Post-Mortems and Event Sales: How to Measure Success to Improve Future Sales

Post-Mortems and Event Sales: How to Measure Success to Improve Future Sales

Craft fair, event post-mortems | Shopify Retail blogSelling at events offers a wealth of opportunities for all kinds of retailers. Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or not, numerous of product lines or just one, it can be a way to generate awareness and conduct sales in a new environment.

But when it comes to choosing events to sell at, it can feel like you’re shooting in the dark. What if you don’t sell anything? Does that mean it’s a failure? What does success even look like? Those are questions that are hard to answer if you don’t analyze the event afterward through a true post-mortem process.

Not sure about conducting a post-mortem? To help you move forward, we’re examining how you can dive deep into your event sales. Here, you’ll learn how to reflect on each event, analyze your sales and engagement data, and implement your learnings to bolster future event sales.

What Is an Event Post-Mortem?

Though the traditional definition of a post-mortem is a bit morbid, when it comes to selling events, we’re talking about the analysis process that happens after the event is over. This process of a post-mortem identifies:

  • What went well
  • What didn’t go so well
  • Where you can improve
  • Where you should double down
  • Plenty of other insights about your business

Regardless of how data-savvy you are, any in-person selling event has data with potential takeaways. This process of data analysis can help you prepare your brick-and-mortar and online stores, as well as future selling events, so you can be more successful across the board.

Why Post-Mortems Are Crucial for Retail Success

Selling at an event and looking at the total number of sales doesn’t tell you much about your success or your business.

If you continue to go into these events blind and ill-informed about the data of your past events, you could set yourself up for failure.

Additionally, success doesn’t only lie in sales or revenue. Success can be tangential — like increased brand awareness or more customer loyalty. Other opportunities await at these events. And if you’re not measuring or analyzing anything, you won’t know the effect those extra benefits ultimately have on your bottom line.

Here’s an example: Let’s say a customer never knew about your brand, but they came across your booth at a festival they were attending. They browsed your products, tried free samples, signed up for your email list, and picked up a coupon for their next in-store purchase. They didn’t buy anything, but now you have their email, and they have an extra reason to come to your store.

That scenario isn’t that uncommon. Oftentimes, attendees to these events aren’t there to shop. In fact, attendees spent just $50 each on average at the 2011 Irish Fair of Minnesota. Of course, this number varies depending on the type of event and the attendees. That’s why looking at that kind of data from your own experiences is so valuable.

Without looking at the whole picture during an event sales post-mortem process, you have no way of gauging whether you’re successful or making progress towards your business goals. And this process is also invaluable when determining whether a particular sales event offered a great return on your investment or was a bust.

Key Metrics to Analyze During Your Event Post-Mortem

Sales

Event post-mortems: Examine your sales numbers | Shopify Retial blogArguably the easiest numbers to report on are related to your sales at the event. Go beyond simply measuring and tracking sales and revenue. Look deeper into the data to unveil more actionable insights.

Take into account your sales based on location (for example, if you had multiple booths, or if you participate in several farmers’ markets in your area), day, and timing. If most of your sales are happening on Saturdays during a Friday to Sunday event, try to figure out why. Did attendees see your booth Friday and come back to purchase? Or were there more attendees on Saturday? If the latter, perhaps you’ll choose to be a vendor on Saturdays only, or if that’s not an option, you’ll make sure to staff up for Saturdays and go a bit leaner on Friday and Sunday.

Speaking of staff, tracking sales by team member can also help you understand who’s making the sales and why. Is it because of their performance as an employee, or were there more attendees at the event at that time (and thus, more visitors to your exhibit)?

Looking at the sales themselves, consider metrics like average order value, total orders, and top products by units sold. Record them so that you can look comparatively at the data as you analyze multiple events.

Customer Information

Knowing how much customers bought during the event is important, but knowing who you reached is arguably more valuable. The more you get to know your customers, the better you can reach them through future marketing initiatives and new product lines.

Consider the age, location, and how much each customer spent, if you have access to that information. Capture as much information as you can, whether that’s through your point-of-sale system or an old-school clipboard, pen, and paper.

FURTHER READING: Learn more about capturing important customer data on your point-of-sale system with our guide on using POS data to improve your business.

Qualitative data can also provide numerous insights. Before the event, ask your staff to listen and make note of customer feedback that they overhear. Direct quotes from event attendees, common questions that were asked, and specific feedback about your booth and products can tell you a lot about the experience you’ve created.

Look beyond your own booth as well. Compare your customer data to the data of the overall event attendance. This will help you choose events strategically in the future, targeting events that have attendee demographics that convert.

Sales occur after the event as well. One way to track those post-event sales is to share coupon codes with event attendees. Then you can see how many people and who used the code on your site or in-store later on.

Marketing

Your marketing efforts can unveil a lot of data and insights, especially if you’ve engaged in digital marketing to promote your involvement at a particular event.

If you had a Facebook event dedicated to promoting your booth at a festival or market, look at the number of users who RSVPed, and compare that to any real-life attendance/sales numbers you have available. This can help you determine a target or benchmark “attendance rate” to compare various events and to help plan for future events.

Post-event, look at the size of your audience on social media. Did you earn more likes or followers, possibly a result of the event? Perhaps consumers or other brands engaged with you on social media, posting pictures or your booth or engaging with the content you’re sharing about the event itself.

That additional engagement can help bolster brand awareness and get you in front of new audiences, including people who didn’t even attend the event.

Analyze your email list, too. Create a segment that contains the emails you gathered at the event so you can promote similar events and promotions to them in the future.

Expenses

If you really want to know what your bottom line is, you have to factor in expenses. Expenses include the obvious fees, like any event fees, travel costs, the cost of creating your booth or table, and wages you have to pay temporary staff.

Other expenses include any supplies you needed to purchase for the event, advertising and marketing spend, and your physical time. As a busy entrepreneur, time is money, so factoring in that data point can give you a comprehensive view on whether the event was worth your investment.

External Metrics

Your event post-mortem shouldn’t only consist of hard numbers and data points. Much like that qualitative data you’re gathering during the event, there are other, less-measurable factors to consider. There may be external factors, such as industry trends, economic downturns, natural disasters, and even global events, that could affect buyers’ interest in and willingness to buy your product.

For example, perhaps you had a booth selling hats and gloves at a festival in January. The weather was unseasonably warm at 75 degrees. No one attending that event is in the right mindset to purchase hats and gloves. Just because you weren’t successful this year, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same results at next year’s event when the weather gets back to its 40-degree average weather.

How to Apply Learnings to Future Events

Much like that last example illustrates, there are no real failures when you’re taking the time to undergo a post-mortem process. Each event has opportunities for you to learn about your business and your target market. Looking at the big picture will help you understand which types of events will bring you the most success. Identify trends and hypotheses, and test them out. Maybe certain product lines perform better at farmers’ markets, whereas others do well at music festivals.

Which types of events have you had the most success? How do you track and analyze data to determine that?

Photo of Alexandra Sheehan

About the Author

Alexandra Sheehan is a freelance writer/editor and content specialist. She’s worked with retailers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to Etsy shop owners, and is always looking for innovative ways to help her clients.

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