I was fortunate enough to host and co-organize Shopify’s Toronto’s first meetup alongside Arati Sharma, and share the panel with a brilliant group of women who are offline experts from organizers, markets, and vendors.
Sarah Power is a proud supporter of independent businesses and looking for an honest, intimate way to impact the way we perceive and pursue style, Sarah created INLAND in 2014 as an alternative, modern way to retail and shop.
Melissa Zuker is a Toronto entrepreneur and founder of Toronto Market Co. TMCo’s vision is to create high quality retail markets in Toronto that support local entrepreneurs and turn public spaces into cultural experiences.
Hailey Coleman is the offline marketing specialist at Shopify focusing on trade shows, markets, festivals and events. She is the owner and founder of Damn Heels, a flats company to save women from their beloved (damn) heels.
Alessandra Cardarelli is the gal behind Carte Blanche Creations, a Toronto-based indie business specializing in handmade custom-order marble coasters.
Here is the mini recap questions, tips and advice from our panel.
How to Getting Started: research, research, research!
Questions to ask yourself:
WHAT’S your goal?
WHY a market, fair or festival?
WHY would it be a good fit for your online brand?
Is it to increase sales/marketing, brand awareness, testing a market, or are you testing a new product?
Where do I start looking for opportunities?
Keep an eye out on what your competitors are doing offline. Social media is also a great way to research what’s happening in or around your city and others for markets, fairs and festivals.
Is the investment in going offline will be worth it?
To answer this question you have to go back to figuring out your why?
How to Prepare for a market, fair or festival?
What marketing activities should online brands be involved with leading up the event?
Social media is the best way to go for marketing and pushing your brand from online to offline. Creating buzz by doing a contest or promotion to drive traffic to your booth is a great way to engage with your online following.
What’s the best way to determine inventory of product to carry and how much of it should be brought to the event?
This also goes back to your WHY? Do you want this experience to be sales driven? If so, then a high volume of inventory might be the way in order to meet the demand. Or is it to test a new product and gain market research while engaging with customers? Then having a lean assortment in inventory might pay off.
The advantage that online stores who participate in offline markets, fairs, and festivals have is that you can still drive the customer back to your website and treat your offline shop as a showroom. TIP: Be sure to have an online device to showcase other products incase you don’t have what your potential customer is looking for.
Should online merchants price their products differently from what they are online?
Offline markets, fairs and festivals is a great opportunity to create a one day promotion to test a new market and create a database. Most vendors will say their lower price points do the best because they are easy impulse grabs.
The main EVENT!
Preparing your layoutand visual merchandising beforehand is KEY! A great tip is to create a mock display with the exact measurements of your booth or table and take detailed photos of it. Creating a team of people to help you on the actual day, whether it be your spouse, siblings or friends is very important. The images of the mock display come in handy because it will help your team know how to create the overall vision.
Always have a sufficient float, receipt books, card reader, bags and packaging materials. I also like to carry a kit I like to call my OPERATIONS TOOLKIT. I always check this toolkit the day before each market.
What’s the best way to make the most of the foot-traffic that comes your way? Even if they don’t decide to purchase a product?
Foot-traffic doesn’t always mean sales but it can translate into so much more like creating a significant database. Create a emailing sign up list, promotional give away so they provide their email address to be contacted.
Lastly customer service is KEY. Engage with your customer, share product knowledge authentically, have fun, and enjoy being outside your online bubble.
Photography by Andrew Williamson