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Whether you run a small clothing boutique or a large auto store, you can host in-store events to bring more customers through your door. Use the following tips and ideas to design an event that will attract new shoppers and bring back previous customers all while highlighting your brand and business.

Set goals and a budget for your event.

All good marketing initiatives start with a goal. When you host in-store events, it’s no different. Before you begin planning, start by making a list of the things you want to accomplish. Goals may be to:

  • Introduce your brand to new customers
  • Sell off old inventory
  • Initiate sales during the event
  • Encourage guests to come back to shop again
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Get press and media attention

Assign numeric values to each of your goals to make them measurable, and set a budget that will direct the rest of your planning and allow you to assess your return on investment after the event.

Position your event around a theme.

A theme pulls your event together and gives it a cohesive feel. It also helps guests visualize what they can expect to experience at the event. Don’t just host an “open house” to create a retail store customer experience. Match your event to a concept such as a “Cruise Into Spring” event for an auto shop or a “Ladies Night Out” for a clothing boutique.

Host in-store events that are either “exclusive” or “open.”

As you start to think about who you want to invite to your event, consider if you want to have an “exclusive” or “open” event. An exclusive event is for only invited guests. This is a good way to reward VIP customers and make them feel elite and special. An open event is for anyone who wants to attend. Invitations aren’t required, and the event is open to the public. This is a better option if you’re a new store or don’t already have loyal customers and want to start introducing your business to new shoppers.

Promote through local media channels.

If you choose to host an “open” event, you need to get the word out about your event. Don’t just rely on your own media outlets. Contact local media sources to get coverage, and provide your event listing to local directories and community calendars.

Get guests to bring even more guests.

As you plan to host in-store events, consider what you can do to get your guests to bring even more people to the event. If you want to increase attendance, allow invited guests to bring a limited number of other guests, and give VIPs incentives to bring guests (such as a discount for each person they bring).

Collect contact information from every guest.

If you host an open event (where you don’t already have the contact information for each guest), it is imperative that you collect information from each person as they arrive. Set up a check-in station where guests must leave their email address in exchange for entrance or to enter to win or receive prizes.

Create a hashtag (and incentive to use it).

When you host in-store events, encourage your guests to share their experience through social media by assigning a hashtag to your event. Get even more guests to participate in sharing by setting up a photo opp (such as a step-and-repeat or interesting sight) or running a contest to reward the best photo of the night.

Offer extra value to your guests.

A great event isn’t positioned solely around getting guests to buy. It should be about providing value through the event. Customers want experiences, so your event should offer something that guests can’t get while visiting your store during normal business hours. Add experiential value by having:

  • Special speakers
  • Product demos
  • Ask-an-expert sessions
  • Fashion shows
  • Training programs

Offer prizes and shopping incentives.

Another way to give guests extra value when you host in-store events is by offering them prizes throughout the event. Give away full prizes as well as coupons and promotional offers that encourage guests to shop. Also, throughout the night run specials and discounts that provide incentives for guests to purchase and buy.

Set the mood.

When you host in-store events, your showroom shouldn’t feel like it normally does during regular business hours. Set the mood and change the environment by using accent lighting instead of your normal overhead lights. Adjust your overhead music to something that fits the theme of the gathering, and adjust your digital signage to share messages that are appropriate and relevant for the event.

Adjust the store layout and purchasing process during your in-store event.

Even if your primary goal when you host in-store events is to initiate sales, you want to change and tone down the purchasing process. When setting up your showroom for an event, adjust the layout of your store and the way you manage the buying process.

  • Place the best part of your event at the back of the store (so guests must walk through the entire store or showroom).
  • Arm staff with digital touchpads that enable them to accept payments throughout the store.
  • Offer a place for guests to store their purchased items so they don’t have to carry them throughout the event.
  • Make sure your in-store displays and menu boards are updated and appropriate for the event.

Partner with other sponsors.

When you host in-store events, you can relieve some of the expense burdens by partnering with other businesses. Invite non-competing, complementary business to participate in your event. Team up with a business who shares your target audience and ask them to help with paying for and promoting the event. You both win as you both get the benefit of a larger audience with less expense.

Mingle with (and learn from) your guests.

When your store is filled with interested guests, use it to your advantage. Mingle with guests and ask them questions. Find out what products they like and don’t like. Ask them what they would like to find in the store or if any items are confusing. Use your event as a market research opportunity to dig into the mind of your target shopper.

Hire a photographer.

An easy way to make your event feel like an upscale happening is by hiring a professional photographer to take photos. A professional photographer uplifts guest perception of the event, and it also gives you an opportunity to re-engage guests. You can direct guests to a website where they can view and share the photos from the night. This leads guests to your website and gives you an additional opportunity to capture their contact information.

Give guests something to take home.

When guests are on their way out, give them something to remember the event and your brand. Give swag bags or promotional items that will keep your business in the customer’s mind. Also, offer additional coupons or promotions designed to bring them back to your store again. Use a special tracking code so you can measure the number of people who turned into shoppers from your event.

Remember, reflect, and revise.

A good marketing strategy begins with a plan and ends with reflection. When your event is over, review the numbers from your goals. Gather your team together to discuss what went right and what went wrong with your event. And, create a plan for improving your event process the next time around.

Remember, events are just one way to engage shoppers.

Now more than ever before, customers want more than products and services. They also want experiences. To learn more about how to give them what they want, grab our free ebook that explains how to give customers the exceptional shopping experiences they crave.

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