Ribbon Cutting

Tips To Drive Sales At Your Location With In-Store Events

One of the best ways to build awareness, excitement and traffic to a new location is through a grand opening event.

Do you wish you had the traffic and sales that an event like that can create?

Well, who says Grand Opening-style events are only for grand openings? Following our suggestions, you can build that excitement anytime!

The basic ingredients for an event are:

  • A relevant reason,
  • and a well-orchestrated event.

So, What Is Relevant?

Relevant is something the customer finds worth celebrating… something meaningful. Something they can relate to and something that provides them some sort of benefit.

Here’s a list of potential reasons for an event…

  • New Product / Service
  • New Location (Grand Opening)
  • Seasonal Celebrations (Halloween / Christmas)
  • Location Anniversary (Store open 5 years)
  • Product Birthday
  • Official Product Celebration Day (March is National Noodle month, March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day)
  • Company Founded Anniversary
  • Founder Anniversary or Birthday (Birthday of Colonel Sanders from KFC)
  • Best Of / Winner / Award
  • Local Celebrations (Town’s Anniversary)

It isn’t enough simply to celebrate the birthday of your signature sandwich or the anniversary of your location – what value are you passing on to your customers?

For example, this year, Grand Central Station in New York City is celebrating their 100th Anniversary. To celebrate, restaurants and retailers within the station are offering retro-pricing as it was in 1913 – 10¢ fries, 19¢ for a slice of cheese cake, 5¢ for a pound of pasta.

You know who are the masters at this type of celebration? The Disney Company. They have all sorts of reasons they take advantage of. Take a look at some of the things they celebrate across the company:

  • Opening of a new movie (new product),
  • Anniversary of a theme park opening (location anniversary),
  • Opening of a new part of a theme park (the New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom in Florida),
  • Mickey Mouse’s (or any character’s) birthday (product anniversary),
  • Park Attraction Anniversary: “It’s A Small World” Anniversary (product anniversary),
  • Anniversary of a Movie Release (product anniversary), and
  • Walt Disney’s 100th Birthday (founder anniversary)

"Plus" It Up, Add Value

You’ll notice that when Disney celebrates, they DO SOMETHING to celebrate it… More than just hanging a sign or “declaring” the celebration. They plus it up. (“Plus” was Walt’s word for making something better).

For Walt Disney’s 100th birthday, Disney featured special limited-time exhibits about Walt’s life in the theme parks. Not only did this create a destination, but they even created a sense of urgency because the exhibits would only be in place for a limited time.

This year, the Disney animated feature Peter Pan is 60 years old. Disney has released a “Diamond Edition” DVD+Blu-Ray edition of the movie with digitally restored picture and high-definition sound. They include behind the scenes information and even have an interactive app. You might buy the new better version, even if you own the old one!

The grand opening of New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom themepark at Walt Disney World in Florida has an amazing interactive website that piques your interest and makes you want to visit!

Use a celebration as a time to re-merchandise your store… launch a new menu… complete a re-model.

Build Awareness

Of course, if you want people to know about your event, you need to make them aware.

Determine how you’ll let existing and potential customers know about this event. Consider which tools are best:

  • Hand out invitations at point of sale
  • In-store signage
  • Newspaper ad
  • Direct mail invitations
  • Billboard
  • Social media
  • eMail to customer list

Well-Orchestrated, Eventful Event

If you want the event to feel like a celebration, you need to make it that way!

  • Decoration – Adding appropriate decor will help convert the space from plain to festive. Appropriate is the operative word here. Avoid cheap, cheesy, or chintzy… and stay clear of offensive, obtuse, or ostentatious.
  • Food / Refreshments – Catering makes any event more special and fun. If you’re a restaurant – this is a given. For a retailer, providing refreshments for your customers creates even more surprise.
  • Live Music – With music, an event is automatically upgraded from a quiet gathering to fun party.
  • Sampling / Demonstrations – You must sample or demonstrate your products – or don’t bother hosting an event!
  • Ceremonial Event – Ribbon cuttings are traditional – and expected. We recommend you to find something relevant to your business instead of a ribbon cutting. For example, at Starbucks we would have a First Pour ceremony when “pulling” the first espresso shot as the “ribbon cutting” moment.
  • Charity Participation – If you are a giving company and there is a charity or non-profit who could use your support, we highly recommend partnering with them to give them visibility and maybe a donation!

Your Customers Are Your Calendar

Restaurant and retail employees get bored with their own promotions – so they make them last only a short time. But, you’ve got to have customer visit frequency drive your promotional timing, not a 30-hour a week employee.

Disney is also super smart about their timing.

Disney allows their celebrations to extend for weeks or for a year or more – based on what they’re promoting and where. Their guests visit a theme park with less frequency than the same customer who visits Wal-Mart or Target and sees a movie or video game title on a shelf. They let the customer drive the calendar.

Starbucks, like most coffee shops, has a lower priced product and a higher visit frequency than an average restaurant or retailer.  Even still, the average customer visits Starbucks 3-5 per month. At Starbucks we had to make sure we let consumer promotions last long enough so customers would see them and have time to respond to and/or benefit from the event.

Make sure you promote your event with enough advance awareness so your customers know about it. Make sure your celebration lasts long enough to allow customers to enjoy it.

Take Advantage of the Traffic

Finally – and most importantly – take advantage of the traffic. The purpose of the event isn’t the event itself, or even for the awareness and traffic it drives.

Put that traffic to use. To sample, to demonstrate, to “Wow!” and showcase what makes you special. This creates reasons for these visitors to reconnect with your business and return more often.

We are launching a comprehensive New Store Opening Guide on our sister LSMGuide.com site. LSMGuide premium members will access step-by-step instructions for planning, building and hosting these traffic and sales-driving events. Please email me if you’d like more information.