Flash sales hit mark with aspirational shoppers

October 03, 2012

With limited time and quantity deals, supermarkets can generate impulse purchases and build image.

How can supermarkets excite shoppers and break through promotional clutter in their store aisles and circulars?

Flash sales.

Whole Foods Market runs them. So does Ralphs. And Tesco launched them last year in the UK for frequent cardholders.  

Overexposure may be harming the golden goose online:  dollar growth rates were 21% in 2011 vs. 92% in 2010 on e-flash sales, a CNN account of American Express Business Insights data show. Yet the familiar concept could prompt impulse buys by supermarket shoppers who aspire to eat foods they might not otherwise afford—such as fine meats, wine, cheese, seafood and prepared dishes, or even upscale packaged brands or new items manufacturers want to promote.

Bring this dynamic to the selling floor and give shoppers unexpected opportunities to expand their meal repertoire through meaningful bargains, we suggest at The Lempert Report. Give them a way to stimulate meals at home while (pretty much) sticking to budgets. Retailers could send limited-time, limited-quantity deals to shoppers’ cell phones, or simply announce them over the PA system to build immediacy. By timing these to a store’s traffic patterns, retailers can maximize their dollar performance and more favorably affect their image.

A key to success is to motivate people to buy quickly; don’t let them reserve items. Countdown technology showing the number of items remaining or minutes left to score a specific deal can help achieve this. For example, merchant Omaha Steaks recently offered discounts up to 56% on particular foods, plus a free, attractive cooler bag. A visual prompt pegged to a date and time said, “Hurry! Your Omaha Steaks store has only xx FREE Cooler Bags still available!” This specific information can help sway potential buyers.