In this exerpt from Ragtrader's August edition, major retailers discuss the power of in-store events. For more stories like this, subscribe to the print edition here.

Eighteen months ago, Sportsgirl launched ‘The Braid Bar’ in two flagship metro stores; Bourke Street, Melbourne and Pitt Street, Sydney.

The in-store activation offered customers a 20 minute braiding service for $15. Since its launch, it has been booked out each Friday and Saturday night in both locations.

Sportsgirl national marketing manager Kate Rees says while the activation is a costed one, the main focus boils down to an enriching customer experience.

“In a crowded market, it’s imperative that retailers differentiate or die and as a priority, we drive Sportsgirl to be a store ‘but so much more’," she explains.“This forms the execution of everything we do, particularly in our bricks and mortar stores. We take pride in hosting both pop-up and on-going in-store activations.

"The Braid Bar really drives customer experience in-store and it also in turn has a halo effect on our hair products that we then sell inside of the actual stands. So while it is not a direct driving revenue activation, it definitely has a halo effect for us on those particular products.”

For many brands, in-store events and activations are key to driving sales, footfall and awareness. In the case of Sportsgirl, Rees says services provide the strongest ROI.

Six months ago, the brand introduced a monogramming service at its Chadstone store. While the service is free to those who purchase items from the brand's accessories range, Rees says this again created a halo effect across sales.

“While free, the popularity of the offering has seen sales for small accessories and products of the like increase. For small products that we monogram, our sales have grown by 200% since we started this activation.”

There are footfall imperatives too, Rees continues, with a recent Max May beauty workshop keeping shoppers engaged in-store for longer.

"We heavily promoted it on our social channels. You had to sign up to be one of the people to actually come to the event. We might have had 60 places in that workshop that filled very quickly. It drove footfall because it created so much excitement within the store that even people that weren’t in those 60 places stayed and watched.”

The increase in footfall also significantly drove sales on the day, with revenue for the period up by 30%. Rees says events such as these, which tap into consumer interest and promote brand engagement, are vital to maintaining shopper loyalty.

"It is for this reason Sportsgirl also converts them into evergreen content, filming and uploading events online to reach customers nationwide.

“We filmed it as content for online, which meant that everyone could have access to those beauty workshops not just the people that came to the event itself.”

Rees says events run primarily in flagship stores, where Sportsgirl has greater hosting space. However, exterior campaigns can also yield strong results.

One such example is its recent ‘Colour Run’ event, which hosted a pop-up activation called the Locker Room. Runners participating in the race were given a key which could open a locker filled with products at the finish line. A 20% gift card handed out to those who didn't win drove customers back in-store.

“That was a really great ROI because we could track thousands and thousands of cards back in store that were really driving sales. We could see that full circle; engaging in an activation, then getting a discount, then coming back to store to use that discount and engage with the brand further still.

“We weren’t expecting that many people to come back and use that discount card. We probably would have thought that there might have been a 30% retention on using that card. But this was more like a 50-60% that returned.”

Wanted marketing manager Jennifer Christodoulou tells a similar story around the success of in-store events. In 2015, the footwear retailer caused havoc in Sydney when it launched its Westfield Sydney store, leading to lines around the second level of the centre and out towards Pitt Street Mall.

“We wanted to build awareness and build the database because we can then use that segmentation later on and we also wanted to have something with theatre,” Christodoulou says.

The event gave customers who attended an opportunity to win $3500 worth of shoes by signing up and pre-registering for a 'key'. At the store opening, a random key was selected to open a cabinet containing the prize.

Christodoulou says 3000 people pre-registered for the initial Sydney launch, with 1000 actually attending on the day.

What made the event such a success, besides attendance, was the extremely strong ROI it yielded. Christodoulou says it was the low cost-to-return ratio that allowed for such strong results.

“The ROI for the event was a 130% increase in average sales for one day because the only real costs were the keys, the tags and the prize itself.

“We did have a cabinet that was used to unlock but that was already purchased for the initial event which was in Pacific Fair, so it was something we were able to reuse and it cost us nothing going forward.”

Following this initial success, Wanted hosted an almost identical launch for its Macquarie Centre store. Over 2500 people pre-registered for the event and queues started an hour before the opening.

Christodoulou says the business has no median figure for ROI across all launches, but confirms it has remained roughly the same within Sydney.

“If anything it has gotten cheaper because we order the keys from overseas and the more quantity the cheaper that gets. So really the cost is nothing, especially when you have social media to back you on that.”

While this formula is now a staple for Wanted, the brand has made slight tweaks to ensure relevancy. For its Chadstone store opening, Christodoulou used social media and influencer marketing as the key driver for engagement.

“We did work with a couple of bloggers for our Chadstone store and we took a slightly different tactic with that in terms of prize. Initially we had set the price amount and it was always $3500. For Chadstone, we decided to do some more viral marketing for the prize. This was to give away our largest shoe wardrobe ever.

“For every like we got on a specific post, we would add an additional dollar to the prize. That ended up being $5800 in the end. We didn’t pay anything for advertising. No paid ads at all.”
The retailer was also able to gauge interest through email reminders, using open rate statistics to determine overall interest.

“We sent out a reminder email to those registered [for Chadstone] with just a follow up and some further details. The open rate on that was 64%, which is quite high. We did a 'get your wish list ready' email to get them familiar with the product. This was for the Westfield Sydney launch and the click through rate on that was 15%.”

Even with great success, Christodoulou knows consumer demands and interests change rapidly. She says moving forward, changes will be made to ensure continued customer engagement and consistently strong ROI.

“If we had to do these again I would certainly re-invent it in some particular way, whether that means bringing it digital or adding another element. I think the formula of the event works and I would stick with that but I would also do something to switch it up. It is definitely important to stick with a formula that works but also just revitalise it a little bit somehow.”


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