As we all do our part to social distance, some businesses have it easier than others. Those of us in the technology sector are used to video conferencing, Slack channels, and Trello boards, but some things are challenging to recreate in a digital landscape.
Challenging, but not impossible.
When one of our clients, the owner of the Steel City Reptile Show, came to us, he wasn’t sure how his business was going to survive. Its concept is simple—organize large-scale events that bring reptile vendors together for customers looking to buy their next exotic animal. Vendors would purchase a table and bring live animals to display. Shoppers would buy a ticket to the show and have the chance to get up close and personal with all manner of snakes, lizards, and frogs until one of these cold-blooded cuties stole their heart and earned a space in their home.
Everything about the process worked great—until COVID-19 and social distancing forced him to cancel his string of upcoming reptile shows.
If we can’t host the live reptile show, how can we do this?
Finding a way to proceed meant going back to the drawing board. We knew that we couldn’t bring people together the way that our client and his shoppers were used to. But in the words of Dr. Ian Malcom from Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.” So would we.
We needed a website that could take the place of the physical convention center—a virtual space that was user-friendly and technologically sound. It needed to be simple, yet secure. And most importantly, it needed to mimic the experience of walking through the exhibition hall, meeting each vendor face-to-face, and getting to know the animals that were for sale.
We also needed a way to drive traffic to the site, sell tickets to the event, and customize the experience of not just the shoppers, but the vendors. It needed to be responsive and robust. We had to customize the experience for each individual involved—just like at a face-to-face expo, some vendors would have only a handful of animals to display, others could have dozens. They both needed to have a seamless experience.
On the shoppers’ side, we knew we faced a serious challenge: how to make them feel as if they were there. Walking into a live reptile show was overwhelming in the best way possible—table after table of snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles and arachnids—all looking for a new home. But choosing a pet isn’t what you normally think of when you think of online shopping. You want to meet the animal, the people who raised him/her, and get a sense of how the animal might fit into your home. We decided to bridge this gap using live stream technology. The reptile show was about to become ReptileStream.
What we built
Like so many great sites, we started with WordPress. Based on feedback from our client, we built a beautiful, responsive site as the foundation of the virtual reptile show. We helped our client sign up for Infusionsoft by Keap and connected it to his domain. Then, using the power of iMember360, we used levels of membership to customize the individual experiences for each user.
From the ReptileStream home page, you have two options: Pay for Access or Log In. We used WooCommerce and InfusedWoo to set up a world-class shopping experience to allow vendors to purchase a virtual table with a myriad of options:
- What kind of animals do they sell?
- How many animals would they display?
- Were they interested in being a featured vendor?
All of these details are captured in Infusionsoft by Keap and used to make automation decisions down the line.
Visitors to the ReptileStream can also purchase tickets to an upcoming event. A completed purchase adds the contact to Infusionsoft, generates their individual access code, and enters them into a communication campaign that prepares them for the ReptileStream experience.
Everything that happens from that point is driven by a membership experience supported by iMember360. By reading a contact’s Infusionsoft tags at login, iMember360 customizes that contact’s view of the site. Upon logging in, the site is able to read that a specific user is a vendor, with 50 animals to display, and shows them the vendor dashboard, where they can upload their company logo, share a description of their company, and manage their inventory.
On the day of the show, paid, approved vendors are given a streaming tag and chat code to support the communication experience. Using WP Stream, each vendor is given their own dedicated live stream channel to talk to shoppers, answer questions, and display animals. Each vendor also has a dedicated chat room to help facilitate communication with shoppers.
Infusionsoft is working behind the scenes to make sure shoppers show up for the show. They receive a chain of automated communications reminding them of the approaching event. They even receive a virtual ticket with their name and the event date merged onto it using PicSnippets.
When shoppers log in prior to the show, they see a countdown to the live event. When it’s time for the show, iMember360 and Infusionsoft work together to take them to the ReptileStream lobby. There, they can choose which virtual vendor table to visit, or if they’re not sure, they can flip from vendor to vendor almost like changing channels. Just like walking through the exhibition hall and browsing from table to table, the shopper drives their experience at ReptileStream.
Some important lessons were learned along the way. The biggest cause of headaches during our first show was the phone calls we received from some visitors saying they hadn't received their emails from Keap. After looking through the contact records, we discovered that most people had mistyped their email address during checkout. We solved this problem by using DeBounce and connecting it to WooCommerce. This allowed us to verify a visitor’s email address before allowing them to check out. After adding this tool, we didn’t receive another call about a visitor not getting their email.
It’s so easy to focus on what we can’t do right now. We can’t have birthday parties, we can’t attend weddings, and we certainly can’t host large-scale reptile shopping experiences.
But we can use Keap in exciting new ways to help customers meet their goals. Don’t say “We can’t do that right now.” Like ReptileStream, dare to ask “How can we do this right now?” In this case, the answer was automation with a lot of imagination!
When your service is lacking, your company’s reputation takes the hit. 😣— Keap (@KeapGrowing) July 12, 2020
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