The 6 "Must Haves" to Create Successful Retail Events
In my consulting practice, I’ve been asked if in-store events really drive positive ROI. My response is if you are expecting a full payback during the 2 hour event, then no. Events are one part of an integrated local strategy, but can differentiate you, drive repeat traffic and provide a positive return on investment.
What differentiates a great event from a so-so one?
There are 6 “must haves” for any successful event:
Concrete goals for the event
Great topic that is relevant to your target audience
Strategic promotion, both in-store and out of store
Sound logistics plan
Customer follow up
Recap & analyze
Must Have #1 – Concrete Event Goals
What does winning look like? In baseball, the goal of the game is to score more runs than the opposing team. In presidential elections, it’s to get over 270 electoral votes. In golf, it’s to get the ball into the hole using the least amount of strokes. In all of these examples, the players know exactly what winning looks like. The same holds true for retail events. You cannot win unless you know what winning means. Concrete goals are a must, as well as defining the timeframe for measurement. Is your goal to achieve X that day? In the next 30 days? 90 days? Once you have your goals, these will guide your planning process.
Goals can include:
· Net sales
· Incremental sales
· Customer acquisition
· Incremental visit
· Data capture & lead generation
· Increased AOV
· Product trial
· Social media mentions
Must Have #2 – Great topic for your target that aligns with goals
As I mentioned in my blog post about the Eight Mistakes that Retailers Make, it’s imperative to have a defined target customer. Retailers should be in tune with the needs of their target and be dialed in on how they can add value. Events can be educational, social, charitable or a combination of all 3! What works for one retailer won’t work for all.
Event examples include:
· Educational – hands on class, lecture, product demonstrations, sampling
· Social – Friends & Family events, celebrity appearances, live entertainment, refreshments
· Charitable - % of sales donated to organization, collection drives, sign up events
Must Have #3 – Strategic promotional plan that brings traffic to event.
We know that milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard, but what gets people to come to a retail event? Your promotional mix should include both in-store promotion to bring back loyal customers, as well as external promotion to bring in lapsed customers or a new audience.
The most effective methods of promotion include:
· In-store – signage (in-store and exterior), flyers, employee buttons, receipt messaging and good old fashion conversation!
· External – social media (organic and paid), email, direct mail, canvassing to local businesses/organizations, press release and radio.
Must Have #4 – Sound logistics plan for execution
So you have a packed house and people are in a great mood. You’re feeling like you’re going to nail your goals. And then your POS goes down. Or your top sales associate gets a flat tire. Or you can’t get your audio/video to work, even though you tested it the day before. Any good event planner will tell you that something WILL go wrong, but being prepared can help mitigate almost any unplanned issue and keep your customers from even knowing there’s an issue.
When creating your execution plan, consider the following:
· Staffing – do you have enough hands on deck to handle increased traffic? Do you have people on call if needed?
· Inventory & Sales Support – do you have enough inventory to handle incremental demand? Do you have an ordering system in place in case you sell through? Do you have a back up POS method if your equipment goes down?
· Crowd control - is the store set up to accommodate additional people? What is the maximum amount of people you can have on premise (per city ordinance)? Do you have a plan on if you reach capacity? Are emergency exits visible? Is there enough parking? Is security needed? Have you discussed with your landlord & retail neighbors?
Must Have #5 – Customer appreciation & follow up
Like any good host, it’s important to thank people for coming to your event. Have a plan in place on how you will follow up with customers. It’s strongly suggested that you collect customer data during the event.
I worked with a national retailer on a large in-store event. In order to attend, customers had to register with their name and email address. Plans were in place to send an email the next afternoon to thank the guest for attending and provide a bounceback coupon to entice a second visit. The follow up is also a way to get feedback on the event. Include a brief survey link asking the following:
· Rate your experience at the event. (scale of 1-10)
· Would you recommend this event to a friend? (scale of 1-10)
· How likely are you to attend a similar event in the future? (scale of 1-10)
· What was the best part of the event?
· What would you change about the event?
Must Have #6 – Analyze & recap
I had a manager once who’s mantra was “If you don’t document it, it never happened.” While it’s still fresh in your head, jot down what worked and what didn’t work. For what didn’t work, think through how you would overcome the problem in the future. Then it’s time to circle back to Must Have #1 – your goal. Did you meet it? If not why? Was the goal too aggressive? Were there any specific factors in why you didn’t meet your goal? In hindsight, what would you have done differently? Document this somewhere and be sure to consult this prior to planning your next event.
Strategic events can be a strong component in a local strategy. They can help differentiate from the competition, provide value to customers and alleviate the dependence on margin-eating price promotions. What are some examples of great retail events that you have seen?
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