February 5, 2021

The top 4 types of events for retailers and how to choose the right one during a pandemic


Gathering. It’s a word that is used to incite so much joy and anticipation, but with the current Covid-19 pandemic, the thought of gathering now causes anxiety or stress.

While most in-person events came to a halt at the onset of the virus last March, vaccines have brought hope that in-person events will happen again this year. In a recent survey by Northstar Meetings Group, fewer than half of the 850 respondents anticipate holding meetings and events with an in-person audience before Q3 2021; one in four won’t hold meetings until Q4 2021 or later.

However, some businesses are already hosting live, face-to-face events in different capacities. To hold an event is a personal decision for retailers, with much to consider. Here are ways to execute a successful promotional event during a pandemic.

1. Virtual events

By now, we’re all accustomed to virtual experiences, and with more people shopping online, virtual events are a no-brainer for retailers large and small. It’s a safe way to showcase last-minute gift ideas and hot ticket items or release new products or services. But as time passes, interest from customers can wane and monotony sets in.

Just like in-person events of the past, retailers must constantly reimagine and reinvigorate virtual happenings. These events are only successful – and profitable – if attendees are engaged. Virtual events should offer the element of surprise, interaction, and be kept short and sweet. Just as important as the virtual event itself is the follow up. Retailers can use social media or surveys to garner feedback on what worked and what did not.

2. Wow-worthy live events

In the midst of a pandemic, retailers must offer a compelling reason for customers to attend a live event. Firstly, that means evaluating the risk factors. After looking at local health guidelines, retailers must figure out how to emphasize safety protocols, which could range from rethinking floorspace to choosing outdoors versus indoors and customer control and flow.

After nailing down the safety procedures, consider what makes your event worth leaving home, rather than watching it online. Retailers want to entice customers with a wow-worthy, exclusive event that will build brand loyalty. Positioning your event as a unique opportunity only offered to a limited number of people checks off the safety aspect and makes your customers feel important. The event should be hyper-focused on customer benefit. Whether it’s the chance to see and experience a product first, scoop up exclusive discounts or receive elevated customer service.

Another major event element that’s changed since the onset of Covid-19 is time. The days of lingering events are gone, and the key is to get customers in and out quickly. That will mean efficient and knowledgeable customer service and fast, contactless payment or even slotted RSVP times to control group numbers.

Bottom line: Pulling off a safe and successful live event takes a lot of thought and tedious work. If there’s any doubt you can’t do it safely, you should pivot to another option.

3. Hybrid events

Hosting a hybrid event is a way for retailers to get the best of all worlds. In an informal survey held during the annual Global Meetings Industry Day in April by PCMA, 62% of event planners said the future of events is hybrid.

In case you haven’t heard the term, hybrid events offer retailers the powerful chance to host a live, limited-person event, while combining a virtual component like livestreaming on social media to capture those customers who can’t/don’t want to attend in person.

Hybrid events can be used to showcase or launch new products and give retailers the opportunity to reach as many people as possible. The digital and online aspect also offers the chance to track customers and their feedback.

4. Pop-ups are poppin’

While pop-up stores aren’t new, excitement for them hasn’t faded. They’re fun and flexible, and who doesn’t need that right now? Hosting a pop-up event is another chance for retailers to safely host an in-person experience while also extending their reach.

Retailers can pop up at different locations outside of the typical mall or strip mall; partner with other businesses in the community for a store within a store; or host an event in an airy, free-standing space, such as parking lots, tents or sidewalks to socially distance customers.

Pop-ups present the opportunity to introduce new brands; allow customers to see and test physical merchandise and products; and do what we’ve missed most during the pandemic – interact. Once again, the key is keeping the event small and getting customers in and out quickly. It’s also a great way to capture the curbside pickup trend. If an in-person pop-up feels too risky, there’s the option to host timed, virtual pop-up markets to drive retail sales.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and retailers may need to mix and match event styles according to the current Covid-19 climate. Events, whether virtual or in person, are still the most meaningful way to reach and connect with customers. Don’t cancel events – just make sure your event is worth the RSVP.

To learn more about Brett Beveridge, his company, T-ROC Global, his awards, speaking opportunities and upcoming ForbesBooks launch, visit www.brettbeveridge.com.

The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC Global) is home to four sales solutions companies that enable clients to fulfill all of their sales performance needs. The companies are: The Retail Outsource (TRO), Mobile Insight (MI), The Consumer Insight (TCI), and SYMBITS.

Brett Beveridge is the founder and chief executive officer for The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC Global). Beveridge is a serial entrepreneur who builds businesses from the ground up. Since founding T-ROC Global, the company has evolved to become a leader in the wireless, electronics, software and retail industries.

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