“If you build it, they will come.”
For retailers looking to stay ahead of the game, they need to continuously look at ways to improve shopping experiences and attract today’s newly empowered shoppers; and hosting an impressive in-store event is just one way of creating a meaningful and lasting impression. ‘If you build it, they will come’…this may have been the mantra of retailers before technology took shoppers online. In the age of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and an on-demand economy, retailers are looking for ways to continually pique the interest of customers in order to bring them into stores. Today, an in-store event has to be more than a tactic to sell discounted merchandise. It has to be an experience, especially during peak shopping seasons. For the upcoming holiday season, retailers should be exploring how they are going to invite customers through their doors via cool pop-ups and interesting holiday events.
Understand your customer
The retail landscape has significantly changed with the inception of the internet and access to online shopping. Consumers have more options than ever, and they know it; they can get nearly whatever they want, whenever they want it. As a result, they crave a remarkable in-store experience and the ability to connect with other people. In order to stay ahead of the game, retailers need to focus on delivering exceptional shopping experiences. Why? Customers still want to look at items firsthand. It is important for retailers to understand that technology has created a new form of shopping behaviour where customers evaluate, research and vet products online before ultimately making a purchase in person. So, to better understand this hybrid behaviour, it is important to look at how digital and physical work together. Customers’ online search behaviour leads them to expect more product information and they will go to great lengths to learn about something before they buy it. It is that thorough research that triggers the need to touch, feel and see the items they buy.
Hosting an in-store event is a wonderful way to provide customers with an engaging, interactive experience they’ll be sure to remember and will keep them coming back for more. Not only can an in-store event increase foot traffic and sales within your store, it also has the power to strengthen relationships with members of your local community.
But, how is this achieved?
It’s simple…host an in-store event! When done right, in-store events can be a great opportunity to draw shoppers to your store and most importantly, create an experience they can’t get online.
First things first, your event needs to be enticing enough to cut through the noise of everyone’s already busy lives, as well as win over any skeptics. But, before you get too creative and jump the gun, pay careful attention to your competitors and take note of any previous events they’ve hosted. A quick Google search should pick up any old press releases, event line-ups and pictures from their big days. Figure out what set them apart and find ways to incorporate those elements into your own functions.
For the guest list you can invite bloggers, local celebrities, industry influencers, media, etc. Although the internet is a great place to get the word out fast, it most often lacks that personal touch. The modern day shopper is bombarded with millions of online marketing messages and dreads that next e-card or Facebook event invite. Instead break through the clutter and make a killer impression by going ‘old school’ and posting your VIP guests a personalised invite. If you still want to stick to social media, here our some tips.
Smita Murarka, Head of Marketing and E commerce at Amante (MAS Holdings ), says, “In-store events give the brand a chance to engage the customers through interesting and thematic events, in the brand environment. With the holistic brand environment, the event is a way for the customer to connect with the brand on a deeper level, understand the brand’s product offering and experience the superior consumer service offered by the brand. It’s important for a growing brand to stay connected with its real consumers, and in store events support the interaction. Events are used as a medium to connect with the customer, informing them of new launches, or to celebrate occasions. Once the attendees are familiar with the surroundings and offerings, there is an immediate connect established. The consumer visit also helps in database collection by the brand, which in future can be utilised to communicate through social media communications, emailers, and SMS.”
- Email: Most retailers keep customers’ email addresses. Email is one of the most effective ways to bring existing customers back in-store. When you are creating your event email, offer your customer an added incentive to attend the event.
- Twitter: Tweet to fans and followers about your event. Have your customers and influencers share the event, as well. Use appropriate holiday and local hashtags in order to connect with new customers.
3. Pinterest and Instagram: Pinterest and Instagram are great ways to show your customers about your event. Feature the merchandise that will be for sale, styled and merchandised in ways they would want to purchase or share with their followers. Check out their guide to paid posts to learn how to maximise in-store and online sales.
- Facebook: Facebook is another great tool for raising awareness of your events. Like Twitter, your collaborators and customers can share the information on their walls. You can also upload your customer email list onto Facebook and target ads at your current customers. From those customers you target, you can then create lookalike audiences and target new customers close to your store.
- Loyalty Programmes: In-store events offer a great way to leverage your loyalty programmes. Reward your customers with early access to the event, a sneak peek, or an exclusive discount for loyalty programme members. Making your most loyal customers feel like family will help get them into the store for your event and pay dividends at the register.
“Brick and mortar stores are in some major competition with e-commerce sites booming like no other market. Regardless, we all know, of the fact that there’s convenience attached to online shopping where shoppers can fulfil all of their requirements with just a click of a mouse or a touch of a screen, brick and mortar stores compete on something even more valuable, a real genuine experience, where the touch and feel of the product is involved. Reality wins over virtuality…so hosting an in-store event is a really important and an amazing way to provide customers with an engaging, interactive experience they’ll be sure to remember and will keep them coming back for more. Unrealistic pampering, great consumer service and engaging your customers with loyalty programmes, which offer special discounts and freebies and VIP services like personal shoppers, secret sales for subscribers, etc., and such engaging programmes can keep getting customers back,” comments Richa Vipan Kalra, Founder, Candyskin.
Consider pursuing partnerships with a local band or DJ to set your event off. Remember, music creates mood and organising good music creates that remarkable experience. You can encourage customers to feel positive, confident and happy in their purchases just by choosing the right tunes.
Set out a craft table based on an upcoming holiday and don’t forget to hand out that ‘goody bag’. Offer discounts off your regular prices for customers who patronise your business and don’t be shy when it comes to promotional signs—the bigger the better. Timing matters too…take into consideration the season or time of year when you’re planning to run the event. If you’re throwing it in February for example, you may want to incorporate the concept of Valentine’s Day. Having an event later in the year? Then consider a holiday theme.
“An in-store event is considered relevant for creating customer walk-ins into the stores. It will really help to create a buzz in the regional markets and can generate customer data base. Customer service, how informative was the staff, and easily accessible is the merchandise and how was it categorised, will encourage your event attendees to subsequently return to the store,” comments, Binu Padmanabhan, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, V-Star.
Shopping can be uncomfortable and tiresome; so, give your customers a break and encourage them to sit back and relax while in your store. This can be accomplished with lounge-like areas that have entertainment options and refreshments, as well as other comforts. Televisions can be a great way to make customers feel at home.
Offering your guests free food and drinks is always a good idea, but be creative and think of ways you can brand your food, from custom toothpick flags to funky cocktail straws. Think about setting up a cocktail station or dessert table in-store. Community tables are a great way for guests to network and be social. If your plans begin to exceed your budget, tag a team with a local restaurant to provide promotion for their brand if they promote your brand in return.
Lastly, hire a professional photographer to capture your event. Consider setting up a photo booth that tastefully inscribes your brand and hashtag, and gives your shoppers the chance to share their posts on the spot. When it comes to choosing the right camera, look at using an instant one, allowing your guests to leave with a lasting memory.
Look at your store as more than just a store—approach it as an event space. Customers will associate your store as being fun and a place to visit, even when they don’t really need to shop. Which is why retailers should consider sponsoring events and activities that draw participants into their stores.