The opening credits of popular animated series Bob’s Burgers introduces restaurant owner Bob Belcher and his family as they deal with one entrepreneur catastrophe after another—rodents, fire, broken windows—eventually to announce the business’s “grand re-re-re-opening.”
Small business owners who weathered the ups and downs of the pandemic will relate. Rolling lockdowns and restrictions left founders increasingly weary as they rotated their “Open for Business” signs, only to close their doors again—and again.
What’s a grand opening?
A grand opening is typically an event hosted by a new brick-and-mortar business to introduce itself to the community. But as more and more brands shifted to online, grand opening ideas evolved to fit the virtual realm. And even those who temporarily closed seized the opportunity to create a splash for an existing business through a grand reopening event.
Your brand’s grand opening isn’t just a one day event—it includes a buildup to your big moment.
Generating buzz for your business should start earlier than launch day, however. Your brand’s grand opening isn’t just a one-day event—it includes a buildup to your big moment. Here, we’ll look at real examples of virtual grand openings, in-store events, and other grand opening ideas to inspire your own.
Why you should host a grand opening event for your business
A grand opening is just one way to market your new business. It should be part of a larger marketing strategy to reach your ideal future customer. But it’s an especially useful tool in achieving specific goals as you launch. For example, an in-person event at a retail store can provide connections to other business owners, the local business association, and local residents. And a timed launch day promotion can urge followers to become your first customers.
However you decide to celebrate your grand opening—virtually or in person—there are many benefits to doing so. You can:
- Generate press. When it comes to PR, you can pitch your story to journalists when you launch, but inviting them to an event is like a lob—you aren’t directly asking them to write about you, but hopefully they’ll be inspired to do so after meeting you and seeing your space.
- Meet members of the local community. This is particularly important for retail stores, but also for online businesses that plan to sell mostly locally. Hosting a special event (IRL or online) can generate word of mouth in your area to reach potential customers.
- Reward early followers and supporters. If you choose to host an exclusive event or offer a promotion to your pre-launch subscribers and followers, it’s a way to reward them for betting on you early.
- Grow your social following. Online grand opening ideas may involve running a social giveaway or follower-only promotion.
- Build your email list. Setting up a countdown page or pre-launch landing page is a great way to collect emails before you go live. When you do launch, you’ll hopefully have a sizeable list to invite to a party or send a grand opening discount code.
- Collect valuable UGC (user-generated content) and testimonials. Live events or social media contests can be a way to get your customers to share their experiences in your space or with your product or brand. You’ll also have a bank of content to pull from that adds legitimacy to your brand through real customer testimonials.
- Start relationships with other brands and retailers. Connecting with local business owners may open up doors for collaboration, partnerships, and just helping each other out.
What about grand reopenings?
Who doesn’t like an excuse for a party? A grand reopening event or campaign can help you reconnect with loyal customers, reward them for their patience, and introduce any changes made while your business was closed. The excitement around this “do over” may also spread to new customers, too.
For example, brick-and-mortar stores that closed for renovation may want to host an in-store party to generate buzz around a new store layout. A grand reopening may also benefit online businesses that work on a “drop” model, where a new batch of products drops on the website before selling out.
And virtual grand openings for online businesses?
Again, yes! Opening an online store may be a little easier than building out a physical space, but it’s generally the culmination of months or years of planning. This is your big day. It may feel anticlimactic to simply set your website live—compared to opening a physical door—but it doesn’t have to be. A virtual celebration has the same benefits as an in-store grand opening.
Below, we’ll share grand opening ideas that can be adapted for both brick-and-mortar and online-only brands.
11 grand opening ideas to inspire your launch
There are multiple ways to mark your big day, and you should choose the one that fits best with your brand. Mine this list for creative grand opening ideas and examples of successful brands who’ve been there.
1. Host an in-store event
This is the typical format of a grand opening as it applies to a brick-and-mortar store. But an in-store event doesn’t have to be limited to a ribbon-cutting and a bunch of balloons. Get creative and host an event that is relevant to your business.
If you run a service business, host a day of speed-dating-style free consultations. If you’re a home goods retailer celebrating a reopening, host a cocktail party for your loyal customers featuring products from the store (e.g., live cocktail demos with martini shakers you sell). Book businesses should consider intimate readings or book signings.
In Santa Fe, Lost Padre Records recently hosted a grand opening party for its new location in the store’s parking lot, where participants could stay socially distanced. The on-theme event featured music performances by local artists.
@amoraffairs Event planned: GRAND OPENING FOR PRETTY KITTY #eventplanner #grandopening #champangewall #waxspa #nyc #nj #ribboncutting ♬ Press - Cardi B
Even online businesses can throw an in-person event. If you’re an artist or maker with a dedicated studio, host an event in your space to bring fans inside your process and preview some of your work in person. Otherwise, you can partner with another business or rent out a space to host a cocktail party, live demo, or other event to celebrate your online store's grand opening.
2. Offer a gift with purchase
If your goal is to get lots of activity in your retail store on day one, your grand opening promotion may be a limited edition gift with purchase. This idea works for online stores, too. Bonus: If your gift with purchase is swag (say, a branded beanie or water bottle), you’re deputizing your customers as brand ambassadors.
In Los Angeles, low-waste refill shop Prostainable celebrated its grand opening week by offering reusable hemp totes to the store’s first five customers each day. The gift aligns with the store’s mission and provides plenty of room for more purchases.
3. Invite your early fans to an exclusive soft launch
An exclusive event or perk can be a great tool to soft launch your business. If you want to forgo the big public event, then you can still incentivize email sign-ups or social follows by hosting a soft launch. This could take the form of an invite-only event or an early access link and promo code for your supporters.
The benefit of this approach is getting early feedback and some live QA testing of your site before you open it up to the world. And, if your first customers have a great personalized experience, the word of mouth will already be circulating by the time you launch. Retail businesses can also use this idea to host an exclusive grand opening party to preview the store before it opens to the public.
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4. Track the countdown to your grand opening
A coming soon page with a countdown clock can build anticipation for your store launch or grand opening event. This is a great place to link to as you build your social following. Collect emails on this page by incentivizing sign-up with a promo code or early-access link.
During your countdown, you can use social media to bring your early fans into your process—share the hectic last-minute scramble of going live or share sneak peeks of your space or products.
Swimsuit brand Coco’s Trading Post dropped social reminders leading up to the grand opening of its new Hawaii location.
5. Host a live online event
There are many reasons why you might opt to host a virtual event versus an in-person one. For one: a global pandemic. Business owners had to get creative to engage customers with their brands during rolling lockdowns. Some didn’t let those restrictions hamper their big day and used TikTok Live, Zoom, YouTube Live, Twitter Spaces, and other platforms to host virtual events instead.
DIY brand AR Workshop celebrated the grand opening of its Prospect, Kentucky location with pick-up maker kits that customers could snag curbside before joining a Facebook Live event to craft together via an online group demo.
6. Run a giveaway or contest
This grand opening idea works for any store, online or IRL. A contest or giveaway can grow your following, build your email list, generate UGC, or get followers to share your content. Use social and ask your followers to take a specific action for an entry.
Quotes & Cotton ran a $100 gift card giveaway on Instagram and Facebook to build excitement leading up to the store’s grand reopening. Prizes could also include branded swag or products from your store.
7. Provide online promo codes
Your first sale is a momentous occasion. If you launch your website or open your doors to the sound of crickets, it can be deflating. That first sale is the validation that you’re onto something. To incentivize grand opening day purchases, offer a promo code to all visitors to your site (say through a homepage banner) or reward your early followers and subscribers with an exclusive discount.
When influencer Sam Hwang launched her online store, she announced a special promo code to her Instagram followers to thank them for supporting her.
8. Invite future customers along on a virtual tour
If an in-person event isn’t possible, whether due to pandemic restrictions or space constraints, host a virtual tour instead. Many online creators have leaned into behind-the-scenes content to share their space and process with fans. This is a popular content format on platforms like TikTok. Use this idea to host a tour of your space and introduce yourself to your potential customers.
When Boston’s Little Leaf Farms opened its new greenhouse during the pandemic, that didn’t stop the company from hosting a splashy grand opening. The event included demos, a founder Q&A, and a tour of the space—all in a virtual format.
@tylerballoonbar Open my dream store with me! #partydecorations #balloon #partystore #balloondecor #balloongirl #storefront #grandopening #MakeABunchHappen ♬ Fly Away - Tones And I
The owner of Tyler Balloon Bar in Texas used TikTok to share a time lapse of her process of designing and setting up the brand’s new store in advance of its opening day.
9. Start a fundraiser or partner with a local charity
If social impact and community are important to your business, take a step beyond declaring it so on your About page. A fundraiser or charity partnership is a great way to demonstrate that your business lives up to its values. And community connections are important for any new store hoping to attract local business.
When coffee shop Nava Social opened another Toronto location, its grand opening event invited patrons to bring a non-perishable food item (to be donated to a local food bank) in exchange for a free coffee.
10. Tag in the influencers
Influencer marketing can be a powerful tool to introduce a brand to a niche audience. After you identify influencers who have audiences that resemble your target customer, reach out to collaborate.
Invite local influencers to your IRL grand opening, partner on a giveaway leading up to your big day, or simply work with them on a paid promotional post the day your online store goes live. Using a dedicated promo code will help you measure the success of the campaign.
11. Collaborate with other brands
Especially in the aftermath of a global pandemic, the small business community is critical. Within the retail world, a main street of local businesses can collaborate on advertising, events, and solving local problems that affect the business community. In the online world, connecting with others in the space offers knowledge-sharing and the opportunity for collaboration. Start building your community from the outset by folding other brands into your grand opening plans.
When The Sill launched its Boston location, it didn’t just cater the grand opening party—it did so using small local businesses. This gave The Sill access to the customers of those brands if they shared social content from the event.
A grand opening celebrates you
Launching your first business—or your 10th—is cause for celebration. And persevering through a temporary closure warrants one too. An entrepreneur's work can feel like it never ends, so an event like a grand opening allows you to slow down and take stock of how far your business has come—from your very first win to your latest. The best part? You won’t be celebrating alone. You’ll be raising a glass alongside your future customers and starting your relationship off with a bang.