Connecting with the customer: using events, demonstrations, expert seminars to create unique retail experiences:
Souvenir shops are in a unique position. They are not the main attraction in any vacation, but they play a starring role in providing guests and customers a chance to take home a little bit of their trip with them. They also serve a very key role as the retailer of necessity; when it comes to feeding, caring and satisfying customer needs.
Souvenir shops can take advantage of these factors in a few ways: 1) Provide them with local, gourmet or unique variations of their favorite necessities and 2) craft experiences that match with the location to keep them shopping longer.
Let’s break this down. If your souvenir retail store sells a mix of high, medium and low price point products, and some of them are sundries, try for a mix of local, made in the USA or specialty products. Examples include locally made portable snacks, made in USA small gift items that are easy to transport on the plane home, and unusual versions of common souvenirs. You might, for instance, have a line of Christmas tree ornaments made from locally-harvested trees, or a hand-crafted line of salted caramel and nut snacks, or even a made in the USA wildlife pendant featuring animals in the store’s region.
Going for unique, unusual and useful is a good way to capture visitor dollars in your store.
Going beyond the take-home souvenir; how to craft guest and customer experiences for greater retail sales
People come to vacation in your area because of the natural experiences. From the extraordinary landscape, to the beach/water/mountain nearby or even the monument or historical site, the primary focus may not be shopping. So how do you weave that in? Create events and experiences!
On busy days in your retail location (or not-so-busy days), develop a series of small events that you can schedule, promote and attract visitors. Invite a local birding expert to do a talk about local birds that are out and about during that time period. Promote the event through visitor centers, outside signage (sandwich boards, banners and other public displays) to capture visitors as they come and go within your community during their stay. Hotels are also a great place that your guests find out about happenings, and while a hotel might not want to promote every retail shop, the local bird watching talk from 10-11 on Saturdays is an event they’re happy to share with their visiting guests.
Host useful product demonstrations
This might be gourmet meal prep and cooking for backpackers or even a cook-off contest using prepackaged meals and snacks that help the backpackers and day trippers see the usefulness of the items you sell in your store.
Hold a photography competition
Have guests submit photos to your social media channels and tag your organization. Offer a freebie or a bounce back coupon (if your retail location serves those who come a long way, send a small token such as a sticker set or a freebie, if they’re not able to purchase something as they’ve left the area.)
A regular series of events built around the interests of your audience will help them come to your location to spend more time – and hopefully, more money – than they typically would.
Organize your store’s décor and experience around customer personas.
Smart retailers like Starbucks built their franchises around control of the experience, from the lighting to the flooring to wall colors and décor. As a retailer, you know these items make a difference. Crafting ways they can stay longer involves creating inviting space where they can do that, or experiences that they want to stay for. A local retailer might offer customers a sample of gourmet hot chocolate (enjoyed while walking around) or a treat. Most customers will stick around for the consuming of the treat, thus spending more time in your store. This also creates marketing reciprocity – the feeling that you’ve given me something, I should buy something (it doesn’t always work, but it does elicit that action in many people!)
If you have a lot of day visitors to your area, provide a spot where they can sit to consider the maps and plan their day’s agenda. Consider staffing it with a member of your team who can answer questions; this would keep customers in your store longer. Positioning this spot next to guide books and accessories for their day’s adventure will put them right in front of the product that they might need.