Flash Sale Sites Demystified

Eradium Blog Flash Sales Feature

Flash Sale Sites Demystified

Zulily vs. Beyond the Rack

Deal-of-the-day (also called flash sales or one deal a day) is an e-commerce business model in which a website offers a single product for sale for a period of 24 to 36 hours. Potential customers register as members of the deal-a-day websites and receive online offers and invitations by email or social networks.

This model of retail although seems very new is over ten years old. It has first started with woot.com. The next big player was Groupon and then over the years many more have spawned.

The model works well for the first little while, but it gets boring fast and hence the industry is experiencing a decline in growth.

Now is the time to reinvent and rejuvenate the segment. Getting a daily email with current offers is only exciting for a little while. It would work better if the offers you were receiving were customized for your needs. For example only send specific sizes, brands, colors, etc. Who has the time to study 20-30 offers a day to find the right one.
In this blog, we will compare three of the leading retailers operating in this model. I have made actual purchases from the Zulily and Beyond the Rack, but Gilt had many issues with products not available for Canada so I just gave up and have not purchased anything.

I would compare Flash sales sites to gambling. You never know what you are going to get.

Flash Sale Sites – Criteria for Evaluation

Pre-Purchase Experience – everything that a shopper would experience before actually making a purchase

Price – are the price competitive with same or similar items on the market today

Pictures of the merchandise – are there enough pictures from different angles, as well as features such as zoom and multi-color view to properly see the merchandise and make a decision.

Email Marketing – the email is correctly formatted and displays well on the phone. It has clear messaging and sent often.

Website Quality – the site is fast to load, Search Quality

Mobile Optimized – site displays correctly on the phone and can easily support mobile purchases

Product description – there is enough product description, material information, sizing information

Return Policy – is clear and easy

Shipping –   free shipping or has a minimum purchase amount

After purchase – everything that a customer would experience after making a purchase

Delivery time – arrives within 2 weeks

Confirmation Email – arrived promptly with delivery time and confirmation

Delivery Notification – did the site send  a notification about being shipped

Packaging – neat, pleasant to open, no damage

Quality of products – products that arrived were of good quality, shape

Close to picture – are the products look similar to the advertised pictures

Scale of 1 – 5:

(1) poor, (2) fair, (3) good, (4) very good and (5) excellent; except where noted.

Zulily Beyond The Rack Gilt
Founded 2010 2009 2007
Country US Canada US
Revenue 1.2 billion 150 million 600 million
Area Served North America, UK, Australia, Ireland North America Gilt ships to over 100 countries including
Products Children and Women apparel, Toys, Infant Gear and home Décor Clothing, accessory, beauty, and home decor products. Luxury Children and Women apparel, Toys, Infant Gear and home Décor, hotels
Public Yes No No
Members 4.5 million 10 million 9 million
Criteria for Evaluation
Pre-Purchase Zulily Beyond The Rack Gilt
Price 3 4 1
Pictures of the merchandise 3 3 4
Email Marketing 3 4 4
Site Quality 4 3 4
Mobile Optimized 4 3 4
Product description 3 3 3
Return Policy 2 2 2
Shipping 2 3 2
3 3.1 3
After purchase Zulily Beyond The Rack Gilt
Delivery Time 2 1 N/A
Confirmation Email 3 3 N/A
Delivery Notification 3 3 N/A
Packaging 4 3 N/A
Quality of products 4 2 N/A
Close to picture 4 3 N/A
2.9 2.3 0.4
Overall 2.9 2.7 >

Before purchase Beyond the Rack gets a higher mark but after purchase Zulily wins the race. So overall shopping at Zulily is a much nicer experience.


Every parcel comes with a cute card thanking the shopper and a cute picture.

Items arrive in partial shipments, grouped by vendor.

Eradium Blog Flash Sales Zuliliy

Zulily Shipment #1 Packaging

Eradium Blog Flash Sales Zuliliy-Card

Thank You Card – comes in different designs

Eradium Blog Flash Sales Zuliliy Free Samples

Free Samples included in shipments

Eradium Blog Flash Sales Zuliliy Package 1

Zulily Package 1 Content

Eradium Blog Flash Sales Zuliliy Package 2

Zulily Package 2 Content

 ZULILY Flash Sale Site Summary

I guess, the main questions is: Would I buy again? The answer is – MAYBE. Since most of the products offered are from unknown brands it is hard to know whether you are getting a deal or not.


  • Customer Care-very quick reply time
  • Selection-may unique items


  • Wait Time/Delivery time-takes a very long time.
  • Selection-many of the items is unknown


Eradium Blog Flash Sales Beyondtherack


Eradium Blog Flash Sales Beyondtherack- Free Samples

Free Samples included in shipments


Would I buy again? – Only if I indeed thought, I was getting a deal on a well-known product.


  • Brand names selection – sell famous brands
  • Price – appears to have lower cost of famous brands products


  • Shipping Cost – you don’t get free shipping even if you purchased over a certain amount. My package was lost twice, so I had to wait for one of the shipments for three months. My baby outgrew the outfit by the time I have received it.
  • Customer Service – it takes a long time to receive response
  • Shipping Time-very unpredictable, items were getting lost in shipping and arriving in multiple packages over a period of time.
  • Quality – the items that are not famous brands are of very low quality
  • Quantity offered – small amount of items available


Although very entertaining at first this concept has no long term viability unless it truly innovates. Once you learn that every deal is the same as the previous one, long wait times, shipping costs, the excitement slowly diminishes. There is no significant reason to buy from these sites. They are usually impulse purchases versus properly planned. Who can plan that you will need a t-shirt in size 5 in a month from now? With kids, it is hard to buy at the end of the season for next season since you are not sure how fast they will grow. Shopping for summer 2016 now is not practical for me.

Pros of daily sales sites

  • Selection-Unique and interesting merchandise often not found anywhere else.
  • Price-items generally appear lower priced than other places but hard to compare since they are usually not brand names or discounted models.

Cons of daily sales sites

  • Must disclose email address before able to browse the products
  • Selection – There are unique items but often not what you need at that specific time.
  • Delivery time is too long, often without exact date
  • Shipping and duty costs – once those costs are added then the price advantages often disappears
  • Return policy – there is no clear or simple way to return the items


All the flash sites are all pretty much the same. The next time I shop at a site of similar nature I would like to see the following features:

  • Personalized offers: sizes, types of products
  • Ability to select frequency of email
  • More predictability on the types of offers available
  • Loyalty points for frequent purchases
  • Flat shipping fee for a year
  • Exclusive incentives for loyal members
  • Product recommendations
  • Better information on each product: Images, descriptions, material, etc.
Anna Battrick

Anna Battrick is Eradium’s Director of Ecommerce Services, has an extensive background in retail marketing and project management. With over 10 years of managing complex projects from inception to completion while always maintaining “it can be done” spirit. The world of retail is not only a professional interest but also a personal hobby which lets Anna see the other side of retail, from a shopper perspective. This helps create engaging marketing programs that speak personally to the shoppers interests and engage them in a conversation.