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Episode 129 - Event Strategies for Shopify Stores

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Hey, Scott Austin here.

In this episode, I want to talk about strategies that you can you take to maximize your business gains for participating in events. Now these strategies can cover a wide variety of events including:

  1. Industry Trade Shows and Expos: By setting up a booth or attending as guests, staff can meet potential customers who have a direct interest in their industry. It's an excellent opportunity to showcase products, offer demonstrations, and directly engage with an interested audience.
  2. Local Community Events: Participating in local fairs, markets, and festivals can help you connect with the community. These events are especially beneficial for stores with products that appeal to local tastes, interests, or needs.
  3. Pop-Up Shops: A temporary retail space in high foot-traffic areas can attract potential customers who may not be as active online. Pop-up shops offer a tangible brand experience, allowing staff to interact face-to-face with shoppers.
  4. Workshops and Seminars: Hosting or participating in educational events related to your product or industry can attract individuals interested in learning more about your area of expertise. This positions your brand as knowledgeable and helpful, fostering trust with potential customers.
  5. Lifestyle and Hobby Events: If your e-commerce store caters to specific hobbies, lifestyles, or interests, attending relevant events can put you directly in touch with your target audience. For example, a store selling outdoor gear might attend hiking and camping expos.
  6. Charity Events and Sponsorships: Sponsoring or participating in charity events can not only contribute to a good cause but also introduce your brand to potential customers who value corporate social responsibility.
  7. Sports Events and Competitions: If your products are related to sports or active lifestyles, sponsoring or setting up booths at these events can help you engage with people passionate about these activities.
  8. Cultural and Arts Festivals: These events are great for brands that sell products related to art, culture, and lifestyle. They attract diverse crowds and provide a platform for customer engagement.
  9. Educational Institutions: Collaborating with schools, colleges, and universities for events or sponsorships can introduce your brand to young adults and families, especially if your products align with the interests or needs of students.
  10. Your Own Event:  You may be hosting your own event for occasions like a store launch, a product launch or other milestone. 

All of these event could be ones where you are interacting with B2C or B2B potential customers.  These strategies will work in both situations.

To keep things focussed and simplified, I propose these 3 simple goals for your event participation:

  1. Sell
  2. Better understand your customers
  3. Get email addresses


Now the sell bucket is pretty easy to understand, so I won't be digging into it. 

But the event you are at might not be right for selling your products.  Or selling may be difficult if your product has a long selling cycle or the event is not the right time for the customer to be making a purchase decision.  So let's move onto strategies for the other two goals.

Better Understand your Customers

Many stores have the intention of going to an event to get the word out about their brand.  So they're prepared to tell potential customers the brand story and the product value-props.  In other words, they are prepared to talk in an attempt to convince customers.  But there is a ton of value to be gotten from instead listening to customers.  You see, one of the challenges of an online business is the limited opportunities you get to have conversations with customers.  One of the things that all brands are trying to figure out is there product-market fit.  Product-market fit refers to the degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand. It indicates that the product offering meets the needs and desires of its target market well enough to sustain and grow its customer base. Achieving product-market fit is considered a pivotal moment for a product's success, as it often leads to increased sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.

And one great way to better understand your product-market fit is by having conservations with people and asking them lots of questions.  Here are some ideas for questions to ask.  These are just to get you thinking.  You should be able to come with more appropriate questions for your brand.

  1. What brings you to [Event Name] today?  This is an opener to understand what the customer is looking for.

  2. Have you heard of our brand/store before? Helps gauge brand awareness and perception.

  3. What kind of products are you interested in? Directs the conversation towards specific interests.

  4. What are the most important features you look for in [product type]? Understands priorities in their decision-making.

  5. Can you share an experience you’ve had with a similar product? Identifies likes or dislikes in competitors’ products.

  6. How do you usually use [type of product]? Reveals customer usage patterns and potentially unique use cases.

  7. What has been your biggest challenge with [type of product]? Uncovers problems that your product might solve.

  8. Are there specific brands or products you’re loyal to? Why? Gives insight into competitors and brand preferences.

  9. Is there something you wish [type of product] would offer that you haven’t found yet? Identifies gaps in the market.

  10. How important is sustainability/ethical sourcing to you when choosing [product type]? Understands values that might influence purchasing decisions.

  11. Do you prefer shopping online or in-store? Why? Gauges preferences for shopping experience.

  12. What’s the most recent [type of product] you purchased, and what was your experience? Provides insight into recent purchasing behaviors and expectations.

  13. How do you typically discover new products or brands? Understands channels for discovery and marketing opportunities.

  14. What factors influence your decision to try a new brand or product? Identifies key motivators for brand switching or trial.

  15. Do you follow any online forums or influencers who discuss [product category]? Reveals potential partnerships or marketing avenues.

  16. When choosing [product type], what information do you typically look for? Highlights the importance of product information and marketing materials.

  17. How do you feel about [a recent trend] in [product category]? Assesses awareness and opinions on industry trends.

  18. Is there a feature or service that would make your experience with [product type] better? Directly asks for improvement suggestions.

  19. Have you ever had to return a [product type]? If so, why? Uncovers common issues or dissatisfaction reasons.

  20. What would make you choose our brand over others? Seeks direct feedback on brand differentiators or preferences.

And the goal is not just get the answer to a single question.  It's use the question to start a conversation where you get a deeper understanding of what motivates this customer.  This is called qualitative data.  Where surveys and such are quantitative data.  In quantitative data, you may ask thousands of people the same exact list of questions and gain insights from the cumulative results.  But qualitative data is more open ended and can lead to eye-opening learnings.  This is because much of the quantitative data is based on our understanding of the customer which results in the questions and choices we put in the survery being influenced by our biases.  But with qualitative, we're letting the customer speak more which can lead in directions we didn't anticipate.  And that is where the gold can be found.  You see, our goal should be to have our product marketing speak to customers in ways they understand and about things they care about instead of the ways we see our products. 

Here's a simplified example to illustrate the point.  Let's say we manufacture a water bottle that has an aluminum top that meets strict machining tolerences so that it will last for essentially forever.  Well the engineering team might say that the product messaging should be that our 6061 Aluminum Top is manufactured within ISO 324 Tolerences for lasting durability.  But the marketing team may do research and understand that all the customer cares about is the durability.  So their messaging becomes Lifetime Warranty!

So, while at the event, store staff should have a goal to better understand what customers want from your and competitor products.  So have some desired learnings outlined during your event planning.  That could be some tactical things like which shade of blue do you prefer.  Or it could go deeper like how does this product make the customer feel.  By having the desired learnings outlined in advance, store staff can ensure their conversation get these answers.  Additionally, they'll need to be alert enough to get the unintended nuggets of gold that customers will also reveal.

Collecting Email Addresses

Collecting email addresses or phone numbers at the event can be very valuable as it gives you the opportunity to market after the event.  If you've picked your event well, many of the people you are meeting at the event are potential customers. So if you can capture their email now, you'll be able to nuture them into becoming a customer later.  Now I want to focus on one strategy for motivating customers to provide their email and that is an Enter-to-Win drawing.  You see, Enter-to-Win is a proven motivator that will result in you collecting more emails than if you had offered a discount on purchases.  

Here's some of the underlying psychology and how it compares to discount incentives:

1. The Lure of Winning

  • Excitement and Anticipation: The chance to win something creates excitement and anticipation, which are strong emotional drivers. This anticipation of a possible win is ussually more appealing than the immediate gratification of a discount.
  • Value Perception: Consumers often perceive the potential value of a big prize as higher than the savings from a discount. The idea of getting something of substantial value for little to no cost is very enticing.

2. Perceived Exclusivity and Rarity

  • Exclusivity: Winning a prize feels exclusive and special, making it more desirable than a discount that is available to everyone.
  • Rarity: Prizes, especially big ones, are rare and unique. The rarity increases the perceived value and the desire to win.

    3. Risk vs. Reward

    • Low Risk: The risk involved in entering the contest is low as its just providing an email address.
    • Greater Perceived Reward: Compared to the certain but relatively small reward of a discount, the potential high value of a prize can seem more appealing, even if the odds of winning are low.

    4. Psychological Ownership

    • Imagining Ownership: When participants enter to win, they might start imagining owning the prize, creating a sense of psychological ownership that increases desire.

    Comparison to Discount Offers

    While discounts are straightforward and provide immediate value, they may not always engage the consumer's emotions and imagination in the same way a contest can.

    Discounts are ubiquitous and may not stand out, whereas a big prize contest can differentiate a brand and create memorable interactions. The effectiveness of a discount can also depend on the consumer's current need or desire for the product, whereas a contest's appeal is broader, attracting even those who might not have considered purchasing immediately.

    In summary, "enter to win a big prize" promotions tap into deeper layers of consumer psychology, leveraging excitement, anticipation, exclusivity, and the joy of participation. These factors can make such promotions more motivating than straightforward discounts, encouraging broader participation and leading to an increase in email sign-ups, brand awareness, and engagement.

    Okay, so I hope that by now I've convinced you to run an Enter to Win campaign at your next event.  Let's get into some of the tactical details on how to execute the email collection.  If you are at a well run and and sophisticated event, every attendee may have a lanyard and the event may rent you scanners to scan the lanyards and collect emails.  But most events aren't at this level of sophistication, so you'll need to set up your collection process.  Here's how I set it up for my clients.  

    For all my clients, I use Klaviyo for email.  So I set up an email collection form in Klaviyo.  Then I add the form to a page on the Shopify store.  I then adjust the page so that it doesn't have a header or footer.  That way, the only thing that can be done on the page is to add your email address -- there are no other links on the page.  Then I add some content to the email collection page that is the message for this particular event.  That message goes along the lines of showing the event logo and describing the enter to win prize for this event.

    For each event, I update the Klaviyo form to record the name of the event.  That way, I can create a segment of emails gathered at the event.  At the very least, we'll be emailing that segment about who was the winner of the drawing.  I've got a link in the show notes to a video that explains how to add the event to the data collected in the Klaviyo form.

    You can make QR codes that point to the sign-up page and add them to your event signage.  Additionally, you should have a tablet at the event opened to the sign-up page that customers use to enter.


    So that's it for this episode.  Here's what I want to take away.  In addition to selling at events, you should also be:

    1. Asking customers questions to better understand your product-market fit.
    2. Collecting email addresses.  An effective way to collect emails is to have an Enter-to-Win drawing with a substantial prize.

    I hope these tips help you get more value out of the events you attend.

    Thanks for listening.

    JadePuma is a certified Shopify Expert. If you need any help with your Shopify store, we can help.