In the last 2-3 weeks, in-store demonstrations have become a virtually non-existent activity as grocery and food retailers across the country scramble to serve shoppers preparing for extended periods of quarantine due to the COVID-19 crisis.
First, we do believe in-store demos and sampling activities WILL return.
For brands that do have established in-store demo programs, demos represent one of their most significant marketing expenses AND one of their most potent marketing and sales tools. In a recent study of one of our clients, a random analysis of a year of retail demos done in a major retail chain revealed that demos were done on about 2% of shopping days but were responsible for 20% of overall sales at the register for the year.
Food Navigator recently covered reactions from several industry players and brands to the halt in demos, and the general consensus was that they work, are needed, and will return – albeit with some possible changes to how they are done in the future.
Even so, there is no telling how long this moratorium will last.
For many Brand Ambassadors, in-store demos and events comprised all of their work – so they are now looking at no income. And brands that relied on in-store demos to grow their sales are now left with little to no effective options to promote their products in stores.
So, for Brand Ambassadors now struggling, and brands needing to fill the gaps left by in-store demos, what can be done? How can we keep BAs working and brands promoting? You know what they say about challenges – how we respond to them defines us, and depending on how we respond to them, we CAN come out of them better.
Case in point: Just look at how the country is responding to widespread quarantines and lockdowns. Social media and video conferencing platforms are now suddenly hosting live events, celebrity in-home concerts, happy hours, sing-alongs and lunches online. In our resilience and determination to stay connected, we’ve become extremely adaptable to participating in events online that we normally would only do physically.
If we can make happy hours go online, we can certainly figure out how to get more people to know about your brand without physically being in a store for a while.
For novel brands and products, the story of your company and your product is often the most important factor in creating shopper interest – and it can be told online, passionately and effectively, by Brand Ambassadors who already know your product and how to sell it. Just think about how much you’ve invested in your Brand Ambassador staff to date. If you lay them off, you risk losing them permanently and will eventually have to replace and retrain a whole new staff. On the other hand – if you can keep them working and promoting your brand during this down time – a time when healthy, natural and organic products are more needed than ever – you’ll be able to continue the momentum of promotion, grow awareness in digital channels, and come back stronger in-store when demos return. A side benefit might even be more social media followers.
Setting your BAs loose on social media is just one way to keep them promoting and adding value for your brand during the demo downtime. Here are a few more ideas:
- Work with the retailers to get them to allow non-sampling visits, or visits with closed-package samples (some retailers are already allowing this).
- Arrange online, live consumer education events promoted through your BAs and their networks.
- Have your BAs hand out pamphlets, coupons, and other promotional materials in or outside of stores while practicing proper social distancing.
- Have your BAs do mini-merchandising / shelf management in stores.
- Encourage brokers to use your team to perform more store staff training.
- Encourage/incentivize your team to sharpen their knowledge and skills around promotion, selling, your company, your brand, and your products via online training courses.
Brand ambassadors are important members of your marketing and sales team. The more you can keep them busy and promoting your brand, the more awareness there will be when life for shoppers begins to return to normal…and the more your staff will appreciate the extra consideration for their jobs and livelihood.
Are you busy creating innovative ways to keep your Brand Ambassadors out there and promoting your brand during this time? If so, please do share your ideas with others in the comments below!