Today’s shoppers are still excited and eager for engaging in-store experiences. The right in-store experiences can help build brand loyalty, increase foot traffic, encourage word-of-mouth, highlight independent makers, and more. Here, we’ve gathered some tips and inspiration to make your store’s events as successful as possible.
Planning and marketing your event
Planning an in-store event can be daunting if you don’t know where to begin. When considering your next event, start by thinking about your goals. What do you want customers to get out of your in-store experience? When and where will it be? Who do you want to attend? Next, think about the demographics and shared interests of your target customers and the communities where they live.
To get the most out of your in-store events, spreading the word through marketing is key. Start with email invitations to loyal customers and local influencers, social media promotions including Instagram stories and Facebook events, and in-store materials including flyers and posters. During the event, you can share photos and videos on social media to entice viewers to attend a future event, and encourage attendees to share photos and videos on their own social media accounts and tag your store. Finally, send a thank you to attendees after the event to let them know they’re appreciated and increase the likelihood of them attending your next event.
Experiential event ideas
Sales, raffles, and contests
If you’re hoping to sell some of your extra inventory, having a store-wide sale event can help bring customers into your store while making room for new products. A sale event can take place over the course of a few days or on one exclusive evening. You can also run raffles during the sale event or hold a competition and give out gift cards or products as prizes. For example, if you specialize in beauty products, you could hold a contest for most creative makeup, if you sell arts and crafts, you could hold a competition for best DIY project of the evening, and if you’re a pottery store you could hold a wheel-throwing competition. Regardless of the specific event, incorporating contests or games like scavenger hunts into a sale is likely to increase customer interest and get more new shoppers in your door.
If you’re opening a new business, a launch party is a great way to celebrate your grand opening. Consider offering discounts exclusive to the event and invite some of the makers whose goods you’re selling in your store to attend. You can also hold a launch party for when top-selling brands release new and exciting products. Regardless of the specific launch, these events are a great way to bring together suppliers, influencers, and frequent shoppers and inspire social media engagement, customer loyalty, and repeat purchases.
Classes, workshops, and lectures
Hosting a class, workshop, or lecture can teach customers about your products and build interest in new products while fostering a sense of community. For example, a store that sells wine or beer could host a tasting event, a craft store could host a DIY event where customers learn a new skill, and a kitchenware store could host a cooking class. Stores with larger spaces can typically host educational events whether the store is opened or closed, while smaller shops can host such events after closing time. Whether you host an educational lecture, a hands-on class, or an interactive workshop will depend on your specific business, but no matter what you plan, the goal should be to create a deeper bond with customers and build a strong community.
Successful bookstores have figured out that author readings and signings are essential because they benefit both the customer and the store. At author readings, customers enjoy a unique experience while the store sells the books being signed. Regardless of your type of retail store, there are similar approaches you can take to events. Consider inviting the artists and makers behind your products to visit your store for a special event. You can even invite local celebrities like professional athletes or celebrated chefs to stop by for a meet-and-greet at your store. When planning a meet-and-greet event, you’ll want to ensure the pairing benefits your brand as well as your guest, and that the event encourages people to make a purchase.
Hosting a fundraiser for a cause that’s important to your customers can benefit charity while allowing shoppers to feel good about their purchases and your business. Partnering with a charity can also encourage more loyalty from your customers. Consider creating a partnership with a charity where a portion of your proceeds are donated, and kick off the partnership with an in-store shopping event. Customers are usually willing to spend a little bit more money when they know they’re money is going to a good cause.
Temporary pop-up shops can be a great way for smaller retailers to capitalize on trends and reach new customers in areas they don’t normally serve. Consider taking some of your most unique and best-selling products with you and set up a pop-up shop in a heavily trafficked neighborhood or craft fair. Smaller pop-up trucks—similar to a food truck—are also a great way to catch the attention of passersby in almost any location. Retailers with larger stores might consider hosting a pop-up event at their store where a section of the store is allocated for a brand partner to offer their goods and interact with customers.
Meetups and community events
Holding community events and meetup groups can build brand recognition and a positive image for your store. A meetup typically encourages community members with common interests to come together at the same time once or twice a month for a specific activity or just to interact and get to know one another. These types of events are ideal for stores that naturally unite people around a shared interest, like arts and crafts stores, hobbyist shops, sporting goods and bike stores, bookstores, pet stores, comic book shops, and video game stores.
A VIP event can make your most frequent customers feel special and want to spend more at your store. Consider rewarding your most valuable and frequent customers with points that earn access to special events, or a paid membership that affords exclusive access to events or new merchandise. You might also offer a limited number of special gifts to those first to arrive so the event feels more exclusive for the early birds.
Holiday events should give new shoppers a reason to walk into your store, like exciting new seasonal merchandise, discounts on last season’s products, contests, or giveaways. The festive fall and winter season is a great time to schedule in-store events because shopping tends to peak naturally around that time. Depending on your products and customer demographics you might also host events around Pride Month, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or any number of other holidays and seasons.