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How to Reach the Right Retail Audience

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Brandon Chesnutt of Identity shares tips for pop-up marketing at the Ancillary Retail Expo.

It’s no secret that pop-up and experiential retail are hot topics. But it can be hard to figure out how best to engage audiences with an individual activation before, during and after the event.

To help marketers solve this conundrum, Brandon Chesnutt, vice president and director of digital & development at Identity, hosted a session titled “Six Winning Pop-Up Retail Marketing Ideas Property Managers Can’t Ignore” during the 2019 Ancillary Retail Expo, a two-day conference produced by InterFace Conference Group and Ancillary Retail magazine.

At issue during the session, which took place in mid-January at the Hilton Daytona Beach hotel, were a host of key topics for retailers looking to decide which pop-up retail marketing strategies generate the most attention, excitement and foot traffic. Chesnutt introduced the property owners and managers in attendance to tactics and campaign ideas that have the attention of retail marketers, including targeted social media advertising and tailored group activations.

The Detroit native acknowledged that it’s an exciting time for marketers of all stripes, but said that excitement and energy comes with a host of questions about best practices in a rapidly changing industry.

“The expectations of what is considered marketing are shifting,” said Chesnutt. “If you’re a marketer now you need a very diverse skill set.”

Experiential retail and pop-ups require a different type of thinking compared to traditional retail strategies. Chesnutt told the audience that experiential retail is the “darling” of today’s marketing and strategy discussions. As an example, he noted that there were an estimated 1,900 media stories in 2018 that used the term “pop-up retail,” and more than 5,000 tweets tagged with the same. The industry buzz is also, he said, why most of the attendees in the room had come to his session.

Chesnutt presented what he called “the toolbox” of options retailers can use, and said his firm builds a foundational toolbox for each of its retail tenants.

“The toolbox is one source to pull into that will feed every marketing opportunity that we have,” he said.

One of the first things a brand must decide is what story it will tell potential customers. Is it a mom-and-pop shop? Does it have a unique background or origin story? What makes the product special? Chesnutt emphasized that getting the story right is critical in today’s market.

Another consideration is what Chesnutt described as “discovery,” or the way in which people come to find out about brands and events. Examples include searching for hashtags on social media or performing a Google search. Marketers should research how consumers find content and adjust the keywords and hashtags in their social media accounts accordingly.

On a related note, consumers often find information through third parties like Yelp and TripAdvisor rather than directly through a brand’s online presence.

“People aren’t coming to websites the same way they used to,” Chesnutt said. “They now discover information very differently, and marketers need to get creative in order to reflect how people are finding this information.”

One great way to reach people online is through Facebook events, which in many cases are synched with mobile digital calendars. Eventbrite provides a similar platform for brands to get their events and activations noticed.

Another method to reach a desired audience is through engagement on-site. Tools in this category include Wi-Fi prompts, which display when someone accesses the Internet on-site. This method ensures that consumers see the message when they are in the immediate area of the activation. Similarly, geofencing allows targeted ads sent to people based on geography, provided they have location activated on their device.

“The idea is that you’re only marketing to people who are on the property,” Chesnutt said. “I find it very helpful in terms of customizing your message to an audience.”

One of the most important and most challenging aspects of marketing is creating great imagery for a brand. Chesnutt told the audience that hiring professional photographers is no longer necessary in many cases in order to create great images thanks to platforms like Instagram.

When it comes to catching the eye of a shopper during a pop-up or event, Chesnutt said simple is often best.

“Simplicity and creativity often lead to the best types of activations,” he said.

Simple giveaways, for example, can attract a surprisingly large audience. This includes concepts like online gift cards and online giveaways.

“If there is an incentive, most people will go for it,” said Chesnutt.

Specifically, he recommended a platform called WooBox to create promotions such as contests, quizzes and coupons, and another called Rafflecopter for online giveaways. Both are relatively inexpensive and don’t require a long-term commitment, and Chesnutt said both have worked wonders for his firm’s clients.

Lastly, Chesnutt’s presentation focused on how to bring national trends home.

“The best thing we can do as marketers is localize a national trend,” he said. “There’s a lot of discussion around the impact of pop-ups, and it’s a great way to get the attention of the local media.”

Chesnutt said local media members have likely read stories about pop-ups and experiential retail in outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company, and would jump at the chance to cover the trend in their home market. He suggested inviting local media members to pre-opening tours or even creating a special event just for the media, and making sure there are good visuals for them to show their readers and viewers. Another way to get media coverage is through sponsored content, which allows a retailer to control the message, time and frequency of a media story, though there is a cost involved.

“There are a lot of channels and opportunities to better promote pop-up retail,” Chesnutt said. “This was a chance to show you what we know has worked, what has drawn a response, things that have clicked and led to some great opportunities. More importantly for us, these are things that have made property owners and managers happy because they’ve seen attention and excitement and were able to share that with their pop-up retailers.”

— By Haisten Willis

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