends in August, sometimes being cut short due to unseasonably rough weather conditions. For many tourists, the chance to see them comes around once in a lifetime. Because of these conditions, even the most careful plan can mean a traveler misses out on the season.
A tour guide in Provence knows how to bring customers to the fields in the perfect time of the year. This knowledge is valuable and creates the perfect vacation activity for fortunate travelers each lavender season. Offering a limited sale on a rare experience like this is sure to benefit both consumers and business owners.
How: The beauty of a rare experience is that you don't have to go too far to make this deal work. Here are three options that could make it simple:
- Offer 10-15% off of tours for a quick 24 hour time period. Since the experience could rely on special conditions, many travelers will only book at the last minute anyway.
- Another option could be to emulate the popular daily deal sites and change the sale every day for a week.
- Last, you could make the percentage a surprise (anywhere between 10-50%, for example) that's applied to the shopping cart only after the customer has booked their trip with you.
2. Maximize the potential of a popular experience
Every town has that one special tourist attraction. You know, the landmark on the shot glass Aunt Ida proudly displays in the china cabinet. It's the place where everyone sends their postcards from and it's been geo-tagged more times in a day than the entire population of your hometown. It's the place to be, so customers are willing to pay for the experience.
How: If you have a local tour or activity, take time to build an extra part of the tour around this experience for interested travelers. While your competitors will sell a similar offer for as much as they can, your flash sale price could bring more customers in the door.
Once you've got their attention, add something unexpected. For an extra bit of interest, lead the tour to a lesser known gem in the area and round it off with something only the locals will know like a local brewery or tapas bar. This will give you better reviews than the competition and, most importantly, more memorable experiences for your happy customers.
3. A warm welcome for a return customer
Return customers are one of your most important target markets. On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10x as much as their first purchase. With that in mind, what are you doing to reward them?
A flash sale geared towards your return customers could potentially lead to the strongest return. It offers an exclusive feeling, making customers feel like they're experiencing something they wouldn't be able to as a first-time customer.
How: Customers tend to be more loyal to brands that keep them on the cutting edge by offering new experiences and the latest services. The key is to let return customers know that this sale is only for them. They'll know how big the discount is because they've paid for a tour or activity before. Unlike the other angles we've talked about here, a simple 10% off coupon isn't going to cut it. You need to give them something special.
If you want to raise the stakes a bit, give them exclusive access to an experience as well. You could easily include something thoughtful like a free cocktail hour at a local hotspot, or work with a partner to grant customers a percentage off of their accommodations. But if you really want to wow them, give them something no one has seen yet.
For example, maybe you've designed a new tour you'll start offering next year. Offer these customers the chance to experience it before anyone else. Not only will it make past customers feel special, it will help you to have a "soft open" for a new experience.
You'll likely have a more open dialogue with these customers as well since you've earned their trust through current and past experiences. If these return customers like the new offer, they'll leave positive reviews to build hype around it. And if their feedback isn't so favorable, you'll be able to learn from their experience and improve it before offering it to a wider audience.
4. Discount on an anniversary year
Celebrations are one of the sweeter parts of life and where there's a happy vibe, guests know to expect a bit of this joy to rub off. Everybody loves a good birthday party. It doesn't matter if it's a close relative or that co-worker you sort of talked to once, you'll show up because it's nice to celebrate the person's life, but you'll probably stay a little longer because of the open bar or the promise of cake. The same mentality applies here.
How: Combine your flash sale with your company's milestone. Depending on the number of years, you can offer the same percentage in discounts (ex. 10 year anniversary = 10% off). In addition to the flash sale, you can run other promotions alongside to attract attention.
Obviously, the point of any sale is to bring in more money, but if you earn strategically, you stand to gain more than just extra cash flow. Remember, money can come and go easily but a longtime customer or positive reputation is priceless. Hopefully, these tips will help you come up with a plan for your next sale that can bring you all three, in this season and the next.
Looking to build a better offer for high season? Download our checklist and organize everything from your offer to your website.
Written by Sara Napier Burkhard
Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.