Thursday, November 17, 2011

Online Sample Sales—Creating Consumer Frenzy for Absolutely No Reason

I have an addiction, I will admit it. I am addicted to online sample sale sites.
Sample sale sites are websites that usually sell designer brand items that you would purchase in department stores for (what appears at least to be) a discounted price. Sites such as RueLaLa, Gilt Group, Ideeli, Hautelook, the Outnet, and Beyond the Rack require you to be invited by someone, or join as a member for a fee, and then they advertise a select number of designer offerings each day with the sales typically open for only 48 hours. For example, these websites might offer anything from luxury vacations and diamond jewelry, to Hermes Birkin bags, at a discount. The “retail price” is often listed, without any source for where that comes from, and then the site offers their exclusive discounted price from that. Often, if I do a quick Google search for the same item, I can find it at the same or lower price at other non-sale retail sites. The trick is to make the consumer (namely, me) feel as if they have been invited to this exclusive sale, which is only available for a very limited time, and they have to make a Target-check-out-line-type of impulse decision. Most of the sales sell out within the first couple hours of being open, adding to the feeling that you HAVE to buy it now. Oh yeah, and most of the time you can’t return anything.
As we approach the holiday shopping season, this model is very much like creating Black Friday frenzy every single day of the week. Genius, really. With the world captivated by extreme-couponing and getting a good deal in general, the mass market of sample sale sites, monthly subscription memberships for everything from plants to shoes, and the coupon giants like Groupon and Crowd Cut, have become retail gold mines.
How can business owners in general jump on this bandwagon, or create this same feeling for their consumers? Even though not every business owner targets shopping-crazed women in their thirties with constant access to a computer (not to name names), all kinds of businesses can use this same concept to create a feeling of exclusivity, a need to purchase the product right now, and that feeling that you are getting tremendous value for the price. Age old sales concepts, really, but in the new context of a bargain obsessed population that is always looking to feel as if they paid far less for something than it was worth.

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