In-store events are an important part of brick-and-mortar culture. They help businesses connect with their customers in a more intimate setting that can serve both the retailer and customers in a variety of ways. We know sales is about relationships, and stores need these sales activities that give customers and staff ways to connect, other than at the cash register.

Revenue. Events are great for generating both long-term and short-term revenue. They give you a gauge of your audience size, as well as levels of customer loyalty. They teach you what type of incentive your customers need to come in the store outside their normal visits. Do your customers need extra discounts to make their purchase feel special? Does a gift with purchase motivate them to spend more on items they would not normally buy? Do clearance items seem to fly out during larger store gatherings, etc.? This type of sales data can be invaluable for both everyday business and the store events that you host over the year. They give you the information you need to have the right products on-hand, at the right times.

Events also give you a way to measure your customers’ interest level in non-sales floor activity. Meaning, do you have customers that show a higher interest in sex-ed type classes, or do they seem more interested in manufacturer-attended events? Ladies nights, VIP events or educational in-store activities seem to drive the most business in our industry from my perspective.

Outside sales activities give your customers more ways to spend money with you. Bring in items for events you may not normally carry. Try adding some additional types of giftables, specialty boxed sets, or other merchandise you may want to test in the store without committing to a permanent space. Make sure your customers know these are limited items for events only and were brought in specifically for them!

Store celebrations do not need to cost a lot to be successful. Leverage your resources. Invite a local retailer that has a similar customer base to set up a space. Mixing up your customer base with another local business is a great way to increase your store awareness and spread the word about your retail location. Creating partnerships with other local business also helps create community. Small businesses can do far more to help each other than they think. If you have a business, you can do events with other companies that you can borrow or share resources with to help keep costs down. Ask your manufacturers for help, we live for these types of things, I promise! We often have small gift-with-purchase or sample-size items that we can send to entice customers. Our teams can help with social media promotion or provide other content at no cost for you. Start slow as you build your event “inventory” so you can keep your spending in balance with what you are making.

COVID-19 may be an obstacle for hosting in-store occasions until at least early 2021. Do not be afraid to go virtual! Even when retail life goes back to normal, it will be important to keep virtual access available for customers. Going virtual does not have to be intimidating or complicated. Zoom is a great platform and it is easy to use for both the host and the guest. Do not get overwhelmed and try to use your entire sales floor for online presentations. Create a small space around 8 to 10 square feet that you can use to make a small version of your store. This size is easy to fit on camera and keep a polished presentation. Look at your 20 top-selling items and use this list to populate your “virtual” store. Hosting themed events will help make it easy to merchandise and display in fun ways. Let your manufacturers help you with branded images that you can use for a background if you need it. One advantage of a virtual platform is removing the geography that may keep us apart.

Every store has such a different customer base — it is one of the things I appreciate most about my job. I get to meet and learn not only about your teams, but the customers you work with. This diversity of clientele helps give me insight on ways I can help other retailers working with similar customer bases.

Please lean on your manufacturers during this challenging time and let us help you stay connected to the people that matter most in retail, our loyal customer fam.

Danielle Seerley, aka “America’s Sex Toy Sweetheart,” is the senior sales executive for Shibari Wands and Voodoo Toys.

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