How to make your next in-store event a smashing success

Brick-and-mortar stores have evolved. They’ve developed beyond places to shop to experiential spaces where customers immerse themselves in the world of their favorite brands. And it’s not just big companies who are seeing the value in running in-store events. As a small business owner, one of the best ways to engage your customers is with a calendar chock-full of festivities.

In addition to increased foot traffic, in-store events let you chat with your customers and encourage positive associations with your business.

“You get to meet customers face to face, and because it's a social occasion for them, they relax and ask questions about the products," says Val, owner of ValB's Wax , who recently opened a jewelry store in Shrewsbury, England.

Want to wow your customers? Here are five ways to boost traffic, loyalty and sales at your next store event.

1. Get creative with your marketing

A solid turnout is essential for any successful in-store event. But with so many digital marketing strategies and social media marketing tactics to consider, where do you start?

First, think about where the people you want to attend are most likely to see your message – both online and off.

“I target my ideal customers who have yet to visit the store through social media advertising. My ideal customers tend to be women over 50, but men can be very good customers, too, as they are often looking for gifts," says Val.

Want to give your VIPs something memorable? Send personalized invitations with a handwritten note. To drum up more interest in the run-up to your big day, hand out benefits-packed postcards or sharp-looking flyers to tempt people in. With the right design, your logo and message might even end up on refrigerators and bulletin boards, giving your brand even greater reach and recognition.

2. Reward early birds with special giveaways

When it comes to hosting successful in-store events, special giveaways are your secret weapon. The right prizes can draw attendees as soon as the doors open – and keep them coming back long after it’s over.

For example, give people a reason to show up early by rewarding the first 25 shoppers with a branded promotional item, such as a handy stainless steel water bottle. You could also raffle off branded T-shirts, aprons or umbrellas as door prizes at the end of the night.

There's a wide range of small business promotional items out there. Choose products to fit the theme of your event.

Hosting a wine tasting? A wine opener and pourer make the perfect giveaway. You can also use these prizes to drum up excitement on social media and encourage people to share photos with their winnings.

3. Offer a promotion

Your event isn’t just another marketing expense – with the right sales promotion, it can benefit your bottom line.

“I sell my jewelry at events, so good sales are important, as well as return customers," says Val. “I usually link my events to a chance for customers to get special offer prices."

Come up with some creative sale ideas you can offer exclusively to attendees at your event. Perhaps it's 20 percent off any item, a free gift with a purchase over a certain dollar amount or double points for customers in your loyalty program.

Then, promote the offer on printed materials around your store. Hang eye-catching posters at the door and near the checkout counter. Place table tents on shelves and flat surfaces around your store to reinforce your promos. Anything you can do to remind people they’re getting a unique deal can turn your in-store event into a sales success.

4. Capture picture-perfect memories

The memories of a fun event can linger in customers' minds for years to come – every time they see your brand. Hire a professional photographer to capture all the fun. Include the photos on your social channels and when you follow up to say thanks afterward or advertise new events.

A pop-up display with your logo makes a sleek background for photos. Make it part of a photo booth so people can share their photos (and your brand) online. Plus, you can repurpose the backdrop for trade show booths and markets , making it a worthwhile long-term investment.

5. Sweeten the deal with swag

No one should leave your in-store event empty-handed, even if they didn't make a purchase. Giving guests a swag bag full of promotional items shows how much you appreciate them – and helps get your brand seen by even more people.

Custom stickers, branded pens and mugs with your logo are all popular gifts at in-store events. A customized tote bag is a perfect way to package your promos. And guests can easily carry everything home and reuse it when they come back to your store.

The takeaway

The secret to making your in-store occasion a stand-out event is to make it mutually beneficial for you and your customers. Use the time to gather candid feedback from people on your products or services. And make sure everyone leaves feeling they got more than expected.

The personal connections you make with people at your event will go a long way toward building a community around your business.

Looking for other ways to make your business the main event? Check out more practical tips and inspirational stories about looking professional and unlocking opportunities.

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