Trends & Features

Make the effort and entice the customers

Retail premises are expensive so you should aim to squeeze every last penny worth of value from them. You should definitely regard your store as part of your marketing effort and expenditure. If nothing else it makes paying the rent and business rates a little more tolerable.

So create an in-store event. People will remember a great retail experience for a long time and they’ll come back and back. Done well you will be creating a buzz in your store, on your street, in your town and that adds up to money in the till. What’s more, it beats the internet traders out of sight because you can’t do an in-store event online.

Ask yourself the two obvious questions – what will bring them in and what will bring them back? Any part of your event that doesn’t contribute an answer to either of those two questions should be changed or removed.

I predict that you have already done some research on this front – visiting other stores which are running an event. That should have told you what has worked elsewhere in your area and just as important what failed.

You know all that time you’ve spent schmoozing people who run sports clubs? This is where it should pay back. Ask them to put up a poster publicising your event. Convince them to come along. Beg and plead with them to bring a famous friend.

You may have a little black book full of the relevant numbers yourself. Personally, I would fight shy of paying an appearance fee, but if you see that as an investment, fine – go for it. I’m told that recently retired sportsmen are often keen on events, especially if they have a book of memoirs to sell – I’d call that a decent quid pro quo.

When sending out invitations it is pretty well a no brainer to send email or a text message these days. I recommend a rethink. Post a physical invitation (they can rsvp by email). The key benefit is that it cuts straight through the digital noise. Hand writing the envelope, assuming you’ve got a respectable script, is another way of showing them that they are highly regarded.

An in-store event is a social activity – a shop full of like-minded people who want to know about something clever, new, sexy or one of another dozen hooks. So it makes total sense to publicise your event on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. You should ask your customers their social media preference – these things change.

I have seen some dramatic figures regarding this and I am openly sceptical, but here they are: 75 per cent of shoppers reading social media comments from friends click the links to the retailer or direct provider. 53 per cent then go on to buy.

I’d say those were the sort of statistics that are also lies and damned lies or maybe somebody just failed to divide by ten. Since we’re not all lying on the beach in Barbados waiting for the cricket to start, we can assume arithmetic flaws as a minimum.

Invite the local media along. If you have established connections – always a good idea – just call them. If you are running your event in ‘silly season’ ie the summer holidays you might get the local TV company to turn up. You’ll need a good hook – a pic of girls and boys in relevant local kit, maybe?

Tell them in advance about any big prizes and large numbers of free giveaways. Journalists like a string of zeros the same as everyone who enters the Euromillions lottery. Plan to give everyone who visits a money off voucher for this or their next visit, so put a time limit on it.

Remember that your typical journalist wants a story above all things. Most of them don’t have a smutty mentality and would far prefer, for instance, to be seen to be promoting ‘Kick it Out’. Help with that and you’re helping their career, potentially in a big way.

Including a charity angle is definitely worth considering. It could also help you attract the presence of a local celebrity – plenty of them are not remotely cynical about their support for a favoured charity and some even have their own charity.

If you are on good terms with your commercial neighbours, consider asking them to join in – it spreads the cost and attracts a wider variety of visitor. It also means you have more manpower to throw at the task.

Finally, a contentious issue – food and drink. Plenty of people will tell you that if you provide it people stay longer and vice versa. Personally, I’m not convinced. I think it attracts free-loaders rather than customers. I would most definitely avoid alcohol. My one exception is if you can attract free or very low cost food and drink products from suppliers as a sampling exercise.

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