WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Focusing on its tagline “Outwork. Outwit. Outwin,” Nationwide Marketing Group launched its first-ever virtual PrimeTime conference on Oct. 27, with speakers and events centering on the group’s digital efforts, member successes and more over three days.

This year’s event saw record member attendance from members in both the U.S. and Canada; a week before the event open, Nationwide had already doubled the number of its registered attendees from its highest-attended in-person event.

And like the in-person event, this year’s virtual event included the same educational opportunities, keynotes, networking, vendor deals and giveaways.

“This isn’t how I thought we’d be kicking off PrimeTime,” said Tom Hickman, president and chief member advocate for Nationwide in his rousing opening state-of-the-union message to the group.

He added, “The past eight months have been a whirlwind of disruption. COVID has changed the way we do everything, especially the way we buy and sell. But you haven’t just muddled through the upheaval. Many of you have fundamentally changed the face of American retail.”

Double down on digital

According to Hickman and his colleagues, NMG’s member retailers have done so by doubling down digitally as consumer interest and use of digital options skyrockets. In a session immediately following Hickman’s opening comments, Nationwide’s digital team addressed the growth and how to capitalize on it.

“There’s been no change in consumer behavior trajectory, but instead we simply saw a greater acceleration,” said Dean Sottile, senior vice president of digital and technology, in his opening comments.

That acceleration is something that members using website tools offered by Nationwide through providers such as Site on Time and Retailer Web Services (RWS) have been able to take advantage of, citing a 429% increase in web transactions for members and combined web traffic increases of about 300% for members by early spring.

Sottile also noted that in March, Nationwide partner Google recommended RWS for any business launching an e-commerce solution, further solidifying Nationwide’s use of the service.

Chief Customer Officer for RWS Genna Majuta echoed Sottile’s sentiments, reporting that consumer traffic for retailers using RWS had risen in the past six months more than 200% year-over-year, alongside a more than 400% increase in their online orders placed in April through September and an average of a 30% increase in site visit length.

Site on Time’s Jennifer Danko, vice president of technology, said higher online shopping rates were set to stay through 2021, and she reported that some group members had experienced up to a 500% increase in online sales over the time.

For those retailers looking to keep the online wave rolling, Majuta and Danko offered advice to help members “win the Internet,” and Sottile reminded all members that it is not too late to “make your move” into digital success.

“More than ever, it’s crucial that your website reflects your in-store experience,” stressed Danko. “Create every opportunity for customers to connect with you wherever they are at whenever they are ready to purchase.”

Majuta added that member dealers should work with and on their sites “with the same care and attention” they give to their stores by providing easy access to inventory availability, product information and sales assistance.

Inspired, energized

Reflecting its members’ digital focus, this year’s PrimeTime undertook many of the same hallmarks that Nationwide’s network of independent retailers have come to expect of the event, including numerous Nationwide Learning Academy educational opportunities, tailored merchandising sessions, vendor product training and more.

On the education circuit, two Women in Nationwide sessions focused on beating burnout and owning your own voice, and keynote presentations were offered from Mark Kinsley and Mark Quinn of the Dos Marcos Podcast and Wells Fargo.

In a closing presentation entitled “Redefining Your Path to Success & Facing the Unexpected,” athlete, singer and motivational speaker Kris Kuester framed his life journey in the stages and challenges he encountered as an athlete, singer and neurological condition survivor.

Giveaway and give back

Virtual PrimeTime also included the largest individual giveaway opportunity in the history of the show: a $100,000 store makeover.

Sponsored by NMG, which had more funds to use this year because of the lower costs associated with putting on a virtual show, and 12 of its largest vendor partners, the giveaway will enable one Nationwide member (to be announced later this month) to completely reimagine their physical store or their digital presence — or both.

But giveaways did not end at that one large prize. Nationwide’s furniture and bedding dealers also had the chance to claim their share of $50,000 to spend on 2021 digital campaigns, with five retailers each receiving $10,000 from the furniture and bedding team to be used on digital marketing campaigns through AdRocket or Site on Time.

Further, the appliance and outdoor merchandising teams collaborated with a dozen vendors to secure nearly $12,000 in prizes and giveaways for members including a chance to win an upright freezer from Beko, grills from Tytus and Louisiana Grills, lawn gear from Troy-Bilt and Senix, cash prizes from Sunheat International, and more.

Nationwide was also able to continue its tradition of giving back during its annual event, working closely with the nonprofit No Child Hungry to develop a way for members to participate while being socially distant. While meal packing, a staple of the show, was not possible during a virtual event, members still had the opportunity to make a meal contribution to the organization, with Nationwide pledging to donate one meal for every booth visit made by a member on Oct. 28.

Other highlights of Virtual PrimeTime included hundreds of vendors in the appliances, consumer electronics, furniture and bedding, and outdoor categories in custom-tailored virtual booth experiences; cash back rewards and show specials on purchases made during the event; and “Member 2 Member” networking and idea-sharing sessions.

“Overall, this week was amazing in terms of engagement from our membership,” concluded Hickman in a press conference at the end of PrimeTime’s three days.

He added, “It feels like the 188th day of March to me, and we have weathered a year unlike any other. … Now, in October, at this event, we can honestly say that we are having an unbelievable year. Our members are incredibly resilient.”

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