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Ask the Experts: Host an event to increase foot traffic

When you want to increase foot traffic, nothing beats an in-store event

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By Georganne Bender
By Rich Kizer
Published: September 14, 2016
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Question: What's the first thing to try when you want to increase foot traffic in your store?

Answer: To be successful today, you have to do more than just sell “stuff”: You need experiences that connect with your customers’ hearts and minds as well as their wallets. You can exist by running an occasional sale—or you can steadily grow sales through in-store events and promotions.
You need to host one major in-store event and one to two minor events each month. A major event is one that builds traffic and packs your store with customers. A minor event might be a Saturday filled with product demos.
A number of things—including choosing dates, assigning tasks and scheduling deadlines—have to happen to make your event a success. You’ll want to create a master plan for each event that details who will be in charge of each task, what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done.

3 to 4 months before
  •   Send letters to vendors re-questing merchandise for prizes and giveaways. Ask if they’ll help with demos and classes. Drop us an e-mail and we’ll send you our vendor solicitation letter templates you can easily customize.
  •   If you’re short on staff, ask vendors, local clubs and your best customers if they’d like to help out on event day.
  •   Create your ad campaign, determining which avenues you’ll use. Think both traditional and digital media.
  •   Do an order review to determine if there are special products or other items you need to order for the event.
  •   Entertainment is optional. If you want it, schedule it now.

2 months before

  •   From this point on, meet with key staffers each week to make sure everyone is on task.
  •   Follow up with vendors, instructors and demonstrators. Confirm date and times, and arrange for any special needs they might have (electrical, merchandise, etc.).
  •   Follow up with your entertainment, confirming the date and arranging for any special needs (risers, outlets, etc.).
  •   If you’re using a caterer, now is the time to schedule the delivery and servers. If you have food, play it safe and use a caterer. Home-baked goods are never a good idea.

1 month before
  •   Schedule additional ads.
  •   Draw a schematic of your sales floor, noting where to set the demonstration areas, entertainment, etc.
  •   If this is an invitation-only event, it’s time to create your invitations.
  •   Create an event on your Facebook page.

2 weeks before
  •   Time to kick things into high gear! Meet with key personnel to review all aspects of the event and make sure everything is on schedule. If things aren’t progressing as planned, you still have time to make changes.
  •   Your invitations should be printed and ready to go; now it’s time to mail them. It’s also time to begin distributing bag stuffers.
  •   Start talking about your event on social media. Run your first Facebook ad.

1 week before
  •   Build buzz with a press release announcing your event. Cover all media outlets in your area.
  •   Prepare a list of in-store specials (e.g., grand-prize drawing at 7:00 p.m., demo at 7:15 p.m.).
  •   Verify that you have all of the product and supplies your vendors and instructors will need for demos.
  •   Verify the entertainment is ready to roll the second you unlock the door.
  •   Double-check your refreshment order. It’s better to have too much food than to run out during your event.
  •   Reset your windows, displays and other decor for the event. Refresh the impulse items at the cash wrap.

The day before
  •   Recheck your master plan to ensure that all tasks have been completed.
  •   Finalize your floor plan.
  •   Hang signing and place all decorations before you leave for the night. Get the big stuff ready so that tomorrow all you have to worry about are last-minute touch-ups.

Show time!
  •   Schedule a pre-opening breakfast meeting with staff to review everything that will take place during the day.
  •   Distribute copies of the in-store specials, demos and drawings to staff and participating vendors. Place copies at the cash and service areas.
  •   Greet your guests at the door. Invite everyone to sign a guest book; this will ensure you have names, addresses and emails for future events.

The time you spend planning your in-store events is as important as the event itself —even more important. It takes creativity and dedication and, sometimes, sheer willpower. But it’s always worth the effort!

ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS FOR EACH EVENT:
1. Will this event attract my current customers?
2. Will it attract new customers to the store?
3. How will you entice new customers to return?
4. What will this event do for your store’s reputation?
5. Can your staff handle the increased traffic?
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