To express one’s delight at something, there are few better sayings than “like a kid at Christmas.” Yet, for those who grew up as “Toys ‘R’ Us kids,” the news of bankruptcy for the long-time leading toy retailer has them feeling anything but. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the state of the retail industry. But, the good news is the future for Toys “R” Us isn’t bleak. In fact, its plans show promise and come just in time for its most lucrative quarter – the holiday shopping season.
Its strategy, dubbed Project Sunrise, will better merge in-store and online shopping experiences. Yet, the ability to win shoppers over the last few months of 2017 will surround other kinds of “experiences.” For example, the company just announced open positions for toy demonstrators. These temporary holiday staff will play with toys and assist shoppers to do the same. It will also activate its Times Square pop-up shop for the second year in a row. This 33,000 square-foot space will have its brand mascot, Geoffrey, greeting customers amid a NYC-themed backdrop. The store’s temporary status should create FOMO in shoppers to draw them in. And, its interactive elements should encourage them to spend.
This is refreshing, since holiday retail promotions may be stale compared to ongoing consumer brand efforts. And, it seems the strategy for Toys “R” Us is here to stay. The New York Times reports the company “hopes to return to its more experiential roots” once it’s regained financial stability. These efforts should bode well for its future. Yet, time will tell if they’ll be good enough to keep our last toy store chain open, and us like kids at Christmas.
Why Experiential is the Way to Go this Holiday Shopping Season
Traditional holiday retail promotions have lost their edge. For instance, the National Retail Federation (NRF) says shoppers no longer feel pressured to “immediately jump” at deals. This is because they’ve come to expect these deals all season long. So, the burden is back on the companies to rollout their best retail marketing campaigns yet. And, with spending expected to top $1 trillion this holiday shopping season, the competition will be hot.
This is especially true considering the new rivalry from peers who provide services. Almost 75% of millennials prefer to buy experiences, not things, with hard-earned dollars. That’s because experiences help them feel connected to their loved ones, forming closer bonds, something the holidays have in common. And, since the NRF reports millennials, our largest generation, to be the “most conservative holiday spenders,” retailers must offer an experience to stand out. But, activations must make the desired impact – and there are mistakes that can ruin them.
How to Ruin Holiday Retail Promotions
Experiential marketing activations can influence shoppers, no matter if simple or complex. But, there are certain errors to avoid to ensure their effectiveness.
1. Poor Holiday Event Staffing.
The easiest and fastest way to ruin holiday retail promotions is to make careless choices related to holiday event staff. One main error is not having enough staff when it most counts. If your brand puts in the work to drive traffic to physical locations, you must have the right number of people to tend to shoppers. A good practice is to hire temporary staff to execute experiential marketing activations. Then, regular employees can handle point of sale, complex questions and inventory restocking. When retailers don’t have the right support, problems will arise in the short- and long-term. Visitors may leave to spend money elsewhere, harboring a negative perception and choosing not to return – ever.
Another big error is the quality of event staff. That’s because these people are who will execute your experiential marketing plans. They’re the individuals who will help keep people in the store and influence them to buy. So, they must be reliable, driven to perform and capable to do the tasks at hand. An event staffing company can be an expert source for holiday event staff needs. They can ensure retailers avoid the Bad Santa-type workers, while marketers focus on other preparations.
2. A Lackluster Approach.
Experiential marketing activations know no limits. They may surround product demonstrations, entertainment, contests, giveaways, and other interactive elements. Yet, no matter the focus, retailers should put their best efforts into making it great. For instance, product demonstrations should go beyond the basics. This means holiday event staff shouldn’t show how to use the featured blender. They should show how to make a festive beverage for the best holiday parties. Then pour it for all the attendees to try out.
Another critical factor to ensuring an enthusiastic approach comes back to event staff. As an example, retailers don’t want the elves from A Christmas Story working with customers, rushing them through the line. They need event staff with the passion of Buddy the Elf to help get consumers in the spirit of the holidays. After all, a 2015 report showed only 6% of people enjoy shopping this time of year. So, this makes providing them with happiness and increasing their spending that much higher for retailers.
3. Failure to Incorporate Digital.
There’s no doubting the draw people have to online shopping. It’s why Toys “R” Us is centering its comeback strategy around marrying digital and in-store. And, it shouldn’t be overlooked for holiday retail promotions either. NRF’s 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook also talks about the growing use of online wish lists. It says 25% have “used online wish lists to help them in the shopping process.” And, 63% of people would like to “use more wish lists in the future.” Retailers can encourage purchase from these wish lists when they offer in-store experiential marketing activities, for example. These may include a game to get a percentage off a wish list item or a free gift with wish list purchase.
Further, experiential marketing should always incorporate social media sharing opportunities. This allows millennials to be recognized – a main reason they prefer experiences. Plus, it allows retailers to expand the reach of their holiday marketing promotions. That’s because 100% of people share digital content created at events with friends and followers on social media. And, the result for retailers is greater return on engagement, making their holiday retail promotion one for the books.
Let EPS show you how to execute holiday retail promotions that make shoppers feel like kids at Christmas. Download our free Experiential Marketing and Retail ebook and learn how brand experiences drive revenue this holiday season and beyond!