How Partnering With Influencers for Retail Activations Can Help Your Products Fly Off the Shelves

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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. 

What is a retail activation?

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. 

Different types of brand retail activations and why they work

Experiential activations

What are experiential activations?

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. 

Three women in sportswear laughing in an example of experiential retail activations

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. 

Why experiential activations work

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. 

How influencers can improve your next experiential activation

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

What are sampling campaigns?

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. 

Why sampling campaigns work

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. 

How influencers can improve your next sampling campaign

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

What is promotional marketing?

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. 

Why promotional marketing works

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.

How influencers can improve your next promotional marketing campaign

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. 

How can influencers help with your next retail activation?

Build hype

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:

  • Give an “exclusive” first look. If your product hasn’t hit the shelves yet, let your influencer introduce it to the world first. That way, you can create some FOMO with their audience and get them excited for when they can try it too. 
  • “Unbox” your product. It’s hard to miss on unboxing content when executed correctly. Social media users love seeing the latest products that arrive for their favorite influencer, so why not have it be yours?
  • Tease the event. Don’t give away any specifics, but have your influencers let their fans know that something cool is on the way and when to expect the big announcement. 

Answer questions

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. 

  • Who is your brand? What does the influencer love about you?
  • What products do you offer? How can they add value to people’s lives?
  • Where can fans take part in the activation? Is it online, in person, or both?
  • When is it happening? How long will it last?

Hold a presale

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. 

Co-host the event

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. 

Ideas for your next retail activation with influencers

Invite local favorites.

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! 

Host a class.

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.  

Hold a charity event.

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. 

  • Donate a portion of your sales to a good cause. Consider your brand values and choose a charity that hits close to home. Partner with influencers who share those values and ask them to help you promote the sale.
  • Match your community’s donation. Hold an event that collects supplies or money for a local organization. Be sure to make a sizeable contribution yourself by either matching the final haul or making a donation for each contribution milestone. 
  • Get your hands dirty. Have your brand sponsor a community clean-up or recreational activities. Your employees will likely be more than happy to show up, but it wouldn’t hurt to incentivize them, as well. The same goes for your influencers!

Invite the ‘maker.’

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. 

Let your creator ‘take over.’

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. 

Key takeaway: Let influencers take the reigns of your next retail activation. 

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

Updated: June 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

An activation strategy is the steps a brand takes to create an interactive experience involving a company, its staff, and its consumers. A successful activation strategy establishes long-term connections within a target market and provides a memorable moment for consumers. 

Three of the most common brand activations are experiential marketing, sampling campaigns, and promotional marketing. 

  • Experiential marketing – Provides consumers with a memorable experience that causes them to see a brand or its products in a new light. These campaigns are perfect for making a brand or product the center of attention while generating UGC and earned media.
  • Product sampling – When a brand offers people free products or experiences, often in exchange for a review or some form of honest feedback. Product sampling is a great way to entice consumers to give your product a shot who might otherwise not have been interested if they had to spend money upfront. 
  • Promotional marketing – This strategy involves any special offer—such as a contest or giveaway—meant to pique consumer interest in a brand or product. Like sampling campaigns, product marketing is a great way to generate brand awareness and help your brand stand out from the competition.

The activation phase of a marketing campaign occurs when a brand puts its promotion into action. The activation should follow a lengthy planning phase and precede a feedback and analysis phase.

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Written by Quinn Schwartz

Quinn studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and now lives in Portland, Oregon. He’s particularly interested in storytelling in digital marketing and cost-effective creator strategies for smaller brands. When he’s not writing, you can find him at a concert, dog park, or debating whether or not to go on a run.

© Grin Technologies Inc. 2024. All rights reserved.

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