How to Host a Killer In-Store Event for Your Retail Shop

Cover: How to Host a Killer In-Store Event for Your Retail Shop

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.

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!

That's why I've compiled a list of tips to ensure that your next in-store event is a hit. But, before you get started, take a moment to consider the following:

  • What will attract your target market to the event?

  • What will encourage your event attendees to subsequently return to the store days, weeks and months after the event?

  • What will be your marketing strategy going forward?

Step back before stepping forward

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 lineups and pictures from their big days. Figure out what set them apart, and find ways to incorporate those elements into your own functions.

Making your list, checking it twice

When it comes to your guest list, don't be shy to invite (or hire) local celebrities or athletes to create a buzz. 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 personalized invite.

In addition to your attendee list, connect with industry influencers and build your online presence beforehand. According to a study done by Sociable Labs, 75 percent of shoppers who read social sharing comments about a product have clicked on the link in their friends' Facebook posts, taking them directly to the product page or a retailer's website. Fifty-three percent of those shoppers ended up making a purchase.

Don't forget the local media

Depending on the type of event you're hosting, contact your local media outlets to send press releases announcing your big bash. Highlight any huge giveaways or grand prizes you plan to award during your event.

A common good

It's in our blood to bring people together, and if that includes a great cause along with a great time, then it's a success for everyone involved. Not only will working with a charity show your commitment to your community, but will drive attendance and leave an everlasting impression on your shoppers.

You don't have to - or want to - do it alone

Consider pursuing partnerships with a local band or DJ to set your event off. To create that remarkable experience, look at involving your staff in a flash mob, set out a craft table based on a upcoming holiday and don't forget to hand out that "goody bag." Offer discounts off your regular prices for customers who patronize your business and don't be shy when it comes promotional signs - the bigger the better!

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 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 upa 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 camera, allowing your guests to leave with a lasting memory.

It doesn't end when it ends

Engagement is ongoing, active and creative. Retailers need to continuously look at ways they can engage with the modern day shopper. For example, send out thank you emails to those who signed up for your mailing list (or "liked" your Facebook page). This is also a good opportunity to build your reputation and hint at a Google+ or Yelp review.

Besides posting photos on your own social media pages, look around for anyone else who may have shared photos or tagged your business in a post. Be personal and drop them a short message - "Thanks for coming by!" - to show them your appreciation.

Hosting a killer in-store event is just one way of delivering a unique shopping experience. For retailers to stay ahead of the game, they need to continuously look at ways to improve their shopping experience in order to attract the modern day consumer.

Good luck!

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @TalithaLoftus & @RetailNext, as well as at

About the author:

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Talitha Loftus, RetailNext

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