Retail: leveraging social events to drive ROI

Online marketing experts and design strategists always face the same question from their clients when presenting them with campaigns and strategies: Can you ensure a return on investment (ROI)? 

Lati, one of our clients at Blue Hat, is an inspiring women's evening wear boutique in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia located in the famous Kingdom Tower-- yes, the one that looks like a "bottle opener"! We have been managing Lati's digital and social media activities since its opening in August 2012. As part of our digital strategy for 2014, we have recently launched "Lati In Wonderland", a campaign and in-store event that addressed the ROI question. Drawing on our latest success, we will reveal to you the recipe for ensuring a ROI: 

1. Create themed events in your store

"Lati in Wonderland" was an event that marked the arrival of the new Spring/Summer 2014 collection. Latifa Salman, the genius behind the Lati brand, was planning a mind blowing new window display in collaboration with a young Saudi designer to launch the new collection. Inspired by "Alice in Wonderland", the new window display featured two of Lati's top dresses in a magical setting of floral elements of nature, ornamented frames and chairs, lamps and vases filled with greenery along with fashion books. "Lati in Wonderland" transported its visitors into a fresh Spring journey via its new collection and new window dressing.

Launching in-store events and capitalizing on window displays is not a new practice. It has been credited to Harry Selfridge, the founder of the renowned department store Selfridges, who is considered by many a pioneer in using events to redefine the shopping experience. Whenever a major event happened in London, Selfridge used to be the first to create an in-store event around it and unveil a new window display to reflect it. From the events that stuck in my mind from watching the biographical adaptation of "Mr Selfridge" series by itv, is the first crossing of the English Channel with an airplane by aviator Louis Blériot in 1909. Consequently, Selfridge seized the moment to showcase the airplane which in its turn drove footfall to the store. To date, these events are still core to Selfridges' success and legacy. 

Undoubtedly, today, themed events contribute in driving footfall to many retail stores. 

2. Invite the right people through Social Media

Born in 2012, Lati is a relatively new evening wear boutique in comparison to its giant competitors in the Saudi market. However, looking at Lati from the perspective of Young & Rubicam's brand asset valuator: brand value = brand vitality (differentiation & relevance) + brand stature (esteem & knowledge), Lati has high brand vitality but low brand stature. The boutique is very well differentiated in terms of brand identity, selection of products, customer touchpoints and social media activities. In terms of relevance, Lati satisfies the saudi market with products that range from classic pieces to trendier ones. When it comes to brand stature, Lati is highly esteemed amongst its customers for providing them with an inspiring shopping experience. However, Lati ranks low in "knowledge" as it is relatively new and has a small market and thus needs exposure. Therefore, Lati falls perfectly in the niche category and at Blue Hat,  we aim to help Lati reach the leadership category in the top right quadrant.


In order to increase Lati's exposure, we, at Blue Hat, resorted to Social Media channels, including: Facebook and Instagram to research and invite Riyadh's most renowned and popular Saudi fashion bloggers. Our mix of invitees also included 3 of Lati's most active fans along with a selected group of fashion enthusiasts and some friends. The invitees were contacted via Instagram and email through personalized messages. 

In Lati's case, inviting bloggers with widespread communities of followers was the best way to increase the knowledge about Lati. Such influential voices are in constant search for differentiation and Lati needed to expose its uniqueness. If your business targets the masses then you might consider inviting them to your events through targeted online ads. However, if you fall in the "unfocused" category, you might consider redefining your personas and anchoring your vision accordingly, then reinforcing your new positioning by inviting influential figures or celebrities in your domain. 

Invitation card via email

Invitation card via email

Personalized Invitation on Instagram

Personalized Invitation on Instagram


3. Spice it up with some fun!

The invitees were invited to explore the Spring/Summer collection and had no idea what to expect in-store. In order not to fall into the trap of sounding commercial, the event had to be spiced up with some fun. Upon their arrival, the invitees discovered the "Lati in Wonderland" theme. Other than the delicious cupcakes with Lati's logo on them, the store featured flower arrangements, "LATI - Drink Me" labeled bottles of waters, and most importantly Wonderland props including, "fashionista" & "blogger" banners, hand fans, "love Lati" eyeglasses, "I woke up like this" arrows, extra large lips, wonderland hats and even quirky mustaches.

I personally enjoyed designing the props, the hard work payed off especially when I learned that the invitees took all the props with them along with the "LATI - DRINK ME" labeled bottles of water as a souvenir of the event. Such a moment is what every passionate designer awaits after delivering their work. 

"Lati - Drink Me" labeled bottles 

"Lati - Drink Me" labeled bottles 

4. Cover it live on Social Media

To ensure a maximum hype around your brand, make sure you cover your event live on the social media channel that is most relevant to your brand in order to engage your community of followers. Your community loves when you involve them in what's happening in-store especially when it includes having fun and staying up to date with the latest trends in your line of business.

At Blue Hat, Lati's event was covered on both Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #LatiInWonderland which was present everywhere in-store, even on the labeled bottles of water. We started teasing about the event 1 hour before it started by posting a themed countdown. Then, we proceeded to post live throughout the event. The following day, we wrapped it with a video illustrating the highlights of the event.

With 30 people posting about #LatiInWonderland, the event generated a 5% increase in Lati's followers and 8,600 interactions on Instagram. 

Lati in Wonderland countdown on Instagram

Lati in Wonderland countdown on Instagram

5. Trigger Sales

Going back to our main question about ensuring a return on investment, we say this: First of all, as a business you have to capture your visitors' attention and appeal to their emotions. Then, you need to look into their motives to see what drives your customers to purchase your products. A recent case study of Hautelook, a Nordstrom company specializing in top fashion brands for men and women, proves how a small promotion towards your community can have a significant impact on your sales. In an attempt to populate their Instagram account, Hautelook offered every new follower a surprise 10%, 20% off or free shipping coupon. At the end of the campaign, not only did Hautelook recruit thousands of new fans but they also generated tens of thousands of sales in just one day, securing an ROI of more than 5x. Interestingly, over 20% of purchasers were first time Hautelook customers. (source: 166 Case Studies Prove Social Media Marketing ROI by Rob Petersen- slideshare)

In our case, after visiting the world of "Lati In Wonderland," all of our invitees were granted a 20% special discount. During the event, the boutique had its doors open for the public. The hype at Lati attracted many shoppers in the bustling Kingdom's center who also received a special 20% discount upon their purchases.

The result: After the three-hour event of "Lati In Wonderland", Lati's figures witnessed a 9x increase in sales in comparison to the average sales per day. 

So the answer is simple: after ensuring a footfall to your store or populating your social media channels (if your campaign is online), engaging your customers with some fun activities, and involving your online community with your campaign, make sure to seal the deal and ensure a return on investment by giving your customers an incentive to buy. Remember, whether you offer special vouchers or more exclusive giveaways, every small gesture counts and can make a big difference in your business.

For more details about Lati in Wonderland's event, check out Lati's social media channels:

Lati on Facebook: 

Lati on Instagram: