In-person trade shows may be paused for a while, but that doesn’t mean you also have to put exhibition marketing on hold. If trade shows were an important channel that you relied on to gain leads and boost your exposure, then it’s imperative that you seek new ways of ensuring continuity. After all, the impact of the pandemic is set to extend well until the second half of 2021, and you need to explore other ways of keeping in touch with potential clients. Virtual showrooms are one of those ways. Easier to build and cheaper to execute than virtual trade shows, they can help you boost your online presence and generate more leads.
Virtual showrooms are not something new. They’ve existed for several years, but it’s only now that most businesses are starting to explore their potential. If you’ve never launched a virtual showroom before, we’ve put together a quick guide that will give you a birds’ eye view of the process.
You can start from an existing showroom design, if you have one.
Have you already taken part in a trade show or exhibition? Then you can start from your existing showroom design. Most of the time, the same features, design, and layout can be converted to a digital format, so you won’t have to build everything from scratch. Even if some components of your showroom design won’t work as well in digital format, you can still use them as a starting point when discussing strategy with the developers:
- What parts of the showroom do you think worked the best and you’d like to keep?
- What parts do you want to be removed?
- Would you like to bring new additions to the showroom, or perhaps even change the design entirely?
Knowing your audience is key in marketing. There is no such thing as a universally appealing virtual showroom, just like there’s no such thing as a universally appealing website. It all depends on who your audience is, their location, what their needs are, and what you’re trying to accomplish with the showroom. So, before you start designing, you have to work together with a team of marketing experts and create a list of clear goals.
Decide on the size and layout of the showroom.
Your marketing goals now established, you have to move on to the next step, which is deciding on the size and layout of the showroom. Fortunately, designing a virtual showroom is far less complicated and costly than a brick-and-mortar showroom, so you’ll have fewer limitations. If you have many products you want to put on display, then simply choose a larger showroom size.
However, it’s just as important not to get carried away, because large showrooms can become confusing and overwhelming if the layout isn’t right. So, in addition to choosing the right size, you’ll have to settle on a logical showroom sequence that takes the virtual guests on the journey you want. In general, a good virtual showroom should have:
- an entry area
- a space for socialization
- a space for customer support
- separate areas for each product/service category
- a map of the showroom
Choose a design
This is that part of the process where you can bring to life your creative ideas. The more innovative the showroom design, the more attractive it will be for guests, so try to stand out from the crowd. Make sure you use high-resolution images and graphics because those are the ones that will create a strong first impression.
Another good practice is to settle on a showroom design that’s consistent with your company’s identity and general branding strategy. We’re talking about consistency in colors, fonts, and general look-and-feel. From this point of view, you can think of the virtual showroom as an extension of your website.
Develop compelling content for the showroom
Once the design is ready, you have to “fill” the showroom. If in a traditional trade show this means putting your products on display for hands-on testing and having a company representative talk to guests, in virtual showroom you have to add compelling content that can engage online visitors. This includes things such as:
- detailed images and text copy about your products
- explanatory videos, 3D tours (video content, in general, has been proven to boost engagement)
- PDF guides
Research hosting options
When your virtual showroom is ready, you need to decide where it will be available for online audiences to see it. And here you have two options:
- You can host the showroom on your website
- You can host it on a specialized website
Although things can vary depending on your company size and hosting plan, in general, it’s recommended to host your showroom on a third-party website for maximum security and fast loading speeds.
Announce the virtual showroom launch on social media
Once your virtual showroom is up and running, it’s ready to open its doors and welcome guests. To maximize attendance, and make sure as many as people as possible see your innovative products and services, announce the launch on social media by creating an event and inviting your followers. To generate hype, you can even create a countdown timer on your website.