The rise of virtual events in a post-Covid world

The rise of virtual events in a post-Covid world

We can’t deny that the world as we know it has changed over the past year. Both personally and professionally, the pandemic has seen us face challenges that we never saw coming, and it has had a profound effect on the high street, with shoppers unable to visit many of their favourite stores in person.

Businesses that were once brick-and-mortar were forced to adapt and move online, investing quite heavily in their digital presence in an attempt to stand out from their competitors. With this came an uplift in companies creating a plethora of free and paid-for virtual events to attract and engage customers, while securing themselves a trusted revenue stream. 

Although non-essential shops re-opened on April 12, it’s still going to be some time before companies book themselves onto trade shows and larger corporate events with face-to-face interaction. With this in mind, Richard Stone, founder of retailer and wholesaler Sass & Belle, has put together a list of ways for businesses to maximise their digital presence. 

 

3D virtual tours

360 tours help to bring your business to life and are the closest experience to the ‘real thing’ for customers. This level of immersion and interaction would be suitable for many different types of companies, and because they never close, customers are able to browse in their own time – even dressed in pyjamas, if they wish! 

They’re also good for prospective employees and have the added benefit of boosting your SEO; Google values engagement and virtual tours are an ideal way to increase the time spent on your site. For more information on creating 360 images and tours, see Google’s Street View for Business page.

 

Virtual trade shows

If you can’t go to a trade show, then consider creating a virtual one where people can come to you! These events are a great way to engage with both prospective and existing customers, highlighting key products and services they may be interested in – for example, seasonal stock, bestsellers or sneak peeks of new and developing products. These shows can be pre-recorded or live, though the latter is the better option if you’re looking to create a ‘buzz’ or have the ability to host a real-time Q&A. 

Consider breaking your trade show into segments so it’s not just the presenter showcasing product after product or service after service. You could line up a Q&A with one of your designers, for example, or host a competition with a prize on offer for the winner. 

Ensure you maximise the opportunity by following up with every attendant and offering a virtual 1:1 call to discuss any products/services they may be interested to know more about – that way you’re not letting any potential leads slip through the net!

 

Shoppable trends/lookbooks

Although not an ‘event’ in itself, lookbooks can sit nicely alongside tours or trade shows; think of them as the virtual equivalent of handing out physical catalogues and leaflets. They are also a great way for customers to see what’s coming next – for example, Sass & Belle’s latest trade lookbook showcases products for Christmas 2021, including recycled glass baubles for a ‘conscious Christmas’. A survey we did at the end of last year showed we two-thirds of shoppers were on the hunt for eco-friendly gifts.

If you’re looking to make it even more interactive, consider creating a web page that enables customers to visualise a range of products in a physical setting. For example, if you are a furniture retailer, then you may wish to create a number of high-quality images that showcase ‘dream living rooms’. From there, users can click on the items they’re interested in for more information (taking them through to the relevant product page). 

 

Webinars 

Webinars may not be as fancy as some other virtual events, but they’re a fantastic way to deliver value by imparting your industry knowledge. Webinars can be free, or paid for, and have the benefit of providing a platform to communicate with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of customers in a short space of time (typically between 30 minutes to two hours). Taking the example above, if you’re a furniture retailer, consider creating a webinar that showcases the top five interior decor trends for 2022. You can then market this content on your website, through your social media platforms and customer newsletter, to name a few avenues.

If you aren’t leveraging any of the above, then ask yourself what your customers might like to see, and what would add the most value to them. Then, you can start to put a plan in place to create a virtual event (or two) based on these insights. Although things are starting to return back to ‘normal’ now, the reality is we still don’t know what lies ahead, so it’s best to maximise your exposure, engagement and lead-generating opportunities as much as possible.

 

Susannah Griffin
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