This fun and creative merchandising tactic makes good retail sense—even now. Here are savvy strategies to make sure they entice customers—and bring you a return.
As local dance retailers face unprecedented challenges because of COVID-19 closures, the product bundle remains a unique opportunity to serve customers, even when they’re outside of class. Storeowners are using these curated selections of dancewear (and more) to help dancers sustain quality dance experiences or routines at home, to support parents trying to entertain their kids and to offer a little celebratory fun for special days—a birthday, Easter—until their dance community can again gather in person.
People are still buying all sorts of “nonessential” things, as Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, has pointed out. “By selling them in an accessible way, you are brightening people’s days,” he says. “You are not exploiting a crisis by continuing to operate your business. If you have anything right now to sell that can make someone’s stressful life better, sell it. Market it.”
The key to marketing bundles, as always, is to position them so that they appeal to customers at key times, give them incentives to engage and buy, and build in a profit for your store.
Savvy Strategies to Entice Customers
While Attitude Dance Boutique was under a stay-at-home directive for its College Station, TX, store, owner Emily Mayerhoff created boxes for kids who were missing recitals or just couldn’t come in to browse. She curated the products for these special bundles around themes such as a Training Tools Kit (anything to help at-home work out/dance), Easter Baskets and craft kits. But this wasn’t the first time Mayerhoff had used bundles to promote her brand and generate a profitable sale. In 2018, she launched her first, a “Ballerina Bundle” for back-to-dance. “It promotes the well-fitting, high-quality designs that we carry, to get new customers into the store and to combat the discount stores or online shopping,” says Mayerhoff. This June, she will sell it for a week as a special post-COVID back-to-dance offering.
Have you been using product bundles? How are they working for you? Check the performance of your product bundles against these pointers and see where you can fine-tune to reap a greater return.
Branding and Personalizing: Making Product Bundles Work
Creatively curated bundles give you the opportunity to build your brand and demonstrate to customers the value you place on them—you understand and can meet their needs as no big-box or online retailer can—as well as your respect for their time and wallet. Here’s how to make them top performers.
Themes & Seasonality: Marketing bundles by theme helps customers to wrap their heads around a specific personal need—particularly dancers who are always replacing gear. Holidays, back-to-dance, summer intensives, and yes, dance-at-home during COVID-19, all provide reasons for dancers to stock up, and you can respond with baskets specifically outfitted for those situations. Vicky Lambert, owner of Activity Pointe, in Torrance, CA, curates a vast theme menu that ranges from genre (athletic, girly, Nutcracker) to age (baby ballerina, adult) to season (Christmas, summer intensives).
Expertise: Your innate know-how, expressed through your product selections, is what can give you an edge on your online competition. As a former dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Lambert knows firsthand what dancers need. She devised a summer intensive checklist that she has shared via e-mail newsletters and on social media. Usually, she places the checklist items in a beautiful basket near the cash wrap before summer intensive season, to help customers gear up in a fun and convenient way.
Convenience: Amy Manning, co-owner of Gabie’s Boutique, in Newmarket, ON, Canada, developed a basic bundle to make it easier for moms new to dance to prepare their child for a first dance class. It includes a basic pink short-sleeve bodysuit, tights, a bag and a basic full-sole leather ballet shoe. Mayerhoff’s Ballerina Bundle has a similar function: “We want to make it easy for a first-time dance mom or student to get the basics they need to start class, get proper-fitting attire and shoes,” she says.
Value: Use bundles to emphasize the benefits customers get, saving them money and time. Seeing a beautifully packaged basket helps customers perceive an additional value—for instance, “I don’t have to gift-wrap it myself.” Bundles can also help combat the perception that specialty stores are expensive. Says Manning, “Bundles are a great strategy to introduce customers to the store and show that we offer price points for all budgets, paired with true expertise and great customer service.”
Visual merchandising: If the bundle is apparel-focused, be sure to display choices in the store. “Show the offering from head to toes, so customers can visualize everything,” says Mayerhoff. She displays the bundle selection on its own rolling rack, with signage, that customers can see as they enter the store. If the bundle is a pre-wrapped basket, make it over-the-top gorgeous—a gift-to-go for the purchaser or someone on her list. Place the sample basket near the cash wrap, so visitors can peruse it during check out.
Promotion: Bundles are made for social media—their innate visual appeal and seasonality makes them a natural for Instagram and Facebook. Mayerhoff boosts ads on social and says an Instagram post brought in a family an hour and a half’s drive away. YouTube is a particularly great vehicle for promotion. Lambert has hosted several videos with dancer, blogger and YouTube star Georgia Reed, aka Ballerina Badass, enthusiastically detailing the usefulness of each bundle item.
Subscription: Convenience, brand loyalty and price—subscriptions are a three-in-one benefit. A longtime marketing tactic for food vendors (Harry & David anyone?), this approach has loads of value for customer and retailer alike. Broaden your audience by offering different price points or frequency.
The Bottom Line
Product bundles combine essential attributes of the retail experience that go to the heart of your brand, providing something only you can—customization, personalization and participation—as you address the particular needs of your customer in a creative and value-driven way.
Charlotte Barnard is a writer living in New York City who often reports on retail trends, design and branding.