Whether it’s taking a slip n’ slide on a morning commute or using a cupcake to buy a pair of shoes, brands have proved time and time again that no idea is too far-fetched in the retail activation brainstorm.
And as consumers integrate farther into our digital environment every day, social media content creators have become essential in planning, executing, and capitalizing on every so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea marketers come up with.
Let’s take a closer look at how partnering with brand-aligned influencers for your next retail activation can help your products fly off the shelves.
A retail activation is when a brand creates an interactive experience involving the company, its staff, and its consumers. The best retail activations inspire creativity and immerse the audience in a brand and its products. When done successfully, these activations establish long-term connections with a target audience and create shareable moments the brand can repurpose across its marketing mix.
These activations can take place in a public space, online, or even in virtual reality. The only thing that matters is that everyone involved walks away with a brand experience they won’t soon forget.
Experiential marketing provides consumers with a memorable experience that causes them to see a brand or its products in a new light. You can implement the strategy online or in person so long as there is real-time communication between brand and consumer.
In a nutshell, you can boil experiential marketing down to one question: Is this something people will tell their friends about later? If the answer is yes, you will likely be happy with your results.
Experiential marketing makes your brand and products the center of attention while creating a fun and engaging experience for everyone involved. It can also be a great way to generate user-generated content (UGC) and earned media.
Digital media brand Refinery29 does this to perfection with its 29Rooms campaign. The “funhouse-style” event consists of 29 separate rooms, each curated by a different brand partner. Each promotion generates hundreds of pieces of UGC from attendees and provides positive press from outlets that cover the eye-catching event.
Influencers understand what their audience wants better than anyone, making them the perfect partners for experiential marketing activations. And by getting them involved in the planning process early, you’ll have the luxury of an event planner, host, and salesperson all wrapped into one. Just be sure to give them the space they need to help create an experience that both your audiences will remember.
Sampling campaigns are all about getting merchandise into the hands of consumers. This generally means offering people free products or experiences, often in exchange for a review or some form of honest feedback.
Consumers pay attention when they hear the word “free.” And by offering a no-strings-attached gift, you’ll entice consumers to give your product a shot who might otherwise not have been interested if they had to spend money upfront.
Snyder’s of Hanover made its name synonymous with National Pretzel Day with a massive sampling campaign in 2014. The brand distributed over 200,000 free samples in nine major cities, generating more than 120 million impressions and earning media coverage from news outlets like ABC, TIME, and CNN.
Influencers can help promote sampling campaigns or host one themselves on social media. And by partnering with creators who align with your brand, you can be sure you’ll get your free samples into the hands of people most likely to appreciate and find value in your products.
Promotional marketing involves any special offer—such as a contest or giveaway—meant to pique consumer interest in a brand or product. You can also use promotional marketing to “sweeten” the deal with an additional benefit after a customer completes a purchase.
Like sampling campaigns, product marketing is a great way to generate brand awareness and help your brand stand out from the competition. It’s also useful for accumulating engagements online when people like or share a post for their chance to win.
Yeti teamed up with Traeger in 2021 to give away three prize packs to fans who submitted the best photos of their BBQ setups and tagged the brands. The campaign generated hundreds of pieces of UGC that both brands used across their entire marketing mix.
Influencers are famous for hosting contests and giveaways on their social media channels. Creators who genuinely love your brand will be more than happy to share their excitement for your products through promotional content and pass that positive sentiment on to their audience.
Before launching your next retail activation, consider using influencers to help spread awareness and build hype around the event. Be sure to give them a free sample of whatever you plan to promote during the activation so they can get to know the product and introduce it to their audience.
Here are a few approaches to consider to help your influencers build awareness for your activation:
As more hype builds for your retail activation, chances are people will have additional questions about your event and brand in general. Live FAQs with you and your influencers create an engaging way to give people everything they need to know. And if you haven’t fully answered the four W’s (who, what, where, when), this is the time.
Presales are a great way to give customers a sneak peek of your retail activation and generate some leads before the event. Inviting influencers to host presales on social media will help ensure the promotional gets in front of an engaged audience and add some additional buzz for your activation.
Inviting influencers to help host your retail activations gives attendees a familiar face when they arrive. It also creates some great photo opportunities for people meeting their favorite creator for the first time at your event.
Many influencers will jump at the opportunity to co-host an event if they are fans of your brand themselves. And giving them a chance to interact with their audience in a real-life setting instead of on social media will add to the strong connection they already have with their fans.
Unless you’re inviting a big-name star to your event, it’s best just to keep things local. Partnering with local creators gives your event far more of a community vibe and ensures everyone in attendance has something in common.
At the end of the day, recommendations from hometown nano and micro influencers can carry just as much weight as a more recognizable national name. After all, they’ve sampled the competition and chosen you!
Holding classes at your retail activation is a fun way to teach your customers something new while showcasing hobby-specific products that you can provide them.
If you have an arts and crafts store, invite a creator to teach a DIY class using some of your inventory.
Do you sell sporting goods? Why not have an influencer teach a workout class with some of your equipment?
These types of classes can quickly reignite a passion for an old hobby or introduce someone to a new one. And making them a part of your next retail activation ensures you’re in a position to provide them with everything they need to embrace it.
Hosting a local charity event shows your community you care about more than just making money. And while you and your influencer partners should certainly let people know about the event on social media, make sure you’re holding it for the right reasons—not just for clout.
There are a few common ways to add a charity element to your next activation.
If you sell products made by a specific designer or artisan, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and invite them to your next retail activation. Consumers form a deeper connection to brands and products when they get to see the faces behind them, and allowing them to meet the maker could be the last step to locking in brand affinity.
While you want your influencer to spend most of their time engaging with people who showed up for the activation, having them do an “influencer takeover” on social media is a nice touch for those unable to attend in person. This strategy generally means the influencer “takes over” a brand’s social media account and gives viewers a first-hand look at the event. Adding a “behind the scenes” element to the takeover can also create exclusivity for people willing to watch in real time.
There are many routes you can take on your way to your next successful retail activation. And partnering with brand-aligned influencers helps ensure you create an experience that resonates with consumers no matter which one you take. Whether you want to generate brand awareness, drive sales, introduce a new product, or all of the above, influencers might just be the ticket to creating the unforgettable moment you’re looking for.
Learn more about influencer marketing: Influencer Marketing 101
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