In today’s digital age, there are many benefits to meeting your customers in person. By setting up a booth at a local craft fair, you can get valuable feedback on shoppers’ preferences, generate immediate sales and gain new prospects for your online store.
Many eCommerce retailers find it makes sense to sell their products at weekend craft fairs, art shows or farmers’ markets. Hand-made merchandise, jewelry, clothing, shoes, candles, and specialty foods are among the types of products typically sold at these indoor and outdoor events.
Here are several suggestions for turning a local event into a big success for your business. You can also get more tips from sites like Shopify.
- Search for the most promising craft fairs. Do your homework before signing up for a local show. Find out as much as you can about who will be attending the event, as well as the regular vendors and their merchandise. Will many of the shoppers be young singles, families or retirees with time on their hands? How many people attended the last event and what did the vendors report in sales? The event organizer should be able to provide much of this information, but you should also check local newspapers for feature articles or reach out to a vendor or two.
- Audition the show. If you have the time (and budget), try to attend the art show or craft fair yourself before making your reservation. Walk through the aisles, talk to the dealers and check out the merchandise on display. Is the quality and pricing similar to your offerings? Would your store’s booth fit right into the scene or not? You can also strike up casual conversations with the shoppers. Bring along your business cards, too, and don’t hesitate to hand them out to everyone!
- Calculate your expenses. Take a careful look at your costs before making a financial commitment. That might include preparing your booth, packing and shipping your merchandise, booth fees, staff salaries and travel expenses.
- Sign up for the event. Once you decide on your craft fair or art show, then reserve your booth space. The best shows fill up early, so you may need to send in your deposit months in advance. Meanwhile, look for other possible venues in the same local market or a similar craft show a few days before or after your primary event. That might help you maximize the return on your in-person marketing investment.
- Prepare your display. Give yourself plenty of time to gather the materials needed for your booth, including a banner or other signage that displays your store’s website and social media presence. The booth should be constructed for easy set-up and tear-down after the event. Don’t forget a wireless point-of-sale (POS) terminal for credit-card purchases during the fair.
- Select your merchandise. Determine what products would be most appealing to attendees. Consider how well they will look displayed in your booth, as well as the pricing. You may want a selection of inexpensive, moderately priced and high-end items to appeal to shoppers with different income levels.
- Plan your staffing. It’s usually best to have at least two people staffing your booth to provide coverage when one person takes a break or goes to lunch. Depending on the size and weight of your products, you may also want to hire a strong helper who can carry the items to shoppers’ vehicles after a sale.
- Attract shoppers’ attention. Along with your promotional signage, find a way to attract attention and engage more attendees at the event. For instance, you might hold a daily raffle or giveaway for one of your more expensive items. Entry forms should include shoppers’ email addresses and a box for them to opt-in to your newsletter or promotional mailings. That can help you build your store’s customer base and lead to future sales.
- Evaluate the results. After the show, analyze your sales and your expenses to determine the direct financial outcome. Keep the booth preparation costs separate from your on-site expenses, because you should be able to “recycle” your display for other events and amortize that one-time investment.
Even if you don’t hit a financial home run at your first show, consider it as a great learning experience. Learn the lessons, make any needed adjustments and stay focused on gaining new in-person business for your online store.