(Editor's Note: This article was originally published in January 2018 and has recently been updated for accuracy and clarity)
In-store events are an amazing way to build genuine excitement, entice new prospects, generate footfall, and engage loyal customers. But how do you come up with an event concept that makes people want to attend and then spread the word among their community?
See how retailers are innovating with in store event ideas that attract customers:
In store event ideas to improve your business
Bringing customers into your store doesn’t just improve revenue through sales, it also entices customers who are excited about your brand and in search of a unique experience. And in such a social media-driven society, there’s nothing better than having your event splayed across Instagram and TikTok. With the right booking system, you can manage attendance, stagger crowds and gather useful customer data to improve your marketing efforts later.
Product launch party
Inviting loyal customers to the launch of a new product is a great way to make customers feel valued and part of an exclusive group. You also give them the opportunity to learn more about your product, test it out, and ultimately be one of the first to own it.
One brand that mastered the product launch experience is Chanel, who enticed customers to their pop-up store on Bond Street in London. They invited customers to not only see, but also experience, their new perfume scent. Attendees also learned about Gabrielle Chanel, more commonly known as Coco Chanel, who was the inspiration for the fragrance.
The event also included educational workshops where customers could hear firsthand where the inspiration for the new fragrance came from, and learn which flowers were used to create the scent. Chanel also offered customers the chance to schedule a spot in a workshop in advance, which gave them useful customer data to help with follow-up communication and future events.
Barnes & Noble, one of the USA's longest established bookstores, has managed to hold its ground during the dot com revolution. This is because they are offering customers something that online giants simply can't: the opportunity to have a unique experience.
The events that are attracting customers to Barnes & Noble are often book signings with well-known authors and celebrities, who each attract their own following of dedicated supporters. Barnes & Noble benefit from the opportunity to sell books that the featured author signs.
Barnes & Noble have been able to re-market their physical space as a place to come and meet authors, attend classes, and even take a comfortable seat while browsing for their next read. Ultimately this results in people spending more time in-store and building a stronger connection with the brand.
Making your most valuable customers feel special is a guaranteed way to keep them coming back time and time again.
Selfridges is known for introducing festive events that make their customers feel like VIPs - including breakfast with Santa, an in-store pantomime, and "Elfridges" personal shoppers. By offering customers the opportunity to access these services and events, usually reserved for those with a higher budget, Selfridges made all their customers feel valued and appreciated.
REI offers a loyalty program that includes events as a perk, but consumers must pay to join rather than earn points to enter. Once customers pay, they instantly have access to discounts, members-only specials, and REI events and classes.
By tapping into holidays and seasons, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, brands can attract customers who are looking for a special experience. Many retailers are now tapping into this event opportunity - don't miss out!
Think sitting on Santa’s lap is just for kids? Think again! Petco focused on making the holiday season magical for pet owners too by offering a photo opp with Santa Claus for their furry friends. In addition to receiving a pet photo with Santa, Petco’s #SantaPawsForACause campaign also donated 100% of the proceeds to local animal welfare organizations. Petco’s photo event was a great way to engage their pet-loving customers during the holiday season.
Many retailers with a specific niche are attracting customers with educational learning experiences, which brings customers in-store and also demonstrates their expertise.
As an example, Swedish retailer IKEA is experimenting with a new concept to educate customers about sustainability. They are turning every store visit into an event, and creating the “home experience of tomorrow.” Customers are invited to become part of the furniture, hang out with social influencers or participate in workshops where they can build or repair household items. Trials are rolling out worldwide with the goal of teaching people how to live with a respect for nature, lead a more sustainable lifestyle and test their zero-waste cuisine.
Experiential events started taking hold, in this author’s opinion, with the FAO Schwarz piano scene in the movie BIG. Retailers have been introducing innovative ways for their customers to engage with items in the store as a means of engendering a relationship.
In the past few years, retailers such as lululemon athletica, Athleta, and Outdoor Voices offered a variety of free and paid events to reach new consumers, and engage with existing customers. In fact, these in store event ideas have become a standard for others in the space, and have set a new standard in event marketing. Similarly, Lego recently opened a New York City flagship which combines their toys and augmented reality, so shoppers can create their own events in a virtual world.
Waitrose Cookery School are catering to those who want to give "experimental gifts," with cooking lessons ranging from Knife Skills to Bao-Steamed Buns to Churros and Hot Chocolate.
The ability to purchase gift vouchers for the Cookery School, or buy a loved one a full day experience, gives Waitrose the ability to reach new potential customers and expose them to their product range, all while the customer is enjoying themselves.
Events for the greater good are always very popular as they have a "do good, feel good" element. Often, customers are willing to spend a little bit more if it's for a good cause. Affiliating the brand with a charity that is also close to your customers' hearts makes the brand more personable and in return encourages loyalty.
Hamleys are showing customers the true meaning of Christmas with "Mission Christmas, Cash for Kids" campaign. Customers are encouraged to bring in toys, or buy at a discounted rate in-store, to give to children who are less fortunate over the festive period.
Bring a friend events
Word-of-mouth has remained one of the strongest marketing tools for retailers for all time. People are known to value recommendations from family or friends over any other form of advertising. Retail brands are capitalizing on this by hosting "bring-a-friend" events.
IKEA held a bring-a-friend event, and invited followers of their Facebook page to "like" the event page to see the secret deals available to people who brought their friends to the event in-store.
Those Facebook users could then invite their friends through the site, increasing brand visibility during the promotion. Once in store, IKEA offered friends free food, discounted rates, and a chance to win a shopping spree.
Have a great event idea for driving traffic into your store? We'd love to hear about it!
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About the author
The JRNI team is made up of product, customer, and technical experts who are focused on driving personalized experiences - for our customers, and for theirs. The JRNI blog enables us to dive into how retail and financial organizations can use personalized experiences to grow profitability, build stronger customer relationships, and drive customer loyalty.
June 08, 2021
7 minute read