3 Reasons ‘Tis the Season for Chicago Retailers to Host In-Store Events


Now that the biggest gift-giving holidays are upon us, shopping has ramped up into high gear. People of all ages are not only online filling their carts, but in stores and retail centers hunting for presents (especially as we get down to the wire).

For Chicago retailers and even restaurant owners, a great way to draw additional foot traffic and add value to your customers’ day is to host in-store events. And you don’t have to pull out all the stops to make an impact, spread some cheer, and start off 2018 on a strong note. In today’s post, we’ll explore three of the biggest reasons why the holidays are the perfect time for in-store events.

3 Reasons the Holidays Can Make Your In-Store Event a Hit


1. People are Already Out and About

You don’t have to fight as hard to get people away from their screens and out of the house to spend time in stores—but you do have to give them a reason to spend time in your store. Holiday music and decorations are a start, but here are some other ideas to get you thinking:

  • Make it a creative space. Can you give your customers props or provide backdrops for photo opportunities, with each other and your products? How about displays they can draw on with chalk?
  • Think of it as an experience. What would add to your customer’s walk through your store? How about a warm holiday drink, and a mini chocolate bar with a surprise discount printed inside the wrapper?
  • Host in-store parties. You can make your store an event space for small groups, where people can enjoy your setting, hors d’oeuvres and champagne, and special discounts, potentially without even closing your doors to other shoppers.
  • Partner up. Collaborating with other organizations or local businesses can help expand your reach, whether they have a retail space or not. This can be an effective way to tap into a new audience while cutting costs associated with planning, marketing, and running your event.

2. Charitable Giving Keeps Spirits Bright

Tying your brand to a cause or charitable organization your target audience feels good about is always a smart idea, and the holidays are a natural time for giving. Consider that 31% of charitable contributions are made in December, and the total cash contribution by consumers who donated over the holidays was close to $250 in 2016. Holiday events are a great opportunity for your business to put the spotlight on the good your brand is doing, and help your customers join in supporting the cause.

And of course, if you give to a qualified organization, your business donation can be tax deductible. Be sure to carefully select your cause and organization. The IRS has a way to help you identify qualified charities, but you also want to select one that makes the most sense for you, your brand, and your customers.

3. Kick Off 2018 with a Bang

In-store events are about more than just getting people in the door to make a purchase during the holidays. An event that’s fun and exciting can generate word of mouth that pays off during and after the holiday season. Build buzz on social media with Instagram and Snapchat stories, Facebook Live videos, tweets, hashtags, and more, shared by your brand and customers alike.If executed properly, your event can help boost awareness, improve brand perception, and potentially capture new customers. This sets the stage for repeat visits to your store, even after the decorations are away and sales are over.

Tips for Events that are In-the-Spirit and On-the-Money

You don’t have to pull out all the stops for an in-store event that’s both festive and effective. Here are some final thoughts on making events work for your business, this year and into the future.

  • Don’t be afraid to put your own spin on things. Maybe your holiday event isn’t really in-store at all. REI is two years into a successful anti-Black Friday campaign wherein they close their doors, give employees a paid day off, and encourage customers to #OptOutside and reconnect with nature. It may seem counter-intuitive to miss out on Black Friday sales, but the initiative is a great fit for their brand and paying off with partnerships. This year, Subaru joined in on the fun, supporting ASPCA and encouraging dog lovers to #OptOutside, too.
  • It’s OK to keep it simple. You don’t need a live band, performing aerial artists, or anything crazy to make it your store the spot of a holiday party. Consider what would resonate with your customers and what’s realistic to accomplish. Your event may not be the talk of the town this year, but an experience that’s outside of the box can be what keeps customers coming back and thinking of your business positively.
  • Cover your bases. Make sure you’re set up for success. Even though crowds are naturally higher this time of year, there’s still time to do some event marketing to let people know you have something exciting coming up. When it comes to the day (or days) of the event and you’re running a special promotion or giveaway, ensure you’re estimating high so that you have enough of what you need and don’t run out mid-way through your event. Consider adding ropes or floor tape to accommodate increased foot traffic, if it makes sense for your store layout. Check out our previous post to get a full list of tips on planning successful in-store events.

For Chicago retailers, the holidays are an opportune time to leverage in-store events. Events give you the chance to draw in more shoppers while participating in the spirit of the holidays, and potentially align your brand with the causes your customers care about, too. No matter the amount of bells and whistles, your in-store event is ultimately about creating memorable brand experiences for your customers, and hosting one at the holidays can kickstart a year of success.

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