museums&MORE Summer 2010
10 Ways to be a Shoppertainer

By Anne Obarski, Special to Party & Paper Retailer

Just look around your own town and you will see advertisements for wine tasting, food sampling, free merchandise, free lessons, VIP shopping hours, gourmet food classes and the list goes on. People love to have an experience when they shop.

But shoppertainment,” as it is called, is more than just handing out free samples. It is about creating an experience through well planned and well-executed store events and promotions. The goal, like any good entertainment, is to create a buzz about your business that creates a loyal following of shoppertainment groupies!

I was just at my local mall this weekend and found that “buzz” being created in the local Disney store. This particular Saturday was Princess Saturday, an event held mid-day for little girls to dress up in their favorite Disney princess outfit and come to the store for a tea party. At least 25 little girls were accompanied by parents and grandparents, who were catching every special moment on the newest pieces of technology.

The girls received their own paper crowns, learned how to have a tea party the “correct” way and then they paraded around the store using their newfound talent, the princess wave. Not only was the event a huge success, but the store managers ran 25 percent off all Disney princess merchandise during the two-hour event.

Let’s debrief this event from a business standpoint:

  • The event was planned for a Saturday when their “target market” was available.
  • The theme allowed the target market to become physically involved by wearing a princess outfit.
  • The “party” only required paper crowns and a small area in the back of the store.
  • The program was put on by young employees who became princess mentors.
  • The short parade around the store allowed the parental paparazzi a chance to follow them, while the 25 percent off all special was announced.

I don’t know what the sales were during that time period, but I know there were very few people who left that store without a package, including me. I didn’t even have a little princess at the store that day, but I do have one in my life, and I proceeded to ask the cashier what the next event was so that she wouldn’t miss out.

Let’s look at how you can plan events throughout the year that will bring your customer back to enjoy your anticipated entertainment.

1. Events Trump Regular Sales: Customers expect to see something on sale within your store. Sales may bring them in if the savings is impressive, the quantity is limited or their need is immediate. Your goal is to create another reason to bring them back without hanging out the “sales carrot.”

2. Pre-plan: Pull out your calendar and choose days of the month that you would gain from increased traffic. Define your target audience and never lose sight of that goal. How many events you do per month or per quarter or per year, depends on your organizational skills to make it happen. I suggest at least once a month.

3. Create a “hook”: The hook should be something people can repeat to their friends. Use what happens in that month to be your starting point. Ask for ideas from your employees and the event will become a team effort.

4. Set a Budget: How do you currently advertise? If your marketing efforts are through social media like Twitter, Facebook or your Web site, you have little investment other than time. Decide your best marketing vehicle and how much it will cost to advertise in it. Stick to your budget and the advertising schedule.

5. Set Goals: What do you want to achieve with this event? If you want to increase sales, then plan a realistic sales goal for the day. If you are interested in increasing foot traffic and database entries, then plan a customer count goal.

6. Sweat the small stuff: Pay extra attention to all the details of the event and make sure that all of your employees have a job description for the day. Address the importance of having a great attitude in order to produce top-notch event.

7. Publicity: Get the information out about your event in the most cost effective and strategic way that your customer likes to receive information about your store and its events. If you don’t publicize your event, you can’t expect it to be successful. Store flyers, chamber newsletters, local paper, Tweets, Facebook, Web sites, e-mail marketing, sandwich board signs, etc.— the ways are endless.

8. Execution:
Fun, fun, fun. That is really what “shoppertainment” stands for. The American Institute of Stress and the American Psychological Association show that 66 percent of Americans would welcome help in dealing with stress in their lives. It makes sense that people welcome some “fun” in their lives, and those companies who deliver “fun” are more likely to retain happy customers.

9. Debrief: Did you meet your goals? What was your ROI? Hold a meeting with your staff to discuss the areas of your event that went well and those that could have been improved upon. Make sure to take good notes so that you’re able to duplicate the successful points and work on those that weren’t. This allows you to be more strategically focused about what actions to take the next time.

10. Next Show: What’s next? By creating an “event template,” you have a step-by-step system that can be used for every event. You also can assign employees to various tasks that they have had experience in completing. The names of the events may change but the process remains the same. Even when an event seems to have been less than successful, it is a good idea to re-visit the event and ask your team if you chose to do that event again, what you could do different that would generate a positive outcome.

Most stores would like more traffic, yet most retailers fail to ask for more traffic. Event planning is the new path to create more “word of mouth” advertising, as customers who truly have fun shopping at your store are more likely to share what you do with all their friends.

Plan more events, ask your customers to attend and provide a fun shopping experience and they will start to describe you as a “shoppertainer” too!

Anne Obarski is the executive director of Merchandise Concepts, professional speaker and author. For more information, visit or e-mail her at

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