• The Switch Team

Virtual Reality: In-person events management should stay online

The present is unquestionably digital. 

Change was already underway. Led by a generation of young adults brought up online. Now it’s been hyper accelerated by a pandemic that has forced us all to go virtual so we can continue to function.

Unsurprisingly given the ‘show must go on’ spirit of professionals in our industry, the events and meetings sectors have been at the forefront of embracing the power of tech to quickly mobilise engaging and unique virtual and hybrid experiences.

Make no mistake though, in-person will be back. Those incredible venues across the UK and beyond will welcome, serve and delight millions of guests again. Our appetite for getting together might be a little bruised, but it hasn’t gone away. We’ll be returning in droves.

Some things will need to change though, and some things ought to be reflected on given how we’ve evolved as humans.

It’s not just about the highest standards of hygiene, or the ongoing value of a virtual element to increase access and audiences. It’s about how we respond to a rapid shift in buying behaviours and embrace the sales and operational benefits.

As consumers, we were already researching, pricing, tailoring, buying and fine-tuning our product and service purchases online. Pre-pandemic, 63% of buying journeys were starting online with 1.8 billion people transacting that way.

And that wasn’t just groceries, it spans big ticket purchases like cars and home improvement projects, and into the service sector with take-aways, restaurant bookings and our all-important family holidays.

Fast forward to now and a Salesforce survey shows Covid has compounded this behaviour with 58% of consumers and 80% of business buyers expecting to do even more buying online.

Venue teams are rightfully lauded for their focus on hands-on customer experiences. Their ability to retain complete flexibility to offer bespoke packages and service delivery to meet the unique needs of each and every customer.

Taking each lead and shaping the right offer to make the sale is a skill born out of years of experience but given consumer behaviour is there a cost to this approach?

With smaller, more vanilla meetings and events likely to be an even greater percentage of bookings as in-person activity ramps back up, event professionals can benefit from looking at where else a technology led solution can help you prosper.

What can the industry learn from our own consumer behaviour that will drive up sales, lower costs to serve and increase margins?

Ask yourselves, based on your own buying journeys:

  • How many leads are lost from not being able to generate an accurate quote online?

  • How many leads are lost from not being able to see availability online?

  • How many leads are lost from not being able to book online?

  • How much time is spent manually qualifying out customers who were never going to book?

  • How much value is lost from manually planning the particulars of lower value bookings?

In these instances, what could the industry gain from taking the lead from other sectors and providing prospects and customers with more of self-service solution for booking and event planning?

Particularly if event professionals can retain control over which services they provide in this way and where they drive customers to do viewings, meet in person or discuss their needs over the phone.

Essentially adapting the operation to respond to consumer behaviour and deliver an online buying experience whilst retaining hands-on channels and a personal service to support more complex requests and offer the opportunity for up-sell.

Much as virtual won’t signal the end of in-person events, nor will technology replace the enormous value event professionals provide in making sales and creating and delivering experiences.

Giving the customer more autonomy to book and plan their events is not a revolution, but a positive evolution that can add value and remove wasted effort from venue team’s processes.

Something that allows event profs to do even more of the incredible stuff that sets them apart from their peers in other service sectors.

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