Retail Events: The Complete Guide (+ Real-world Examples)

Retail events

In-store retail events may have lost some popularity due to COVID, but they’re still a staple of the retail marketing world. 

In-store events are an excellent way to create a community of consumers for your brand, focus on creating connections, and provide brands with an opportunity to promote their products to a broader set of audiences without hard selling. More than 75% of marketers say live in-person, live (hybrid), and online events are valuable.

How do you create a successful in-person event and market it effectively, so it reaches your ideal audience? This guide discusses the benefits of retail events, popular types of retail events, retail store event ideas, how to plan an event for your retail store, and how you can market it. 

What are retail events?

Retail events are in-person events hosted by brands to create a memorable shopping experience for customers. 

Customers are getting more selective about the brands they associate with, and the in-store experience can help you stand out from the crowd. In an age of cut-throat competition, retail events are a great way to engage with your customers and form relationships. It engages and invites them to experience your brand in person. 

3 benefits of in-store events

Hosting an in-store event is expensive and takes a lot of time and manpower. Is it worth it? Here are three benefits of in-store events for your brand.

1. Attract new customers

Post-Covid, shoppers are looking for experiences and are willing to shop in-store rather than behind a screen. 59% of consumers say the ability to feel, touch, and try the product makes shopping in-store preferable to online. 

Hosting retail events lets you attract customers outside your normal reach—people who you’ve never targeted with your ads or content. These people have no way of learning about your brand and products otherwise—but the buzz of in-store events can knock on such people’s doors with the right strategy and marketing.

2. Build brand loyalty

Over 40% of consumers feel they become more loyal to brands after attending their events and experiences. 

With events, you can have an intimate conversation with your customers and you can find out what drove them to the event. You learn about your customers and therefore can make better decisions about what products to put out in the future.

We cannot agree more with Kondrat. Say you’re an environmentally friendly clothing brand, and your differentiator is using natural colors to dye your clothes. You might organize an event to demonstrate your process, from extracting the color to making store-ready clothes.

The information you provided is like an exclusive experience to the attendees. Whenever they think of purchasing such clothes, your store will be at the top of their minds. 

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3. Increase sales

    In-person interactions also encourage prospective customers to spend—and to spend more. When you host a retail event, people come to your stores without any concrete purchasing plan. With the proper interaction, you can help them choose the right products, resulting in increased sales. 91% of consumers say participating in events and experiences convinces them to purchase from the brand. 

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    Popular types of in-store retail events

    • Launch events
    • Classes or workshops
    • Meet-ups or hobbyist groups

    Retail events are highly personalizable—there is an infinite number of options. Here are the three most popular types of in-store retail events. 

    Launch events

      Launch events are the most popular types of retail events. A new product launch is an excellent opportunity to build a relationship between suppliers, customers, and producers.

      Beauty pop-up Beautyque hosted a launch event for their new pop-up NYC store with Doors. It was a week-long event, featuring its makeup and skincare brand and including a skincare consultation with an esthetician, a makeup tutorial with a pro makeup artist, and a manicure with a professional manicurist.

      Beautyque pop up store

      Such events attract significant foot traffic, giving consumers the perfect opportunity to interact in person with the brands. They feel like a part of an exclusive club with all the additional benefits it offers. 

      Invite people to your retail launch event, create a buzz around your new products, and generate sales by forming a relationship with your customers. 

      Here are examples of retailers who can benefit from launch parties:

      • Beauty brands
      • Book stores
      • Fashion and apparel
      • Home and decor
      • Health and wellness brands

      Classes or workshops

        Educational retail events like hosting classes or workshops can set you apart from competitors by positioning you as a thought leader in your niche.

        For example, during Fairtrade Month in October 2018, West Elm hosted a workshop series where guests could make coasters using felt balls that fair trade artisans handcrafted at Everest Fashion.

        West Elm craft workshops

        As West Elm was the first home retailer to offer Fair Trade Certified goods, hosting an event series during Fair Trade Month was a great idea. They also donated all of the proceeds from the workshop to Everest to support their Fair Trade initiatives. 

        Meet-ups or hobbyist groups

          Meet-ups or hobbyist groups aim to create both a recurring set of events supporting your industry and a community comprising your target audience.

          Outdoor fashion brand Arc’teryx hosted Arc’teryx Academy in 2018. It was a four-day experience that brought outdoor enthusiasts such as mountain guides and professional athletes together through seminars, expert-led clinics, and films.

          Arc'teryx Academy

          They offered three experiences—Alpine Climbing, Backcountry Skiing, and Snowboarding. They sent a perfect message to their competitors: if you’re a retail store owner, it doesn’t mean you have to stay within store boundaries. 

          Retail event ideas

          1. Partnership events
          2. Charity events
          3. Educational events
          4. Fun events
          5. VIP events
          6. Experiential events

          The best retail events offer something valuable to the people attending them. It could be something they learn for the first time, an exclusive launch offer, or something experiential. Here are some event ideas that you could implement for your store. 

          1. Partnership events

            Partnering with other businesses can be a win-win, bringing additional exposure and revenue ​​for both parties. 

            Sephora partnered with Dr. Dennis Gross, a world-renowned dermatologist practicing in NYC. At this event, his National Medical Esthetician was there to consult all about the skin and perform an exclusive peel available only in his office.

            Sephora Peel Mobile

            Sephora had an offer—shoppers spending $150 on DG products get a free goodie bag and a $250 medical-grade peel by our medical aesthetician. This resulted in more foot traffic and increased sales as Dr. Gross’s exclusive peel is among the most famous skincare products.

            2. Charity events

              Hosting a charity retail event can drive a lot of value and increase your brand awareness. People are emotionally connected with charities, and when you support causes they most believe in, they relate with your brand personally.

              Charity retail events are really effective because then you get customers that really care for the cause and maybe new to your brand.

              Rebekah Kondrat, Rekon

              A good example would be Stance, a sock brand that hosted a benefit event where they collaborated with Rihanna to design a special collection of socks and tights, with all the proceeds going toward initiatives to make health and education more globally accessible.

              3. Educational events

                Many retailers are attracting customers with educational learning experiences to attract more people in-store and demonstrate their expertise. 

                Kendra Scott collaborated with Splash for an event exclusively for retail marketers to network and learn about the brand’s event strategy. This event was held at their store in New York’s SoHo.

                Guests got all the tidbits from the director of retail marketing about their in-store event program. Not only did they walk away with rich insights, but they also got to take home a custom jewelry piece.

                4. Fun events

                  Fun events are a fan favorite—people come and engage in fun activities while the retailer benefits from increased foot traffic and a ton of brand awareness. 

                  In 2017, John Lewis launched an in-store event focusing on celebrating the British summer. It was named National Treasures, and it featured 220 life-size cartoon displays by Paul Thurlby in storefront windows. 

                  It was fun and interactive with videos, live workshops, fitness sessions, and Q&A sessions with a gardening society-themed rooftop space on London’s famous Oxford Street. The event led to better relationships between John Lewis and its customers. 

                  National Treasures window display

                  5. VIP events

                    If your brand offers a loyalty or insider program, hosting a VIP event for members only can make your customers feel special. As you please them with an exclusive retail event, their relationship with you gets stronger and gives them a reason to come back again.

                    PINK organized an exclusive and private shopping event for their PINK Nation members. It was themed after a Back to School Brunch, with early access and discounts on new arrivals both in-store and online. 

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                    6. Experiential events 

                      Ads come and go, but experiences stay forever in peoples’ minds. These days retail brands are discovering new and innovative ways to engage with customers. 

                      Chanel made an impression in New York’s SoHo with its experiential pop-up store Atelier Beauté Chanel in 2019. It was an interactive store that offered guests the chance to try out their collections, get expert skincare and makeup services, and plenty of photo ops. 

                      Chanel pop up event

                      They also hosted a series of “makeup happy hours” where visitors could book a slot for 20 minutes of one-on-one consultation with a Chanel makeup pro.

                      Pop-Up Shop Quickstart Guide

                      Thinking about hosting a Pop-Up Shop? This free guide includes 3 checklists that help frame what you're looking to accomplish through your Pop-Up Shop, different types of Pop-Up Shops, and design ideas to help get you started.

                      How to plan events for your retail store

                      1. Set goals and budget
                      2. Plan around a theme
                      3. Create a unique experience
                      4. Tie your event to a charity or cause

                      The best events require end-to-end planning to be successful. Follow these four steps to plan a stellar event. 

                      1. Set goals and budget

                        Every marketing campaign starts with good planning, and organizing an event is no different. Before you just throw yourself into planning your event, you need to have an end goal for it, for example:

                        • Generate brand awareness
                        • Launch a new product
                        • Generate more sales
                        • Get media coverage
                        • Build better customer relationship
                        • Get social media mentions
                        • Sell your old inventory

                        After deciding on the purpose of your event, set numeric values against your goal. Because if you can’t measure it, you can’t track its progress. 

                        For instance, your goal could be to get at least 50 percent of the attendees to mention your event on their social media handles. 

                        The next step is to make a budget. The last thing you want is to overspend on the event and run out of marketing funds. Make a list of everything you’ll need to make this a successful event—inventory, staff, marketing materials, videos, banners, and anything else you can think of.

                        After your list is ready, take a note of the price of each required item, total it, and add 10-20% to give your budget some flexibility. If you’re looking to decrease expenses, consider partnering up with another brand and splitting the costs of the event.

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                        2. Plan around a theme

                          A theme sums up your event in a couple of words. It helps visitors visualize your in-store event better. Rather than just hosting any event, you can connect it with an occasion or concept.

                          Let’s take a page out of Selfridges’ book. They launched festive events to make their customers feel special with breakfast with Santa, an in-store show, and personal shoppers named ‘Elfridges’ to assist them with their needs.

                          You can host similar events around different themes. For instance, a “Winter is Coming” product launch event that ties into Game of Thrones, or maybe a quiz event after a major movie release where the winner gets 90% off their purchases. 

                          3. Create a unique experience

                            Creating a unique and memorable experience that leaves the guests awestruck is part of the goal of a successful retail event. You need to get creative to stand out from the crowd and think of how you can entice the guests—Under Armour did just that. 

                            Under Armour (UA) launched their new kicks called the UA HOVR at an LA pop-up experience. These shoes absorb impact and provide energy return to deliver a zero-gravity feel. To give guests this exact feel, UA created a gigantic geodesic dome where its visitors could try out UA HOVR shoes on treadmills. 

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                            4. Tie your event to a charity or cause

                              People care and they love donating to charity—more than 56% of Americans donated to charity last year. Hence, events tied with a charity have a ‘do good and feel good’ element, and customers will want to associate themselves with brands tied up with a good cause. 

                              Remember to keep your charity events simple. You can donate a percentage of your sales to an organization or create a campaign donating a significant sales percentage to the rightful cause.

                              How to market in-store events

                              • Social media
                              • Email lists
                              • In-store promotion
                              • Leverage loyalty programs
                              • Partner with other retailers

                              Once you have a solid idea of the type of event you want to host, your next step is strategizing how to market the event.

                              Social media

                                Harness the power of social media to market your retail event. Add an event to your Facebook page, including the required information for the event.

                                • When is it happening?
                                • Where is this event happening?
                                • Why should they attend?

                                Post stories on your Instagram, creating awareness for your in-store event. You can also run ads for better visibility.

                                Sephora collaborated with Dr. Dennis Gross for the Peel Mobile Event. They posted it all over their social handles. For instance, this was a post made from Dr. Gross’s Instagram handle—notice how they create the buzz with a video and precise dates and timings.

                                Email lists

                                  You want to attract new customers with your retail events, but you cannot forget the loyal customers you already have. Send email invites to your existing customers, including an iCal or Google Calendar invite. This makes your customers’ lives simpler and increases your attendance rates, as the event is on their calendar.

                                  Influencers can help you reach a massive audience without running ads—you can send invitations to local influencers in your industry if they have an engaged audience and content aligning with your needs. 

                                  Bobbi Brown hosted a three-day event in New York City and invited beauty and lifestyle influencers. There were 25 influencers with a collective social media reach of more than 25 million. Bobbi Brown expanded this campaign by encouraging their users to share a selfie with their new lipstick for a chance to be featured on their website. 

                                  💡 PRO TIP: Want to create beautifully branded emails to promote your next product launch? Use Shopify Email to create, send, and track campaigns, all from within Shopify—no coding experience required.

                                  In-store promotion

                                    Let’s go back to the old school for this. As you already have regular visitors to your store, you can print flyers and banners to highlight your upcoming event.

                                    Whenever a regular customer comes in, you can hand out flyers to them and invite them to your event. There are higher chances they will attend because they’re warm to your brand and an existing customer.

                                    Also, they can bring more people to your event by simply spreading the word amongst friends and family.

                                    Leverage loyalty programs

                                      If you have loyalty or insider programs for your brand, you can gain referrals. To do it, add an extra gift for the members, such as a hamper, exclusive offers, or the chance to be the first to buy a limited collection. 

                                      This extra gift can vary according to your industry, but when done right, it can result in more attendees for your store event. 

                                      Partner with other retailers

                                        Hosting in-store events can be expensive, but you can ease your burdens by inviting another business to be your partner. But make sure you don’t invite your competitors here. You want brands that complement your business in one way or the other. 

                                        Get brands who share your target audience, and you both benefit from a larger audience with less expense. 

                                        Examples of in-store events

                                        With numerous brands pulling off in-store events, here are our three favorite picks.

                                        Chanel’s product launch

                                          Chanel knows how to make its customers feel valued and special by offering them a chance to attend a product launch before it goes on general sale. They attracted customers to their London pop-up store, dedicated to the newly launched perfume, Gabrielle. It was the first major fragrance from Chanel in 15 years, focused around an imaginary flower from Olivier Page.

                                          The event started with a graphic film on the life of Chanel; later there was a visit to the ‘wall of flowers,’ where at the press of a little button, the scents of ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom, and tuberose spread into the air.

                                          This experience was very exclusive and limited to very few people. After the experience, each visitor was handed one of the unique goody bags. 

                                          Chanel exclusive event

                                          Warby Parker’s green room

                                            Retail eyewear store Warby Parker has found innovative ways to stand out from the crowd with unique events. At their LA Melrose Avenue store, they converted one of their empty rooms into a giant green screen—a photo booth experience allowing customers to record short videos with entertaining props and backgrounds.

                                            They dedicated this event to the fact that they were so close to Hollywood and the entire film industry. Their primary goal was to drive people into their store with unique and engaging experiences. 

                                            They gave customers a reason to come and encouraged them to share on social media for better exposure. 

                                            Warby Parker Green Room event

                                            Westfield’s Christmas grotto

                                              Westfield shopping center in London seized an opportunity on Christmas with a special grotto for adults and children. By making their grotto bigger and better than those of other stores, Westfield attracted shoppers that would otherwise have gone to a different retail store.

                                              Westfield Christmas grotto

                                              Young visitors were allowed to enjoy the snow factory at the North Pole where Santa’s elves make all the snow in the world. Children could create their snowflakes and explore other activities in the factory. They could also take a photo with Santa and get their gifts from him. 

                                              Such an event resulted in more sales, promotion on social media, and people in their store. You can do something similar if you’re looking for a way to attract people with a unique experience.

                                              Start hosting retail events at your store

                                              Consumers are enjoying in-store shopping now more than ever before. They’re not just looking for better products but a better experience, customer support, and in-store experience. 

                                              Retail events are a great way to showcase all of them; it’s a consumer-approved marketing method because they’re fun. You get the chance to form lasting relationships well beyond emails and social media posts.

                                              Turn store traffic into sales

                                              With Shopify’s mobile POS, you can serve customers anywhere in your store and banish lineups at the checkout counter. Use any smartphone or tablet to process returns and exchanges, accept payments, and check out customers wherever they are.