What are flash sales and promotions? Promotion ideas to boost sales

Promotions and flash sales – How different promotions can benefit your business and increase sales.


Sales promotions are a great way to boost sales, increase your customer base and brand awareness. Everyone loves a great deal! Most, if not all businesses will run promotions, whether annually, bi-annually or more frequently, after each season. Big or small, start-up or well established find out why and how promotions and flash sales could help you attract new customers and increase customer loyalty.

What is a sales promotion?

A sales promotion is the act of applying discounts to products or services. Targeting a specific audience with the aim to attract new customers, retain existing customer loyalty or increase brand awareness. Promotions speed up the sales cycle with a burst of sales in a short period of time. Helpful during quieter periods but also a great way to clear less popular stock, end of season stock, or overstocked items in order to maker space for new stock arrivals.

What is a flash sale?

A flash sale is a sales promotion ran in-store and/or online for a short period of time, typically 24 hours. Flash sales often means more significant discounts in comparison to sales promotions due to the time limitation. Flash sales encourage impulse purchases, the fear of loss means consumers have to act fast or risk losing out. Many businesses incorporate flash sales into their business model and hold flash sales multiple times a year.

How flash sales and promotions can help grow your business

A good flash sale creates hype, urgency and a spike in sales. Plan in advance and build hype on social media and in email marketing efforts. Get people talking about it and attract new leads.

Easy is principle but you need to get it right, promote it right, generate excitement but ensure you can manage a potential rush both in-store and online. Ok, online you’re not physically there but you still need to pick and ship the products quickly, especially if you offer next day delivery. Using a unified point of sale and ecommerce that automatically updates stock levels after each sale is key, if you don’t hold separate in-store and online stock you don’t want to be selling an item in-store when the last has just been purchased online or vice versa.

Flash sales and promotions should be well planned, set sales goals and carefully choose the inventory you need to clear out, then stick to it. Keep the sale clear and simple. Customers want to find and purchase their products in the fewest and simplest steps possible. Target specific groups that will find your flash sale items appealing. Maintain urgency by holding the promotion within a short time frame, even if it’s not a 24 hour flash sale, ensure your promotion is only available for a few days.

Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd in your digital marketing efforts, do something different and imaginative rather than following the crowd, it will get you noticed. You’ll need to create written content and digital assets for social media, email marketing and your ecommerce site, plus signs, banners and discount stickers ready for your sale in-store.

Collateral should portray your core values, you want to emotionally connect with your target audience, so they buy into your brand and values. Ensure excellent customer service is maintained throughout your sales promotion, encourage reviews and leave a good impression. This could be the first time customers have purchased from you, a good first impression could turn a new customer into a loyal one.

Types of promotions

Buy one, get one...

Buy one get one free or half price and so on. The most popular being buy one get one free, people love the word FREE! You may have 2 deals; buy 5 get one free or buy 5 save 20%. The overall discount value of both could be the same but customers often see the free deal as the better deal as it’s no effort to work out the saving.

If free is not a financially viable option for you offer a % off the second item. Offering a free or discounted second item could be just the thing to increase sales and repeat custom. Just be sure to include a section in your delivery and returns policy around free or discounted items.

Multi-buy deals

Think 3 for 2 or 3 for £80. Maybe focus on a certain type of product you’d like to clear, for example, run a 3 for £80 promotion on all shirts or 3 for 2 and get the cheapest free. Customers looking to purchase one shirt are more likely to purchase the second if the third is free or discounted. This increases their overall basket value in comparison to the single shirt they may have purchased without the promotion.

Multi-buy deals are a great way to bundle items together as a package, hamper or gift set. These types of bundles enable you to include stock you wish to clear that perhaps you've been struggling to sell as individual items.


You can still make a small profit on otherwise deadstock, so if you’re wanting to clear the shelves and make way for new stock, discounting items could be just the thing you need to sell out in no time. The chances are customers will also purchase full priced items that have caught their eye, so you’re making sales you may otherwise not have done.

Combine the big red discounted price with SAVE £10/20%! Make it look like it’s a deal not to be missed. Alternatively, if you don’t wish to reduce your products so the customer receives the discount by default, you can offer promo codes instead. This way the customer only receives the discount if the promo code is applied at checkout.

Promo/discount codes

Do you reward customers for their loyalty or offer tailored promotions? Create unique promo codes and send to loyal customers regularly or as a one-off, maybe a birthday treat for that personalised touch! Promo codes can be redeemed at checkout and a great way to increase conversion rates.

The dreaded abandoned cart! Retailers miss out on so many potential sales each year. Entice customers back, send email reminders that their shopping cart is still waiting, if stock is low let them know so they need to act fact or lose out. Alternatively email a promo code, even a small discount could convert that otherwise lost sale.

To increase that sense of urgency, run a 24 hour flash sale alongside promo codes advertised on your social media channels and ecommerce site. Set a limit on the amount of times each can be used. Maybe offer a 50% off promo code that can only be used 20 times then a second at 30% off with limited availability. Promote this ahead of time to build anticipation, you want eager customers hoping to be one of the 20 that gets the huge 50% off!

Free shipping and returns

Eliminate that last hurdle that could cost you the sale. Free shipping and returns! It’s a great way to remove checkout friction and encourage customers to click that all important pay button. Weigh up the potential costs associated with free shipping and returns, if viable this could really help increase conversions. Some businesses now offer free shipping as standard but factor this into the price of the goods. What would you prefer, £7.99 + £2.00 shipping or £9.99 + FREE shipping? We all like to see the word FREE, think Amazon’s “free delivery on Prime”. You might actually be paying more for the product as the cost of the shipping has already been factored in.

Joint promotions

Ever thought about teaming up with another local business? Run a joint promotion or event for potentially more exposure through joint digital marketing efforts. Recently I joined a whiskey tasting event and the business had a teamed up with a local bakery, a bite-sized brownie was paired with each whiskey sample. Both went down a treat and was a great way to promote both businesses.


A giveaway can be part of a social media contest to help build brand awareness. Encourage social media users to like, follow and share your posts and page in exchange for the chance to win a giveaway. It’s a win-win, you’ll help build your social media following and potentially customer base. At the same time, someone receives a free item! You could also include a free gift with any purchase as an incentive to customers. The giveaway item could even be stock you are struggling to sell or have overstocked on rather than your most popular and profitable items. Check your product performance reports to help you decide which items to include in your giveaway.

Referral codes

You’re consistently looking for new ways to grow your customer base. By offering a customer referral scheme you not only reward your existing customers with a discount, but you’re creating a new channel to grow your business. Nothing beats word of mouth so a referral from a friend or family member will encourage potential customers to purchase from you, add a discount for that extra incentive to help win those sales.

Creating promotions with your point of sale and ecommerce solution

After much anticipation and feedback from our partners (valued businesses that have joined the Saledock family) promotions are now available with Saledock! Create buy one get one…, 3 for 2, 3 for £80 and so much more. Our promotions feature is easy to use and gives our partners the flexibility to run promotions in a way that works for them. Plus, Saledock’s unified approach means promotions are valid in-store on your POS device and online! Create promotions once for a seamless experience in-store and online for you and your customers.