The power of in-store events

David Rolfe, client services director at insight agency Snowball, discusses the power of in-store events and data.

David Rolfe
David Rolfe

There are terms in marketing guaranteed to elicit a certain reaction. So if I say iPhone: you think ‘app’. Or if someone mentions POS, your mind fills with images of shelf-wobblers and display units. And if someone were to suggest the words in-store event, it’s a sad fact that most marketers will shudder, think ‘late night shopping’ or ‘low budget supermarket yoghurt tasting’ and decide to give it a miss.

But in-store events are fast gaining traction as a means to interact with engaged and interested consumers, give consumers a real experience (taste, or trial) of your product, and to build loyalty among shoppers. They are also a great way to get new people in store, build and maintain customer data and increase high value sales. In fact, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more brands clamouring to hold them every week.

In-store events don’t need to be limited to shopping evenings or tastings – look at the likes of Jo Malone, which invites customers in for a treatment whenever a new fragrance is released or being promoted. This is an event, albeit a one-on-one, very personal one. Or consider luxury kitchen appliance firm Miele – its cooking classes are incredibly popular because they don’t explicitly market Miele’s products, but show consumers how to improve their cooking techniques. For two of our clients, Dunhill and Bang & Olufsen, events can range from hearing an author speak in a flagship shop, to coming in-store to watch Wimbledon or the World Cup final.

For a brand with an already solid database, events can be targeted incredibly precisely – we could make sure we send football fans invitations to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, for example, and miss out the hardcore rugby fans – but even for brands that don’t have that level of granular data, events can be a way to build that capacity. And they can work for everyone from major national and international brands, right down to smaller local businesses.

To give a small-business example: imagine you’re a local wine merchant that wants to build a database. Holding a series of events ranging from ‘beginners’ wine tastings aimed at new-to-the-market 20-somethings right up to sophisticated food and wine matching events for those who already have a full cellar will allow you to build a database giving you an indication of who would be likely to buy what. The mere act of noting respondents’ interest in certain categories will be a good start, and this can be supplemented with data collected during the event – data you can later test through small-scale opted in email marketing.

These events also target a store’s immediate locality, which of course, builds word-of-mouth in the immediate area and, for stores that already have extensive database information, add another layer of targeting potential. Things such as drivetime, demographics and competition from other stores can all be factored in when working out who to target for these events.

Done right, it’s a virtuous circle: you get customers in store, use your data (if you have it) to improve your database, generate positive word-of-mouth and build a loyal customer base that will come back time and again and recommend you to their friends. As I said, it’s a wonder that everyone’s not doing this.

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