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Creative Connecting: Fun Ideas for Holiday 2022 In-Store Events

ColumnistsSep 27, 2022

Creative Connecting: Fun Ideas for Holiday 2022 In-Store Events

From a “whodunnit” murder mystery to a permanent jewelry party, Duvall O’Steen and Jen Cullen Williams share a wealth of suggestions.

Duvall O’Steen, left, and Jen Cullen Williams are independent communications strategists and senior consultants for the Luxury Brand Group. They can be reached at DuvallOsteenNYC@gmail.com or Jen@JenCullenWilliams.com.
As the holiday season approaches, many people are excited to be out and about again this year. Some, however, are still reluctant to spend time indoors with strangers.

So, how can retailers drive traffic and in-store fun this year, while also balancing everyone’s needs and preferences?

The key is creativity and diligence—plan for great customer experiences and offer inclusive options to keep everyone having fun in your store, with your staff, and most importantly, with your holiday jewelry or gift items.

For this latest column, we spoke with jewelry experts to explore some fun, themed events and the best ways to execute them.

We also discuss how to add options to make it more accessible for anyone who cannot or does not want to attend in person.

Themed Events
Ellen Fruchtman, president of Fruchtman Marketing, has been developing creative events for her retail clients for decades.

She suggests themed holiday parties that ensure a good time for all and create a special draw to get people into the store.

“We’ve done many types of theme parties, from decade-themed parties (‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s) to glam parties where customers are encouraged to play dress-up. The staff is also dressed up. The food all matches the theme, along with signature drinks and fun signage. The point is to carry the theme throughout the entire store.”

For a “whodunnit” mystery-solving event, the company hired a local theater troupe to mingle with the crowd and start up conversations.

“Of course, the invitation alerted the customers to what this would be, so there were no surprises,” Fruchtman said. “When the customer walked in, they were given a card with several stories about the alleged ‘criminals,’ including ‘the crime’ they may have committed and the submission time for their enter-to-win.” 

Having the timing on the cards encouraged customers to stay in the store longer. The customers filled out their cards with their best guesses about whodunnit.

All the correct answers were put into a separate bowl at a specific time. The jeweler then quieted the crowd, said a few words thanking them for coming, and drew the card for the winner.

“They won something fairly significant, which was noted on the invite and the handout, again a good reason to stay. People loved it!”

For another client, Fruchtman Marketing had a treasure box filled with 15 to 20 gifts, all wrapped.

“The gifts can be from the retailer or other outside vendors, or a combination of both, with one grand prize,” she advised.

The store sent an invitation holding a key, telling each customer to bring the key to the store to see if they had won any of the gifts.

“Pardon the pun, but the key to this was to have many gifts wrapped so that customers felt they had a decent chance to win. By the way, this has been done with both upscale retailers and some who were more middle-tier. And every customer loved it.”  

Every key mailed to the customers was actually a dummy key because the store had no idea who or how many were going to RSVP. 

As customers walked in, they could immediately try their key in the treasure chest. When it did not open, there was a second-chance bowl that held approximately the right number of keys based on the RSVPs, plus a few more. 

“The winning keys were mixed into the second-chance bowl,” Fruchtman explained. “When the treasure chest was opened, there was always a big response from the customers. And we would ring a bell, so everyone knew each time a prize was awarded.”
 
Other fun Fruchtman events include ladies’ night with experience stations in the store like mani/pedis, makeovers, and massage, or gentlemen’s night with bourbon tasting, mixology classes, blackjack with the store owner, and sports trivia. 

Choose events your clientele will likely respond to and offer prizes that entice them to come, like gift cards, discounts, or experiences or products from other local luxury service suppliers. 

“We always ask our retailers to pull an invitation list going back no more than four years with single and cumulative purchases of a specific dollar amount, based on the level of retailer. The invitation is often enough for a good customer to want to attend. Truthfully, if you do a nice enough party, they look forward to it,” Fruchtman said. 

“In addition to the printed invitation, we recommend emailing a save-the-date notice quite early. Another email should be sent just after they have received the printed invitation, and a third the day before as the final reminder.”

For those retailers who find many of their invitees are still hesitant about being at a crowded indoor event, get creative with hybrid events. 

Perhaps online partygoers in a virtual event can still guess whodunnit or play along with sports trivia. 

For more experiential events, like mani/pedis or massage, offer timed appointments earlier in the day for anyone hoping to avoid a crowded store. 

Two gifts in the treasure hunt night could be saved for later, with chances offered by appointment only to key holders who received the invite but could not attend.

Virtual attendance options could also prove effective should the pandemic take another unexpected turn. 

Consider bringing social media into the fun as well. 

For example, every time a customer likes or shares one of your posts, they can gain an extra chance to win in a grand-prize drawing. 

Or if customers post a photo of themselves in their favorite jewelry purchased at your store and tag you, they can earn discounts, prizes, or chances to win. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

Piercing and ‘Zapping’ Parties
Katherine Whitacre, U.S. sales director for Chic Pistachio’s Aurelie Gi brand, said their retailers are having great success recently with permanent jewelry, offering it as a personalized jewelry experience rather than just another product sale. 

“The so-called ‘zapping parties’ are everywhere now! So, if you’re not in on the trend, you are losing customers to other retailers,” said Whitacre. 

And they are not just for holidays either. Permanent bracelets offer opportunities for year-round sales as mother-daughter duos, couples, best friends, and bridal parties can plan a time to come into the store to get “zapped” together.  

For gifting the bracelet, Whitacre suggests creating a special note or card for inclusion in the gift box, inviting the recipient to a future zapping appointment. 

Also, consider offering to host a zapping experience for your bridal customers or your best jewelry customers, inviting them to bring their loved ones in with them. Snacks and services, like manicures, could be part of the experience.

Piercing events have also become popular as the trend for curating the perfect ear continues to thrive. 

“Piercing parties are so much fun and so much in demand,” Whitacre said. 

She recommended partnering with a professional piercer and doing some thoughtful planning to make this type of event safe and successful. 

“The first step is to make sure you are following your state’s health department’s requirements, including acquiring a temporary license. Next, find a professional piercer to perform safe needle piercing (no guns!). Be sure to check out Google reviews to find a reputable piercer with good hygiene.”

Some stores are combining the trends to offer “Piercing & Zapping” parties.  

Every client can potentially go home with a new piece of jewelry, either a permanent bracelet or new earrings. 

For best results, make these events multi-generational; invite moms, daughters, and grandmothers, and encourage everyone you invite to bring their loved ones. 

It can be a powerful and memorable moment when people get “zapped” together. Be sure to have a staff member snap some pics for Instagram but ask permission before posting. 
Depending on the type of event, retailers may want to consider advertising or promoting the event publicly. But there is also a certain prestige and flattery involved in exclusive events, reserved for your best customers only. 

Decide on the goals in advance—are you looking to attract new customers or get your best customers into the store for purchasing? Both are viable but require different marketing tactics. 

Creating a memorable experience in the store (and/or online for the hybrid events) is key. Shared experiences build customer loyalty and satisfaction and can strengthen your store’s reputation in the local market. 

If it is something you would enjoy, chances are good your customers will enjoy it too. 

Be sure to add the all-important personal touch: get on the phones if RSVPs are not coming in, and make sure the owner of the store is present at the event and even participates in the games or the zapping. If you have fun, they have fun. 

And if your local city laws allow it, serve some bubbly or have a full bar. A festive drink will often help overcome purchase resistance.

Here’s wishing you all a creative, fun, and successful fourth quarter selling season! 

But … don’t stop there. These types of events can be achieved throughout the calendar year, helping boost sales in an otherwise quiet month. 

Let us know what your best in-store event was, and send us your comments about the ideas we’ve shared here. Good luck!

Duvall O'Steenis an independent communications strategist and senior consultant for the Luxury Brand Group.
Jen Cullen Williamsis an independent communications strategist and senior consultant for the Luxury Brand Group.

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