NTP-STAG’s online buying and educational event for dealers in late January nicely complemented its successful, in-person Expo event earlier in the month, according to show organizers.
Given that the COVID-19 pandemic limited how many dealers could attend the distributor’s Jan. 18-19 physical show at the Marriott Orlando World Center in Orlando, hosting a virtual event Jan. 25-29 provided a great opportunity to “invite and gather everyone who could not be present in person, whether by choice or because of the limitations we applied to the size and scope of the event,” said Harneet Kaur, senior director of marketing and retail eCommerce at NTP-STAG and Keystone Automotive Operations.
Knowing exhibitors and customers were balancing show attendance with professional responsibilities and travel restrictions, “We wanted to take the ‘work’ out of attending a virtual event,” said Kaur. She stressed the importance of offering a flexible online format that attendees could access “as their schedules allowed,” including after-hours and in the weeks after the physical show ended.
Hosting a virtual event required NTP-STAG to make some significant modifications regarding strategy and planning, according to show officials. As such, NTP-STAG upgraded its digital tools and technology in order to simulate valuable components of live events and “recreate the show magic in virtual format,” said Kaur.
The investment was well-received, she added, as event staff, exhibitors and attendees described NTP-STAG’s new virtual platform as intuitive and easy-to-navigate. Interactive features such as virtual registration, an online lobby area, as well as exhibitor and new product areas were designed to create a sense of virtual realism.
When it came to making purchases at the virtual event, NTP-STAG offered a pre-show cart function allowing attendees to build out their show order in advance, offering a valuable time-saving feature, according to Kaur.
“Instead of focusing energy on where to find all the helpful information available, we wanted our customers spending that time learning it,” she added.
Through the virtual platform, attendees also were able to explore a range of brand, product and business-building materials across a variety of mediums, from marketing collateral and installation clips to recorded seminars and live chats with company representatives.
Meanwhile, the virtual event’s educational component offered extensive training, said Kaur, highlighting the roster of speakers and product seminars available.
Hall of Fame Speaker and well-respected economist Mary Kelly, PhD, returned for the second year as a PRO Speaker to share her business insights. Additionally, bestselling author and nationally-recognized social media expert, Corey Perlman, discussed best practices to maximize digital business opportunities, including developing and publishing effective, high-quality social media content. Numerous RV University product presentations by some of the industry’s leading suppliers rounded out the agenda.
According to Kaur, NTP-STAG’s merchandising center, point-of-sale section and Marketing Garage – which offers a variety of free content for customers to utilize, such as social media and email marketing templates – were well-received and recorded a lot of “virtual foot traffic.”
In the end, both the in-person and virtual Expos “exceeded company expectations,” Kaur said, adding, “I’m amazed and pleased with our team for putting these shows together back-to-back, and doing it so well.”
She added, “What’s been very rewarding is the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have received about the new virtual platform and everything that went into making it a success. Suppliers and customers have shown great faith, support and encouragement in our ability to host a proper show experience.”