Can Snapchat Make Flash Sales Hot Again? Mall Of America Thinks So

The Minnesota retail space is testing flash sales for some of its 520 stores across social media through the end of the month. But the real test is whether Snapchat can spur Millennials to shop at a moment’s notice.

Mall of America Snapchat

While styles come in and out of fashion more quickly than ever, discount flash sales of the kind pioneered by the likes of Groupon, Livingsocial, and Gilt Groupe have been trending downward for the past few years. But now it’s beginning to look like the once hot trend of social shopping is due for a comeback — and it could have Snapchat to thank for it.

At least, that’s what Mall of America has been counting on for the past week. But rather than simply reviving the flash sales concept across one of the established e-commerce platforms, the Minnesota retail and entertainment complex believes that messaging app Snapchat is the right mechanism to make quick deals and discounts appeal to younger women.

The Deal Is On

Starting March 14 and running through the end of the month, Mall of America is promoting one-day sales at some of its 520-plus shops, starting with BCBGeneration, Athleta, Henri Bendel, and Calvin Klein at rates from 25- to 50 percent off certain merchandise.

“We’re truly looking at this as a way to get compelling offers from our tenants into the hands of consumers,” Emily Shannon, director of Digital at Mall of America, told GeoMarketing. “We’re using social media as the biggest conduit to share these offers. Snapchat is a platform that works really well for flash sales because they are all about immediacy and select groups of interested users — much like Snapchat. We’re using Snapchat as well as other traditional social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to get the word out as well.”

Being able to target a certain number of active, interested followers may be the right formula that can make flash sales appeal to both consumers and brands.

For the past four years, the e-commerce discount model for in-store shopping came up against two significant challenges: 1) the diminution of flash sales as boutique designer brands rejected the “race to the discount bottom”; and 2) the co-opting of the deals model by established retailers which made it difficult for the dedicated platforms like Groupon (which has since broadened its offerings expanding from a focus on the deals marketplace into mobile shopping for online and offline retail).

In sense, the proliferation of flash sales made what was once special and exclusive appear less so.

Why Snapchat Is Right For Flash Sales

Although many ad agencies and brands have doubted that Snapchat could be anything more than a simplified version of a customer relationship marketing platform — as opposed to presenting a full range of marketing and advertising options — the social media company has been working to change that view. The latest in a string of examples appeared last month, when Snapchat began selling custom, on-demand geofilters to advertisers starting at the true discount price of $5.

Last year, Snapchat developed geofilters, which enable a mobile user to draw a location around a specific place where their friends/followers can see messages. The platform offers two kinds of geofilters: Community and Sponsored. Community, geofilters are general and can include a city like New York or a place like Central Park. They are free to set up and can’t include logos or marketing. Meanwhile Snapchat’s Sponsored geofilters do allow brands large and small to pay to cover a certain area in order to promote themselves and their wares (like “Mall of America” or “Calvin Klein at Mall of America”).

“We started some early experimentations with Snapchat a little over a year ago to support high school prom-related efforts that we were doing to drive customers into the Mall and retailers who were doing special sales around that event,” Shannon said. “We knew that Snapchat was really, really hot with Generation Z, the digital native audience. We wanted to see if there was any truth to that. We had some early success with that campaign. But then what we really did was we took a step back and we said, ‘How can we leverage what’s happening on Snapchat and build a more in-depth strategy around it?’”

Shortly after the prom promotion, Mall of America “really started hitting Snapchat hard,” Shannon said. The marketing team created a “snappy Black Friday campaign” where every hour from about 6pm on Thanksgiving into the following day Mall of America released an exclusive offer that was just available to its Snapchat audience.

“The Black Friday Snapchat effort worked out great, because Snapchat is a time sensitive social network,” Shannon said. “When things are disappearing because people want to take advantage of flash sales, we’re able to use Snapchat to get the message out for a very short amount of time.”

Snapchat’s A Complement, Not A Silver Bullet

In terms of evaluating the success of the program, Shannon noted that Snapchat analytics remains one of the great mysteries that a lot of brand marketers are trying to solve for in the social media space.

Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Snapchat doesn’t give brands a lot to work with right now, Shannon said. But the cost is so comparatively low, it can’t hurt to experiment with it.

“Through Facebook for example, they give brands lots of insights about who’s interacting, how many people are interacting, what the volume is. On Snapchat, none of that really holds true right now. We’re doing a lot of basic measurement to find out how many people are actually interacting with that piece of content? One of the things that we can use to see if something is successful is to observe how many screenshots people are taking of what we’re posting out there. But we see that as only the beginning.”

For the most part, Shannon doesn’t see Snapchat competing with either Facebook or Twitter. Rather, it’s a complementary social media tool. And the marketing space isn’t necessarily looking for a one-stop social media platform to serve as a silver bullet targeting Millennial shoppers.

“People reach out to us on Twitter to find out basic information,” Shannon said. “They may have a question about when a store is open or when is an event happening. Twitter is a great customer care feature. Other platforms like Snapchat might be used better to tell our brand’s story. When those things work together, you can have a very close relationship with your social consumers that lets them know that your brand’s there to really provide a service to get them in to make their shopping experience as great as it can be.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.