I’ve had my hat in the “retail-ring” for a long time. Gone are the days of opening your door, selling your product, and closing the door at the end of the day. Personal touches such as hand written thank you notes went a long way. Although they are still relevant today, there is a plethora of tools to promote your brand and help sell your product. This includes social media (and all that entails), email and on-line marketing.
A study published by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 80 percent of Americans do at least some of their shopping on-line. I know I do. This statistic makes it sound as though Brick-and-Mortar retail is all but extinct.
Buying in person is spending the afternoon with friends, enjoying the personalized service a small business provides, and a sense of feeling connected to one’s community. We always choose a charity to support during our events as a way of giving back to the community that supports us.
Personalizing the shopping experience with an in store event is the key to keeping your customers engaged and introduces new customers to your brand. I realized this when we held our first ribbon cutting/grand opening and we have been doing events ever since. In March we hosted the owner/designer of a Florida business-Elan from Elan International. As Elan put it,” How impressive it was to see people out supporting a local business owner that may be their neighbor or friend, enjoying some food and wine, and supporting a local charity.”
At a recent trade show in NYC, we sat in on a couple seminars hosted by the editor of Accessories Magazine. Any time you can get direction and advice for free, take advantage of it. In addition to highlighting trends for the coming season, she did an entire segment on in-store events. I assumed boutiques in cities such as New York, Atlanta, and Chicago, would have an abundance of foot traffic in these highly populated areas. Surprisingly, they follow the same recipe for success as the rest of us. It’s not always about selling, but engaging your customer and attracting new ones. Here were a few of her suggestions: Karaoke night, hosting a book club, hosting a local artist for a signing, bring-a-pet night, and many more creative ideas.
As the online shopping trend continues, it becomes imperative to set yourself apart from other retailers and give your customers “that reason” to shop in your store. Make your events personal, make them entertaining, and make them your own. You know your customer best! Offering your customer an unforgettable in-store event is the key to your continuing success for your small business.
Bobbi Whitmore is the owner of Bobbi’s at Parkside in Cocoa Village and a recent graduate of weVENTURE’s IGNITE 360 Business Mentoring Program.
Columnist series are sponsored by weVENTURE at the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.