Re-energise Tired Christmas Shoppers & Boost Flagging Retail Sales With Experiential Marketing

It’s funny how the meaning of Christmas can be so different when you’re in a marketing or sales related job role. From a specialist experiential agency perspective, the focus on helping to create memorable interactions to drive sales for our clients always presents a range of fun opportunities to extend seasonal themes to brands that would not otherwise be synonymous with the festive season. Creativity abounds within this festive push – as seemingly bigger, bolder and more impactful activity is launched onto retail spaces to turn the tide against increasing web sales.

The upward trend of online retail is now so pronounced that the key dates for both sales and experiential activity has changed. Only a few years ago the UK’s peak shopping and sales days were in the week after Christmas. Now, the dates around Black Friday and Cyber Monday (end of Nov) take the lion’s share of the takings.

So how can creating an experiential on street presence, out perform what can be achieved online or via traditional media?

Proximity is Paramount The ability to influence purchasing decisions by presenting information via newspaper ads, TV or even online / social media when the recipients are miles from the shops, is limited. The receivers’ ability to keep the information in mind and in focus, is virtually impossible when pushed to the periphery with the next Facebook post, advert or message. By comparison, by engaging with shoppers while they are actually out shopping, on the high street, enables the recipient to take immediate action. Not only is the distance barrier removed, but they can be approached when they are in active ‘shopping mode’ – and are proactively looking for items to purchase.

If the Schuh fits A simple example of this principal in action was the distribution of sales incentives from the canny Scottish based high street retailer Schuh. They utilised teams of brand ambassadors in front of their stores, to hand out discount vouchers and temporary tattoos that pledged ‘devotion’ to the retailer. The customers who wore that tattoos, were rewarded with £10 vouchers to spend in store (and put towards the higher priced shoes). The fun creative and immediacy of the incentive grew an initial trial from an test campaign in one city to a national campaign across their top flagships across 10 major cities – delivering strong, measurable ROI in each.

Christmas all wrapped up? If you’re not yet convinced that Christmas cheer alone can help drive sales, you might consider the lazy shopper gift wrapping incentive that Gap fashion retail giant implemented pre Xmas. Teams of brand ambassadors were trained up on decorative gift wrapping techniques, provided with a table counter – and put into their flagship stores. The effect on uplifting sales was remarkable: the stores which had the gift wrappers all achieved their record sales ever, by encouraging multiple purchase. Shoppers who had gone in either to browse or purchase just one item often came away with multiple purchases, because of the free gift wrapping service. Who amongst you readers might be tempted to take the easy option there too – if you could save yourself the effort and frustration of creating beautifully wrapped gifts for your loved ones!? Job done.

Location, location!  What if your customers are not passing your stores, perhaps due to their locations? How can experiential engagement overcome distance?

Department store chain House of Fraser had just such a problem at a number of their sites which are just off the main walkways or on the edge of the high street retail zone. In these locations – a network of promotional rickshaws and drivers were deployed to whisk weary shoppers to their front doors. The appreciative customers were collected from office areas, train stations and other targeted sites around each city – to be dropped off with a celebrity style paparazzi welcome; making them feel even more special and wowed.

Made you look!  Conversely – some high street chains have fantastic locations, but attract little interest in getting people into their stores. For the new branch of Barclays Bank (newly open on weekends), its dominant high street position was largely being ignored by the throngs of shoppers obliviously passing by each day. So to make a real song and dance out of it – costumed bands played in front of it, performance artists breathed life around it and teams of promotion staff handed out branded cupcakes to invite people in. As a further gift to the people – the store was wrapped in a giant ribbon, stretching 10 meters across the entire width and finished with a neat bow. The impact attracted regional media, Barclays Global CEO, CFO and the Lord Mayor of Manchester; who all came to see what was happening too.

You want us to do what!? If you think it’s all been done before – then one final example might persuade you that anything is possible: To create stand out impact for the high street optician Vision Express and to create a sharable media buzz for their association of eyesight testing for safe driving; cars were ‘crashed’ through an array of their most prominent high street stores!

While shoppers didn’t see the actual moment of crash impact, they did see the end result! What they didn’t see (carried out in the small hours) was window panes being carefully removed, scaffold ramps being built, cars being delicately driven in, shards of fake glass scattered and ramps being partially removed). A number of staged, fake motorists who played character roles of dazed and confused customers on their way to get their eyes tested, stood in front of the car crash stores where they engaged with the shoppers and TV media crews who flocked around to take photos and share the spectacle!

A snow storm of ideas! If the possibility of staged car crashes sends your mind spinning into a blizzard of seasonal possibilities; you might do well to let the sunlight of your focus land on our top five seasonal services, that are quick, easy and affordable to implement:

  1. Christmas gift guide or voucher distribution: There’s no denying that some of the best ideas are the simplest. Using well briefed teams to enthusiastically present your company’s seasonal ranges to show shoppers what you have on offer, while they are passing by your stores in shopping mode – is a simple and highly effective way of driving your stores’ seasonal sales.
  2. Promotional elves, with goody bags: Who doesn’t love an elf with a goody bag!? Stripy green leotards, funny hats and cheeky smiles will melt the coldest of hearts. Bah humbug to those who can refuse the charms of a freckle faced elf this promoting your brand this Christmas!
  3. Snow sleigh rickshaws: Okay, so without the presence of permafrost, they are actually normal rickshaws decorated to look like Santa’s snow sleigh. They still whisk away tired shoppers on a free ride, straight into the loving arms and warm welcome of your stores (no other destinations will be offered!).
  4. Xmas gift wrapping service: You know the busy/lazy part of you, would love this service too. We’re not saying thatall men would quickly succumb to this free gift wrapping as a purchase incentive; only about 95% of them.
  5. Carol singers in store: Oh what fun it is… when people start singing Christmas songs live in your stores! Our trained performance artists can conduct a mix of staged singing events in front of your main entrances, by the tills – and even bring some pre-planned impromptu singing to life on the aisles, while dressed as normal members of the public.

…Tweet your heart out Santa!

Please get in touch to chat through your requirements or the ideas of most interest to you. We do have our own teams of little helpers to bring the miracle of Christmas to life for your brand (but we’d ideally request a couple of weeks’ notice please) – so please contact us during September or October to start your own ‘snow’ ball rolling…

Joel Kaufman, MD, Link Communication

0113 278 7808

Say Hello!