Recent research from Barclaycard has given brick-and-mortar retailers some hope by revealing that hosting in-store events and creating an immersive experience can help them not only survive the online onslaught but flourish.
After surveying 251 senior decision-makers in retail and over 2,000 customers, the researchers found that hosting events and providing entertainment in physical stores could boost their annual turnover by 14% on average.
With in-store events becoming the biggest theme for 2018, we wanted to highlight why and how some of our retail customers are using our event product to create an unforgettable customer experience.
We’ve spent years understanding various types of events and the unique requirements of Event Managers across many industries. We’ve mastered the complex technical requirements to differentiate between a course and an event that enterprise retailers depend on.
BookingBug offers 3 types of events:
One-off events - An event that occurs once
Recurring events - An event that occurs multiple times, for example every Friday at 10am
Courses - A series of events that you sign up for in 1 transaction. For example, a course that meets over 3 different days and times.
We understand that if you run events or courses, the parameters can’t be fixed. They constantly change and you need a system that’s agile enough to be configured as and when required. Global retailers need a system that can be integrated with their CRM and POS system to have a 360 degree of their customer and can provide corporate HQ with full event data.
BookingBug’s open API and integrations with Salesforce and Outlook easily enable retailers to understand event ROI, send customized marketing campaigns and provide enhanced customer data to allow retailers to invite the appropriate customer to events.
Here’s a look at three of our customers reaping the rewards by leveraging events to provide unique immersive experiences and increase revenue.
Mothercare doubles event revenue
Mothercare, a global retailer for parents and young children currently operates over 1,100 stores across four regions - Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
The relationships Mothercare shares with its customers revolves around the most important part of any family’s life: parenthood. And yet, this contrasts with a market that has moved toward discounting, cost-cutting and commoditization.
At the core of Mothercare’s offering was its loyalty club, an initiative that built stronger and higher value relationships with customers. The visibility and data it provided, although limited, showed huge strategic potential, so the company quickly invested in electronic receipts and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) upgrades to complete their picture of customer data.
This developed a new level of clarity with which it could understand customers, but part of the puzzle was missing: a way to really encourage customers back into stores that could scale to a much bigger, engaged and loyal community.
Events for expectant parents were known to be effective but burdensome. Stores could spend up to a month chasing bookings, recorded manually on paper, draining store staff’s energy and motivation. There was no way of telling how many parents-to-be attended events or who they were. And yet, the potential of in-store services was undeniable and stores stood out as a clear route of growth and new customers.
Mothercare began a mission to refine how it offered in-store services to the public, so that they could take advantage of the huge potential to build better relationships and increase revenue.
The initial requirements of the project were simple. Mothercare knew it needed to centralize events and make them so easy to manage that staff would find it a pleasure and customers would find it a useful, convenient and enjoyable experience. To make events and in-store services core to the Mothercare experience meant making sure any system could scale to serve hundreds of stores and customers at once.
Following up large CRM and electronic receipts projects, it was essential that any system selected could work seamlessly in sync with those systems and be able to share clean, compatible data to make the broader strategy work.
Starting slowly, Mothercare implemented BookingBug to offer services, including everything from car seats consultations to how to pack a maternity bag and preparing for the first months of a new arrival. The experience was perfectly responsive to any device and fully branded as a seamless Mothercare experience.
Mothercare started to hold custom events, marketed via email and in-store to streamline the process and learn from the data generated by such appointments.
The trial was a success. Very quickly, events we're hosting 50+ attendees and driving tens of thousands of pounds of extra sales, even with little marketing. Meanwhile, it had created a data feed of all upcoming events, which could be integrated into its broader marketing strategy and increasingly sophisticated view of the customer.
Mothercare had used BookingBug to build upon its work in customer loyalty and engagement and turn events into the missing piece of the puzzle to grow the in-store relationships as a source of new value as it continues on its repositioning journey.
Ryan Davies at Mothercare elaborates on how this project has stimulated success for the company as a whole:
“It would be easy to say that the most conspicuous benefit of this project is that our event revenue has doubled, providing hundreds of thousands of pounds of new revenue. Or that we saw 25% of that growth in just three months since BookingBug was added to the mix, even before being rolled out in some of our larger stores.”
“But the other benefits are just as important to this company’s future. We’ve achieved this while actually liberating staff from the time-consuming manual processes they used to face, allowing them to concentrate on the customer experience. We’re developing meaningful connections with a growing proportion of our visitors that build their trust and loyalty to us over time. And we’re gathering data about their behavior that lets us just keep improving it.”
At Mothercare today, added-value in-person services are just as important as the products they offer. They also create an omnichannel bridge, attracting customers back in stores and complementing the online offering.
“Our work with electronic receipts and CRM let us see our customers properly in a whole new level of detail. But it was BookingBug that let us cross the bridge and create a frictionless and ongoing valuable relationship. The extension of this is quite amazing: if I know your local store is Watford, I can send you an email letting you know events you’re interested in are happening, we can invite other local companies to join too, adding even more value.”
“This project has put loyalty and CRM right at the top table where it belongs. The desire to achieve that has existed for some time but the projects that prove it are now here. It’s just a matter of taking the initiative and delivering what’s possible today.”
Waitrose Cookery School becomes a recipe for success
British supermarket giant Waitrose with 352 of stores across the UK already had celebrity chefs Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith teaching audiences how to create an extraordinary meal during TV ad breaks. Then they delved deeper into the kitchen - by establishing their own cooking school. They became the first supermarket in Britain to run its own school, showcasing what customers can do with the contents of their baskets.
Waitrose outlined its idea that the school will serve everyone from the kitchen newcomer to would-be chefs. The sessions themselves offer a range of cuisine from delivering a tasty French meal to a Thai feast. They also offer kitchen skill sessions, such as bakery, fishmongery, butchery and knife skills. In addition, the school teachers and chefs run topic specific workshops as well as dinner party menu assembling and wine tasting.
Executive Chef Neil Nugent, said: ‘We want to inspire the nation to move from just watching cookery programs to actually cooking and experimenting with new ingredients. We really do hope it will appeal to everyone, from the total beginner up. We will accommodate everyone’s needs, from peeling an onion to making a souffle – we want everybody to be comfortable.”
The need for this program was backed up by a survey Waitrose conducted that revealed that more than one in ten people, given the chance, would retrain as a chef. This was the most popular choice, beating modelling, teaching and property development.
To make this vision a reality, Waitrose partnered with BookingBug to build a dynamic booking interface that was in-line with their brand and offered a seamless customer experience. The events product allowed Waitrose to add courses as and when they came available and track sign-ups across the three schools.
Waitrose are also successfully using the BookingBug waiting list feature, which allows their customers the ability to join a waiting list if the course is at full capacity. If a customer cancels their booking the next customer in line will be automatically contacted and asked if they still want to book. This prevents a loss in revenue and increase in the customer's chance of attending.
By using BookingBug event booking system, Waitrose are also able to sell course tickets as gifts, which has allowed them to tap into the experiential gifting market, competing with companies including Red Letter Days and Virgin Experiences.
Since the opening the first cooking school in 2010, Waitrose have expanded and opened up two more with an average of 1,700 bookings a month. Offering courses on everything from couples brunches, to winter cooking, pad Thai and even children classes, Waitrose really are tapping into all areas of their customer base and creating a cooking community, all of which feeds into their brand identity. This innovative approach to customer engagement has created a new revenue stream while also exposing already engaged customers to new product ranges and ingredients.
The ability for customers to book online in advance has also greatly improved their experience as it’s shortened their journey to purchase. By working with BookingBug to design a bespoke, automated booking system that caters for all their needs, Waitrose has significantly reduced the amount of admin required from their staff to manage the bookings, created a data bank of engaged customers that can be marketed to accordingly, and have also made it easy for customers to see what is available, book a course and receive updates about new class offerings.
Three UK helps over 10,000 consumers improve their digital skills in one year
Three, a mobile network and broadband provider giant who has 10 million customers and 324 stores in the UK, is on a mission to increase brand trust, and change the perception that the mobile industry is only focused on hard selling, by rolling out 50 ‘Discovery’ sites, which aim to help visitors improve their digital skills.
Sian Laffin, Head of Discovery and Innovation at Three, believes that the Discovery spaces will “change the current perception the mobile industry” and move the brand beyond competitive pricing.
She goes on to say: “We’re creating a space where we’re not just about selling a phone, but developing an emotional relationship. If you’re signing a two-year contract, that is a long relationship and trust is the most important thing that will sustain that. These spaces are a perfect environment to nurture that trust.”
What is Three ‘Discovery’
The Discovery spaces, which are separate from Three’s retail stores, offer a new and free way for people to learn about technology from smartphone use to coding and is open to all consumers, as well as its own employees. Consumers can either book the sessions in-store or on Three’s website using a bespoke booking interface built by BookingBug.
So far, the brand has worked with charities, community organizations, local schools, and small businesses to build bespoke sessions that help attendees develop their digital skills. Three has rolled out the service across 50 stores in the UK.
Over the past year, Three has helped improve the digital skills of over 10,000 people across the UK as part of its Discovery program. This has been enabled through partnering with BookingBug and allowing not only customers, but the wider public and organizations to engage with their courses. By creating a smooth and integrated user experience, BookingBug has assisted in creating an experience that attendees want to talk about.
Jessica Tompkinson, Community Engagement and Discovery Manager at Three, explains that the initiative can’t be linked to a KPI “in a traditional sense”.
“It’s a wider investment in the brand, where we’re really pushing to change perceptions of Three. Just over half (51%) of visitors who come into the Maidenhead discovery space weren’t our customers. Of those, 98% would recommend Three to friends and family,” she added.
“It’s those referrals and conversations and those people who follow up afterwards, who might be in their purchasing window and we expect them to come to us as they’ve built up trust.
If you’re considering using events or appointments in your retail store, download our latest customer case study to learn about the challenges Debenhams faced and how they dramatically increased customer engagement by 25% and increased basket size 3x. Get it here