Flash in the pan: why the private sales fad crashed and burned

Flash in the pan: why the private sales fad crashed and burned

Oh, ye of little truth. The co-founder of the private sales site vente-privee, Ilan Benhaim, recently told a crowded conference hall that his site added 10k users per day last year yet, rather surprisingly, doesn't pay for traffic. Apparently, it's all word of mouth in the private sales world. It's all buzz and peer-to-peer and social. Except, clearly, it isn't.

Unless, of course, someone else paid for this ad...

Google advert for vente-privee

I'm not surprised that vente-privee advertises, but we are a little surprised that Mr Benhaim felt the need to bend the truth like that. There's no way a site like vente-privee could possibly sustain itself without calling in the keyword cavalry. Why? Because private sales / members'-only sales / secret sales / flash sales (call 'em what you will, they're all the same thing) are inherently un-social, for these three reasons:

1. For your eyes only?

There's a common ruse when it comes to private sale e-stores. It's expressed differently from site to site but, basically, it translates roughly along these hoary old lines: "Our prizes are so crrRRRazy, our suppliers will only let us show them to our members." Now, admittedly, I had an extra portion of cynicism with our cornflakes this morning,


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We all agree, right? Affiliate marketing is starting to suck.

We all agree, right? Affiliate marketing is starting to suck.

It's amazing how candid people can be when they don't realise (or don't care) thatyou're listening. Here's a direct quote from a chap called Chris Rempel who works as an affiliate marketer. We're not saying it's representative, but... well, just take a look:

"Remember that most people still honestly believe – and follow – the bullshit myth about 'great content' and 'great user experience'. Exploit this for all it’s worth by outranking them with swaths of cheap, shitty links – and passable content."

Charming, innit? If you'd like to read more of this stuff, feel free to click the quote and explore his website. He's a bit of a hero to black hat affiliates, and he's made a lot of money out of doing this stuff - so, hey, he must be doing something right.

But not for you. And wasn't that supposed to be the point of affiliate marketing?

Let's back-track a little. Back in the mid-'90s, some very bright sparks (among them Amazon - lest we forget how the big A rose to such prominence) realised that the entire internet could serve as retail outposts for their online stores. Why spend a fortune advertising then converting on your site when,


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Exclusive infographic: get your social audience shopping

Exclusive infographic: get your social audience shopping

Lots of people ask us to lay out the future of e-commerce in one sentence. They want us to explain how they can exchange their social currency for real ROI, but they don't want us to take any longer than 15 seconds. They're desperate to learn about how everything is changing and how they can stay one step ahead, but they're really bursting for the loo.

Well, we know you're in a rush. And a picture says 1,000 words (more if that picture also features some words!). Hence infographics. Here's ours, explaining how gamification + plus e-commerce + social can transform your business. 

Of course, if you have a little longer, we'd be happy to talk you through it and share even more of our inside knowledge. Just get in touch and we'll help you get your social audience shopping.

Exclusive infographic: get your social audience shopping


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How to offer discounts without trashing your brand

How to use discounts without trashing your brand

"The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself," said William Churchill and, given that he reputedly drank 42,000 bottles of Pol Roget champagne in his lifetime, you'd hope there's some truth in that. Here's a little nugget of purest nonsense we stumbled upon recently, based on research carried out by The Logic Group and Ipsos MORI.

According to their survey of over 2,000 customers, people are more likely to be motivated to shop by earning loyalty points (27%) than they are by discounts (11%) or offers (9%).

We smell a rat. A fishy rat. We're not saying that the survey isn't 100% accurate, but there's no way those 2,000 people answered that question that way, so maybe something's been lost in translation (from English to... um...). Loyalty schemes are great, but no one's going to accrue rewards tomorrow instead of reaping benefits today. It's just not going to happen.

But here's where we do agree with The Logic Group (quoted here): “Brand Britain has become eroded as a result of rampant discounting across the board. By ‘flogging’ merchandise through widespread discounting, the prestige of many British brands is being compromised.” That's absolutely true because,


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Five ways gamification can ignite your retail sales

Five ways gamification can transform retail

I have no idea how fruit machines work. Sure, I get the 'line up three bunches of cherries to win' classic, but the all-singing-all-blinking monstrosity that mocked me in the pub yesterday? Absolutely clueless. And yet, somehow, its combination of twinkly lights, bashy buttons and blippy noises had me chucking coins into it like owning money was going out of fashion.

That's because, as a species, we're far more likely to engage with something if there's an element of gaming involved. I'm sure there's an evolutionary imperative behind all this: if you took a chance on the lady monkey with the weirdy, opposable thumbs, there was a better chance your offspring would survive the great banana famine of 7,000,000 years BC. That kind of thing. Don't ask me, ask Richard Dawkins.

Anyway, we love gaming (and its sidekick, competition), and the introduction of these elements - conceptually known as 'gamification' - into any environment works wonders. The LinkedIn profile completeness bar is a famous example, and rightly so: users fill in more and more info to achieve a 100% complete 'score' and, in so doing, provide mountains more data back to LI, its users and, of course, its


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