In-store events are a great way to turn your store into a destination, somewhere people will go out of their way to visit. However, running a memorable event requires good planning, and a poorly executed event could be worse for your business than not having an event at all. Luckily, with careful preparation and a clear vision, you can host an event that will wow your customers and leave them with fond feelings about your store.
Here are a series of tips that will help you put on a showstopper of an in-store event.
Carefully consider the timing: Timing is everything. You don’t want to schedule an event too close to a holiday, when many people are too busy with travel or other obligations. Likewise, be cautious about events during seasons with extreme weather where potential customers might prefer to stay home. Also, think about scheduling for times outside of normal working hours, even if your normal hours of operation end earlier in the day. No matter how exciting your celebration might be, you’ll have very few attendees if it’s scheduled for 2 p.m. on a Thursday.
Mind your money: A lot of resources go into hosting an event – staff (particularly if extra help is required), decorations, inventory, promotional materials and more. Tally up the anticipated costs of these resources, then give your budget room to breathe with a little extra, just in case. If you want to lower expenses, partnering or co-hosting with other organizations is one way to help defray costs – but be sure to choose partners that complement your business and that your customers will find valuable, such as a furniture store that partners with a carpet and flooring retailer. Careful budgeting is important, of course, but don’t go overboard and allow substandard quality for the sake of saving money.
Promotion equals participation: A lavish, well-planned event won’t do any good if no one shows up, so be sure to spread the word! Text messaging, social media posts (and creating a Facebook event page), exterior and in-store banners, flyers, and invitations via email or direct mail postcards; all are great ways to promote your event. Another great method is to connect with the media: contacting newspapers, radio stations, local bloggers and influencers. This approach works particularly well when the event supports a charity!
On the day of the event there are several things that can be done to help maximize your success. The following tips are great ways to liven up the occasion and ensure that your attendees are having a great time:
Audio adds atmosphere: Play pleasant music during the event. It will lift customer moods and mitigate uncomfortable silences. If you can’t afford live music, make sure your playlist is long enough for the duration of the event without repeating, if only for the sake of you and your employees!
Everyone loves freebies: If you can afford it, try using giveaways. A gift bag full of goodies is very enticing to consumers. You can fill it with cheap freebies, or put together a slightly more expensive bag and offer them to the first customers (up to a set number) to arrive. Mention it during your event promotions, and don’t be surprised at the size of the line you’ll have before opening your doors.
Stick with a soft sell: Visitors to an in-store event hope to have a great experience, not be tricked into hearing a sales pitch. While you can of course showcase your merchandise, answer questions about it and make sales during the event, avoid making sales too central a point of an in-store event. Think of the event as a marketing expense, part of a long-term effort that will help build customer loyalty and community prominence for your business.
Gather information: Events are an excellent opportunity to collect contact information from visitors. Before the event even begins you can collect information by creating an online RSVP form. Another great method is to use a raffle or other contest, with tickets that require entries to include a name and phone number or email address – in order to contact the winner. When the contest is over you’ll have plenty of new contacts you can add to your email or text list. You can even have a photo booth on site, where attendees can take a picture that you’ll provide later, if they give you their information.
Pictures are worth a thousand words: Be sure to keep a record of your event by taking photos and videos. You can even livestream the event to reach people who couldn’t attend in person. It’s a great way to generate awareness and goodwill – especially if there’s a charity component to the event! Recording your event also gives you content you can use for future social media promotions, and provides you something to refer back to when planning future events.
The doors have closed, the lights are dimmed, and the decorations have come down. But there’s still a bit more work to do to put a capper on your in-store event.
Stay in touch: Since you’ve collected contact information during the event, follow up with a “thank you” message to attendees within a week. This helps keep your store in mind; and you can even use the messages as a way to invite future sales if they include a coupon or code for a special offer only available to the event attendees.
Look back: Take stock of how successful the event was. Consult with your employees about the experience. Compare sales before, during and after the event to measure its effect; and refer back to the photographs and video you took during the event. Determine what did and did not work, and use that information to refine your approach for the next one.
Move forward: If your in-store event was successful, start thinking of ways to repeat and improve on that result with your next event. And even if your first event didn’t quite turn out as you’d hoped, take heart! With a bit of fine-tuning when planning for future events, you’ll eventually learn what approaches work best for your store when you try again.
No matter how a single in-store event goes, continue conducting events there. Memories fade quickly, and consumers will soon move on from a single one-off occasion. But if you keep up a steady number of in-store events, you will see awareness of your business continue to grow – and sales to follow – as customers come to associate visiting your store with experiences worth leaving home for.
Need some ideas for events you can host? Check out our recent post on the Best Events to Drive Traffic to Your Store.