Consumers are ready to go to in-person retail events again, but it will take careful attention to craft the right concepts, promotion and execution to build your brand and customer loyalty. Many retailers tell us that they’re going to spend more than ever on events this year, and proper planning will help make sure you capture customer attention first.
Shoppers are still interested in remote and hybrid events as well, so a solid event strategy will include these options in addition to in-person experiences. In this article, you’ll find recommendations for every step of the event creation process and examples of successful experiences that retailers like you have created. You’ll learn:
- Why live, virtual, and hybrid events will remain important
- How events help retailers generate customer loyalty
- Why strategic ideation, active promotion, and seamless execution are all key to event success
- How to create follow-up communications that drive additional sales and repeat attendance
After more than a year of lockdowns and restrictions during the pandemic, consumers are more interested than ever in attending events — whether in-person or virtually.
“Consumers highly value and miss being able to attend a wide range of events and experiences,” reports EventTrack 2021 research from Event Marketer and Mosaic.
Events represent an opportunity to socialize, meet new people and learn new skills. And for retailers, leveraging events programs that showcase their expertise can attract new customers, increase visits from existing customers, drive incremental transactions and create new marketing opportunities.
A strong events program can become a brand of its own, helping to differentiate a retailer in the marketplace and drive customer loyalty
HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
- Consumers are eager to return to in-person, live events — but virtual and hybrid events will remain important.
- Events help retailers generate customer loyalty.
- Successful events require strategic ideation and promotion, as well as seamless execution.
- Follow-up communications drive incremental sales and repeat attendance.
THE VALUE OF EVENTS GOES BEYOND SOCIAL CONNECTION WITH CONSUMERS
More than a third of consumers (36%) cited events and experiences as one of the best ways to understand the benefits of a product or service — second only to brand or company websites, according to the EventTrack report. In addition, the report found that 91% of consumers said that events and experiences make them more inclined to purchase products.
Companies clearly recognize the value of events. Twenty percent report that their budget for events and experiences will increase in 2021 compared with pre-pandemic levels, and 61% say it will return to match pre-pandemic levels, the EventTrack report found.
Events can offer a unique way to capture customer loyalty by encouraging planned attendance. From wine and cheese tastings to book signings to photography workshops, retailers are reaping benefits from ongoing event programs that showcase their areas of expertise.
Not all event programs are created equal, however. In order to optimize the value that event programs can add to your brand, you need to carefully plan, promote and execute them, from the original ideation all the way through to the follow-up marketing and communications.
Consumers Enjoy In-Person, Virtual and Hybrid Events
In 2020, nearly 75 million attendees registered for more than one million virtual events on Eventbrite and logged over 100 million hours.
- 53% of consumers said they plan to attend both virtual and in-person events in the future.
- 64% of consumers said they were excited to return to live events.
The following are key considerations for retailers looking at upping their events game:
Retailers should examine their own areas of expertise to determine a unique event offering that will meet their objectives, based on a clear understanding of their target audience.
The season or upcoming holidays can help inspire your event subject matter, and suppliers are often a key source of program topics and expertise.
At Murray’s Cheese in New York City, the retailer’s marketing team creates a calendar of events based in part on seasonal tie-in opportunities and also on suppliers’ availability, said Alexandra Horne, senior manager of events and education at the gourmet cheese shop.
Murray’s often focuses on French pairings during July, for example, because of Bastille Day. In October, the retailer typically stages Halloween-themed events that pair cheese and candy. Murray’s also does a cheese tasting each year themed around Hogwarts, the school of wizardry attended by Harry Potter in the book and movie series, which is “very popular around Halloween,” Horne said.
As the year-end holidays approach, Murray’s tends to feature tutorial events Horne describes as “seasonal cheese 101s,” revolving around the seasonal cheeses that the retailer obtains from its suppliers at that time of year.
“The key here is to capture a topic that generates a lot of interest and excitement. Sometimes it helps to have an expert panelist join us for the class to garner more of that attention — or a special product highlight.” – Alexandra Horne, Senior Manager of Events and Education, Murray’s Cheese
“The key here is to capture a topic that generates a lot of interest and excitement,” said Horne. “Sometimes it helps to have an expert panelist join us for the class to garner more of that attention — or a special product highlight.”
Murray’s lets customers know the general theme several weeks in advance of the actual event to spur early interest, and then selects the specific cheeses as the event date approaches.
Throughout the year, Murray’s seeks to schedule events around the visits of its suppliers to the store, so that they can participate in educating customers about their cheeses.
Murray’s also has its own in-house cheese expert who leads its event programs.
Tommy Spencer, advertising and media specialist at Pro Photo Supply, a Portland, Ore.-based retailer, also relies heavily on product suppliers when planning its educational events. The events could be technical lessons about how to use the features of a specific camera, for example, or tips for shooting certain subjects, such as a recent lesson on shooting waterfalls.
Once creators have selected a topic, they should determine if they want their event to be a one-off or a series, whether it’s weekly, monthly or in some other time interval. Series can attract repeat attendance — and repeat product sales — and generate word-of-mouth buzz over time.
Spencer said the retailer has been looking into the possibility of launching a recurring event series, such as a “Saturday morning photo critique” or something similar. Eventbrite allows companies to easily schedule such recurring events, he said. “I hope to use it in the future if we end up doing a weekly series on tips for a specific type of photography, such as senior portraiture, for example,” he said.
Creators also need to decide if they want to stage the event entirely in-person, or as a virtual-only or hybrid event. Virtual events can potentially attract attendees from all over the world, but in-person events can create the kind of rewarding, shared social experience that people have been craving.
Hybrid events offer the best of both worlds, and provide the added benefit of accessibility for homebound attendees.
Once retailers have determined the content and format for their upcoming events and secured the location and the presenters, they can begin marketing the events to their customers, or promote the events on public platforms, such as Eventbrite and Facebook.
Eventbrite Boost provides tools and support that make it easy not only to post an event on its platform, but also to promote it.
Among the brands that have tapped the power of Eventbrite Boost is Sierra Nevada, which hosts programs that include its Beer Camp Festival and Oktoberfest Festival. “We’re constantly selling tickets on Eventbrite,” said David Herman, social and media manager for Sierra Nevada. “Now, with Eventbrite Boost, advertising those tickets is easier than ever.”
Promoting events on digital platforms allows retailers like Pro Photo Supply to reach a broader audience than they might normally attract to their brick-and-mortar locations. In addition, as many retailers have discovered during the past year, conducting virtual and/or hybrid events allows retailers to attract customers from anywhere in the world.
“The really nice thing about Eventbrite is that it can reach people that wouldn’t ordinarily already be in our circle. Using the tag features that they have, I can tag it as a photography workshop or a photography webinar, and it will grab people’s interest.” – Tommy Spencer, Advertising and Media Specialist, Pro Photo Supply
“The really nice thing about Eventbrite is that it can reach people that wouldn’t ordinarily already be in our circle,” said Spencer. “Using the tag features that they have, I can tag it as a photography workshop or a photography webinar, and it will grab people’s interest.”
Posting events on Eventbrite also enables Pro Photo Supply to reach consumers who are seeking activities.
“Eventbrite has their own pool of users that are there saying, ‘OK, what’s happening in my town?’” said Spencer. “This allows you to capture some people that might be interested in your event, but don’t necessarily follow you on social media or are not on your email list.”
Pro Photo Supply also uses Eventbrite’s Facebook integration to bolster its event promotion.
“The Facebook integration is nice because it carries pretty much all the same information, and allows an attendee to quickly and easily purchase a ticket to an event,” Spencer explained. “It takes a lot off of my plate from having to enter the information multiple times in different platforms.”
Posting events on Facebook is a very simple process, he said, and because of the tight integration between the two platforms, collection of payments is also a breeze.
Horne of Murray’s Cheese agreed that Eventbrite has helped the retailer expand its reach, particularly for virtual events.
“We used to only attract customers that were in the tri-state area — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut,” she said “But we have a much wider swath of clientele now. We host California clients all the time, and people from Florida and Texas. We definitely wouldn’t have reached those people before.”
In-person, virtual and hybrid event programs each have their own specific logistical requirements.
In any case, choosing to attend an event should be seamless for the consumer, including a user-friendly registration process and strong upfront communications that detail the planned content, time and location, along with any other pertinent details, such as wines to purchase ahead of time for a virtual tasting session, for example.
For in-person events, safety remains a priority amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. Eventbrite offers this Event Safety Playbook to help creators understand the unique risks of their event and develop a strategy to mitigate those risks.
Other important considerations for in-person events include the venue and staffing. Is the location adequate for the number of attendees, and is it appropriate for the type of event? Has the staff been sufficiently trained? Are there collateral materials needed, such as product flyers or recipes?
Eventbrite also offers the following tips for hosting virtual events:
- Have a clear plan for your event. Attendees appreciate creators that have an agenda and stick to it.
- Test your technology beforehand with a practice event, and ensure that all presenters are familiar with how it works.
- Make sure you give clear-cut instructions for accessing the video portion of the event. Consider adding your event link to a calendar invitation, or sending out a reminder email an hour before your event with the event link, password and any other information that attendees may need to access your event.
- Consider surveying attendees before the event to determine what their interests are.
“Everybody’s had extra free time over the last year and a half, and it’s been great to be able to provide people things to do, and things to expand their knowledge, especially virtually,” said Spencer.
Like many other event creators, Pro Photo Supply was able to easily transition from in-person events to virtual using the Eventbrite platform, he said.
One of the key benefits of staging ongoing event programs is the opportunity they provide for follow-up communications. Not only can retailers obtain feedback from attendees about the event itself, but they can also target this database of customers with future marketing efforts.
Spencer said the retailer often sends follow-up promotions from the manufacturers that conduct events, such as 10% off certain products. Using Eventbrite makes it easy to download the database of opt-in emails that the retailer obtains from attendees, and export it to its email platform.
“This way we can stay in communication with people that are interested in things that we’re offering, whether it’s educational things, discounts, products or whatever,” Spencer said.
Murray’s Cheese, meanwhile, is planning to roll out an event follow-up process that uses the SurveyMonkey integration with Eventbrite.
“We’ll be sending out surveys to folks to gauge how their experience went, what more we could be doing, and what they’d like to see from us from a content perspective,” said Horne. “It’s something that we’ve attempted to do in the past, but not digitally. We’re trying to digitize everything at this point.”
“We’ll be sending out surveys to folks to gauge how their experience went, what more we could be doing, and what they’d like to see from us from a content perspective.” – Alexandra Horne, Senior Manager of Events and Education, Murray’s Cheese
Consumers are eager to participate in events, both in-person and virtually, after more than a year of restrictions and limited social interaction.
Event programs are a powerful tool that retailers can leverage to showcase the best attributes of their brand and provide unique experiences for their customers, which in turn will generate customer retention and loyalty. Event platforms, such as Eventbrite, make it easy for retailers to incorporate ongoing event programs, whether weekly, monthly or otherwise, into their offerings, paving the way to grow sales and increase customer satisfaction.
“It’s the only way we can reach the public and sell to a massive audience,” said Horne. “It’s a great way to display our events, have them all in front of folks, so people can really choose what works best for them, both in terms of schedule and interest.”
She also emphasized the benefits of using an event to showcase premier products and her staff’s expert knowledge.
“It increases brand awareness and our strength as a brand,” said Horne.
Spencer said events help Pro Photo Supply overcome the challenges of finding new customers in a saturated market.
“Using Eventbrite, which has a greater reach beyond our local pool, has been great, and I think that that’s going to continue,” he said.