Although flash sales have evolved over the years, merchants still use this tactic to drive sales, attract new customers, and promote their brand. When run well, flash sales can grow your bottom line and your business.
However, not all merchants have the right capabilities needed to run online flash sales. And when run inefficiently, flash sales can quickly damage your brand image and cause lost sales.
In this article, learn the risk of flash sales and how multichannel integration between your ecommerce platform and back-end system can help guarantee you run a smooth sale.
The Risks of Running Flash Sales
Flash sales became popular in the early 2000s from sites like Woot.com and Groupon. While not all flash sale sites survived, merchants still use periodic flash sales to spur sales during holiday or slow months in retail.
Merchants have learned though that running flash sales comes with its own set of risks. It’s not as easy to run one as you might think. While setting up a flash sale isn’t particularly hard, executing one all the way through is another story.
While you’re caught up in the rush of watching order after order pour in, there’s many background processes happening that can go wrong at any minute. For instance, your website or ERP system can crash and cause you to lose orders. You can oversell inventory. Order fulfilment can become too slow and cause delayed shipping times. These issues can lead to a poor customer experience and put you at risk for:
- Upset customers who won’t want to shop with you again
- Lost sales from inability to process orders
Ruined brand image as a company that can’t keep your promises
While these are very real risks, they can be avoided with the right technology and processes, allowing you to run a well-executed flash sale from initial set up to delivering orders to your customers’ hands.
What is Multichannel Integration?
When running online sales, most merchants can benefit from multichannel integration that connects your ecommerce platform and back-end system such as POS system or an ERP. Multichannel integration helps you automate many of your business processes such as inventory updates, order fulfillment, listing products, drop shipping, returns, and more by utilizing pre-built connectors for the systems you already use.
Online Flash Sales Failures and How to Overcome Them
After hearing from merchants, here are some of their most common flash sale failures and how multichannel integration helps overcome them.
1. Overselling Inventory
Online flash sales are meant to make inventory fly off your virtual shelves. However, it becomes a real issue when you sell more items than are in-stock. There’s nothing worse than telling a customer that an item they bought is on backorder or that you can’t ship it because you don’t actually have any left. This leads to frustrated customers who will find it hard to trust you in the future (if they even shop with you again).
Solution: Multichannel integration ensures that your inventory levels are updated in real-time, or immediately after every sale. You can trust that the inventory levels displayed on your website are always correct. You’ll be able to notify customers that an item is out-of-stock before they hit the buy button.
2. Lost Orders Due to Backend System Crashes
During a flash sale, your fulfillment system such as an ERP is flooded with order requests. In just 10 -15 minutes of a sale, your ERP can have to process over 1,000 orders. If your system can’t handle the volume, it can slow down and even crash or lock up.
If this happens, merchants can lose sales orders! This is a major problem that can lead to unfulfilled orders and wasted time of trying to figure out what orders failed or were processed before the crash. It can cost merchants thousands of dollars in lost sales or wasted time re-entering order data.
Solution: A multichannel integration platform can act as a buffer between your ecommerce platform and back-end system. As a platform syncs orders between your two systems, it can throttle or queue up the number of online orders it sends to your back-end system for processing, based on your system’s limits. This prevents your systems from crashing or locking up from an overload of processing requests.
3. Shipping Delays
Selling your products is just the first part of running a flash sale. You then have hundreds or thousands of sold orders that you must ship quickly and accurately to all your customers. If you guaranteed delivery dates, you want to make sure that you deliver when promised.
Without integration, many companies rely on manual data entry to hand-key the same order data from one system to another. Some companies have a team of “data ninjas” that do just this! This can take anywhere from 6-12+ hours during a day’s work. Not only is the process long and tedious, it’s prone to human errors. Typos, misspellings, and omitted data can lead to shipping problems such as sending the wrong item, sending the same item twice, or delivering an item to the wrong address or not at all.
If your flash sale brings in new customers, this will be their first interaction with your brand. You don’t want to set the expectation that your company isn’t reliable.
Solution: Multichannel integration allows for automation of your order processing. You can trust that orders are processed quickly and accurately so you can deliver packages on-time. You’ll cut down the time to process an order from 30-40 minutes to seconds.
Run Smoother Flash Sales Today
When executed properly, online flash sales can become a competitive advantage for your business. You can acquire new customers, drive sales, and increase your profits. While they can be difficult to run smoothly, any merchant can do it with the right technology and mindset. To learn more about flash sales, check out this comprehensive guide to planning and running online flash sales.
About the Author:
Jillian Hufford is a Marketing Analyst for nChannel, provider of the simplest integration software to automate multichannel processes. Using both her writing and analytic skills, she assists the Marketing and Sales teams. Jillian performs competitor market research, provides analysis of key sales metrics, and writes informative posts on multichannel commerce trends. She holds a BA in Marketing from Otterbein University.