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Flash sales, low stock notifications and abandoned basket reminders net UK retailers £3.4bn in lockdown

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Standard retailer tactics such as flash sales, left-in basket reminders and targeted CRM campaigns are driving £3.4bn in impulse purchases by UK consumers, helping many retailers stay afloat during the pandemic.

According to a report from payment solution provider Openpay, the most effective tactic in driving conversion appears to be flash sales, with four in 10 consumers (41%) more likely to make a purchase if the goods were discounted for a limited period of time. Younger consumers, aged 18–34-years, were the most influenced, with 42% saying that being offered a flash discount ‘makes them buy things on impulse that they wouldn’t have otherwise bought’.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that of the age groups surveyed, 18-34 years olds are the most susceptive to these sorts of tactics, with almost half (47%) admitting low-stock notifications encouraged them to make absent-minded purchases – compared with 31% of the nation.

These figures highlight the need to strike a delicate balance between assisting consumers in making purchases they want, and unobtrusively luring them into spending on items they cannot afford. While providing the consumer with objective and transparent stock indicators are genuinely helpful, employing carefully crafted wording such as ‘selling fast’ primes the consumer to act quickly and arguably without thought as the research demonstrates. One in five Brits (22%) said language such as selling fast spurred on spending.

The research also makes a case for mindfulness when it comes to frictionless payments. While half of UK shoppers opt to save their card details for the primary reason that it speeds up purchases (27% agree), more than one ten (11%) have made accidental purchases because of one-click payments.


That said, there are a great number of ecommerce features which make consumer lives easier and have a direct influence on purchasing preference. Of those aged 55+, the majority (81%) said search and filter functions were vital to their shopping experience.

Meanwhile, exactly half of younger shoppers aged 18-34 said wishlists were helpful, allowing them to collate products in the weeks prior to payday. 

The report also analysed the off-site tactics used, and how retailers harness the power of data to craft targeted CRM campaigns and targeted advertising – with polarising results. While 69% of consumers reacted positively to ‘back in stock’ notifications, allowing them to purchase desired goods at the first opportunity, the same cannot be said for being chased around the internet by so-called data-driven, tailored adverts. In fact, 70% of Brits said they find targeted ads ‘creepy’.

Andy Harding, UK Managing Director of Openpay, explains: “We have experienced a year like no other, and the speed in which retailers have adapted to meet the changing needs of consumers deserves an enormous amount of credit. Across all sectors, brands have stepped up to the mark – from the moment a consumer enters their site until their package is at their door – which has allowed consumers to enjoy some normality in difficult times.”

He concludes: “However, it is important that responsible consumerism is still at the heart of all brand action and it’s a philosophy which is at the centre of Openpay itself. Whilst there is a clear appreciation for flash sales, some CRM and one-click payments, we believe all of us in the industry have a responsibility to revaluate and reconsider how these tactics are used and ensure the customer always comes first. Transparency throughout all elements of e-commerce is key to a healthy relationship between consumer and brand.”

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