Michaels’ Camp Creatology: Driving Customer Loyalty with Creativity and Convenience

Editor’s Note: As the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo (RICE) nears, we’re highlighting recent coverage of some of the speakers and companies that will be taking the stage in Chicago, June 4-6, 2024. In this conversation with Heather Bennett, EVP – Marketing and Ecommerce at Michaels, we explore how the brand is embracing the joy of creativity to drive customer loyalty. Don’t miss the chance to get insights directly from Heather during the event, where she’ll dig deeper into how Michaels is building community across digital and physical channels. Looking for more details on this year’s event and our incredible speakers? Be sure to check out the official Retail Innovation Conference & Expo content hub.

Parents and caregivers are always on the lookout for activities to keep their kids engaged during the summer months, and Michaels has tapped into this need — and not coincidentally, creating new opportunities to build customer loyalty — through Camp Creatology. The program is celebrating its 10th year this summer, and one reason for its success is that its omnichannel structure lets parents and kids participate when and how they want. No registration is required to participate, making the program even more inviting.

The program is designed to serve as a starting point to help inspire people to get creative, and it’s flexible enough to fit with different people’s paces and learning styles. Michaels offers four themed project kits, each with three main projects plus additional surprises, that include all the supplies necessary to create works of art ranging from tissue paper suncatchers to pop-up cards.

“We want everyone to be able to experience the joy of creativity, but we know the biggest hurdle can often be figuring out where to start,” said Heather Bennett, EVP – Marketing and Ecommerce at Michaels in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “As the destination where anyone can get inspired, learn, shop and create, it’s important for Michaels to fuel our customers’ creativity, from the very first spark of inspiration through gathering what materials they need and seeing a project through. Free in-store experiences like Camp Creatology and our weekly Sunday Make Breaks help drive traffic to our stores and enable our customers to try new things while deepening our relationship with them.”


Flexibility is Paramount for Engaging Experiences

The program runs from June 19 through July 14 and offers live classes at every Michaels store on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The classes, which are two hours each, also are available online, both live and on demand, with self-guided instructions available to ensure anyone can participate when and how they would like.

“It’s important to us that any family can participate in Camp Creatology no matter where or when it works best for them, which is why we make our classes completely free and flexible, fitting any schedule or location,” said Bennett. “We know that flexibility and value are important to our customers, and we always keep that in mind when designing experiences for them.”

Ensuring that classes are available both in-person and online adds to the complexity of running Camp Creatology, but Michaels understands how important it is to serve all of its customers. Convenience has become an important element of every retail experience, and delivering a true omnichannel offering is key to helping kids embrace creativity at their own pace.

“The pandemic challenged us to think differently about how we bring the classroom experience to kids, and we found that we could replicate the fun of in-person creativity within a virtual experience,” said Bennett. “Everyone has a different learning style, so some may gravitate more to one experience or another, but our team of experts carefully designed the program with this in mind to make it engaging and creativity-boosting regardless of how someone participates.”

Delivering on convenience isn’t just about the classes themselves. Camp Creatology is an ever-changing experience and Michaels wants to make it more convenient for all of its participants, from busy parents picking up supplies to the children who will put the projects together.

We’re constantly evolving and improving our products and experiences to deliver as much convenience and value as possible,” said Bennett. “For Camp Creatology, this meant not only rethinking the way parents shop for the supplies by introducing Project Kits, but also asking ourselves how we can continue to meet our customers where they are. That’s been a driving force for us behind the many innovations we’ve introduced this year, from our new website with our expanded online assortment to our Michaels Credit Card.”

Emphasis on Creative Helps Michaels Stand Out

Michaels has been investing in classes, education and experiences overall as part of the retailer’s ongoing transformation efforts. The company offers thousands of free projects online aimed at providing inspiration, in addition to other instructor-led in-store and online classes designed to help people develop new hobbies or improve their existing skills.

“Michaels offers many different classes both online and in-store throughout the year for various crafting disciplines and age groups, including summer concert bracelet-making, polymer clay, punch needle, woodburning and more,” said Bennett. “Classes are a great way to learn a new skill, connect with others who share similar interests and create beautiful projects for yourself or to gift.”

This emphasis on creativity helps Michaels differentiate itself from the competition and ultimately improves the bottom line. It’s one thing to offer a great selection of products, but putting in the effort to design educational and inspirational material to help shoppers use those products to their fullest pays off in conversions and customer loyalty.

“As the largest specialty arts and crafts retailer in North America, we’re able to provide a variety of experiences, classes and activities for all ages that is unmatched in the arts and crafts retail space,” said Bennett. “By connecting our customers with experts and inspiration, we build trust and a relationship that connects our customers to our brand. When we help our customers feel empowered to create and find enjoyment in the process of making and learning something new, we believe we’re giving them even more of a reason to keep choosing Michaels.”

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