Before COVID-19, “contactless” was just a box one needed to check off to modify service. Since the virus arrived in the U.S., however, contactless interactions have become a must-have for some businesses — and could become the standard for others.
That shouldn’t, however, dismiss the need for in-person touchpoints at brick-and-mortar locations. E-commerce will continue to play a role in building brands, but in-person engagements, such as events, can create a different kind of positive connection between customers and retailers.
What Events Add to the Retail Experience
The retail industry employs about 29 million Americans and houses 42 million jobs. These figures point to a clear need for standout brick-and-mortar experiences, like in-store events, because of the foot traffic and potential sales they bring to retailers. Getting consumers in front of products is half the battle for brick-and-mortar stores, and events provide an opportunity to connect stores with shoppers.
Events make retailers’ in-person customer experiences memorable. Before an event begins, the effort that goes into its promotion builds brand awareness and buzz for attendees and non-attendees alike. And when those shoppers arrive, an engaging event causes buyers to be more open to making purchases and touting their experiences via social media and other word-of-mouth tactics.
With events, host brands have the chance to provide an end-to-end customer experience. To promote the opening of a United Colors of Benetton (UCB) pop-up store in Santa Monica, our company teamed with UCB and IW Group on an in-store grand opening event. The immersive gathering featured merchandise try-ons, photo opportunities, and shareable experiences, which helped UCB experience an in-store sales boost while building awareness for the company and its new store.
Your retail experience doesn’t need to be just a simple “browse and buy.” In-store events help traditional brick-and-mortars highlight a brand’s strengths and engage customers in a way that only serves to improve the bottom line.
Put Strategy Into Your In-Store Event
Effective in-store events succeed when each aspect is optimized to its fullest potential. Here are four ways retailers can build a proper event strategy:
1. Zero in on your brand identity.
Develop your brand with an objective and target audience in mind. A clear focus can take a lot of the guesswork out of building an event strategy.
Do market research, calculate the value proposition, and assess your position in the landscape. These measures serve as guiding principles to help retailers connect their brands with audience members to maximize the success of their events.
2. Build that identity into touchpoints.
Use the insights gleaned from your market research to amplify specific engagement points. If your findings uncover that your brand perception is fun and youthful, bring that out in the event. If your products resonate with on-the-go moms, make sure an event’s activations and logistics mesh well with that demographic.
Those same qualities can come through in how an event is presented as well as in its design. If your identity permeates from every pore of your event, it connects with the intended audience on a deeper level.
3. Establish event KPIs.
Go back to your market research to map out success metrics. These measurements need to be exact and complementary to your brand identity and stated goals.
If awareness is the target, look at attendee numbers. If engagement is your goal, look at the popularity of an activation, review social media traction, or track leads provided by attendees. Be honest about how you’ll tie those goals to success metrics.
4. Determine the impact you want.
You’ve decided on surface-level results, but what long-lasting effects do you want from your event? When an engagement ends, its ripples last long after — and it’s essential to identify the effects of those ripples.
If you hope to increase in-store foot traffic, regularly check those numbers after an event to see whether things are catching on. Don’t let an event’s timeline limit how you measure its effectiveness.
In-store events can serve as unique and engaging entry points for buyers in a post-coronavirus world. Create a strategy that connects with customers and makes them the focal point of an event’s potential success.
Jenn Cringoli is an account director at ASV, an event and experiential marketing outfit based in Torrance, California. ASV is a full-service provider that specializes in creating immersive live marketing experiences for B-to-B and B-to-C brands.