With mask mandates easing and "normal" inching a bit closer, Party City is looking for more ways to help America start celebrating again. But even as people return to more in-person gatherings, the company is amping up digital efforts to help hybrid shoppers.
Marketing Daily caught up with Julie Roehm, chief marketing and chief experience officer, to learn more.
Marketing Daily: With Omicron (we hope) behind us, what are the major changes in consumers' party attitudes at this point? Are we still dealing with pent-up party demand?
Julie Roehm: We're seeing that people want to celebrate more than ever before. There is certainly pent-up party demand.
We hope to see 2022 bring a more permanent sense of normalcy as compared to the stop-start that was happening in 2021.
While the desire to celebrate life's special moments never fully went away, many of our customers will shift to a hybrid approach, combining more traditional party styles with some of the newly adopted party tricks. We're here for it!
Marketing Daily: Such as?
Roehm: The metaverse. We're beginning to roll out more immersive and experiential digital shopping tools that leverage a few of the strategies that fall under the metaverse umbrella, like our AR/gamified Balloon Builder.
And as our customers continue to rely on technology, we'll continue to adapt to meet their celebration needs. As the excitement surrounding the metaverse continues, we continue to explore and adopt other AR, VR, gamification [techniques], and the possibility of opening a Party City storefront in an existing metaverse platform.
Marketing Daily: What's the difference between your online and physical shoppers?
Roehm: More people are ordering online and then picking up in stores, instead of curbside. It makes sense that if people are driving to the store, they would want to walk in now versus simply pulling up to a curb.
It's a no-brainer that when a shopper is purchasing online or in-store, it leads to consumers wanting to see what else is available and to put more in their cart -- whether physically in-store or virtually on our website.
Our newest store layout, what we're calling our “Next Generation” stores, has an open floor plan for shoppers to see the entire store from any vantage point, giving them a full view of what they'd like to ideally purchase. There are even lower shelves and shorter aisles to make the entire shopping experience more immersive.
Marketing Daily: You've mentioned social commerce as an important growth area. Can you explain?
Roehm: Parties are, by their very nature, social. The effectiveness of our social media has more than doubled in the past couple of months. Media mix modeling is complex, and we track and optimize our strategy daily.
Marketing Daily: We've heard you're testing the use of party planners -- real humans to help make events special. True?
Roehm: Yes. In Kansas City and Las Vegas.
Marketing Daily: Halloween is to Party City what winter holidays are to the rest of the retail world. Any hints about what's ahead?
Roehm: We're Halloween-obsessed. For Halloween 2022, we're gearing up for an amazing season with new products and surprises with Yorrik the Skeleton. And we're helping our customers "You Boo You," which is our fun play on "you do you" where we make it easy for shoppers to create memories for years to come.
We are also excited about our Halloween City pop-ups and their No Limits theme this year.
Marketing Daily: How do you describe Party City's brand purpose and personality to people who haven't been there?
Roehm: Joy has the power to transform lives, and we live our purpose of inspiring that joy by making it easy to create unforgettable memories for our customers. That's why our employees live by [the saying] "Make Joy Easy."