Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

A Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer During COVID-19

Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

Cannabis dispensaries have occupied a unique niche throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. People have made it clear that they consider them essential businesses, even when politicians have tried to define them otherwise. Be it from ‘panic buying’ as stay-at-home orders went into effect, or record sales as the orders were extended, demand for medical and recreational marijuana is booming and is expected to reach 37 billion in revenue by 2024

Because of this, it’s imperative that dispensaries continue to evaluate and evolve their safety measures. This is particularly important for the estimated 3 million people in the US who are dependent on medical marijuana, as a large percentage of this population has compromised immune systems.

To help with these efforts, we’ve created a guide to providing a safer shopping experience in cannabis dispensaries during COVID-19.

How to Make Your Cannabis Dispensary Safer During COVID-19

#1 Make Use of Virtual Waitlist Software that Allows for Contactless Check-in 

The days of shopping worry-free for necessities and amenities may feel like they’re in the past, but businesses are helping make them a reality once again with additional precautions, such as the use of digital appointment systems or virtual waitlist software. Digital appointment systems provide an online platform that shoppers can use to schedule an appointment prior to their arrival so they receive same-day service on a first-come first-served basis. They also help business owners gain insights into their day-to-day operations so they can streamline their staffing requirements and prepare for a safer environment from open to close. 

At NextME, we’ve taken our software one step further than appointment platforms. Our virtual waitlist software is a new category of service that helps cannabis dispensaries stay connected to their guests at all times through text communications and engagement with your store’s website. It enables more flexibility in scheduling, the ability to communicate real-time status so your customers feel seen and acknowledged, a platform that you can use to advertise new products or educate your clientele about your new waitlist process, and it allows for curbside pick-up for those that feel safer staying in their cars.

Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App - Enable Virtual Waiting Rooms and Contactless Check-in

Here’s how it works. Upon arrival, customers can either check-in and join the waitlist from their phones via your store’s website, or by scanning a customized QR code at your storefront. Both options allow for contactless check-in that can either be completed online or while standing at a safe distance outside your store. While waiting in their cars or outside, they can use the virtual waiting room to see their position in line and interact with your store’s online content. As soon as it’s safe for guests to enter or it’s their turn in line, they receive a text message notification. Same thing applies for those that prefer curbside pick-up.

Already have a preferred appointment system? No problem. NextME’s online waitlist can easily work as an added feature in conjunction with your existing system. As an added bonus, since our platform is SMS-based, your guests don’t need to download a separate app to use it! 

#2 Use Digital Signage to Communicate with Customers

Signage may be one of the oldest forms of advertising, but it’s still one of the most beneficial - especially when it’s digital. Dispensaries can use NextMe’s guest engagement page to communicate more than just the waitlist and check-in process to clientele. Specifically, you can use it to make up for the lack of customer-employee interaction that’s required by COVID-19’s enhanced safety protocols. For example, you could use our engagement page to: 

  • Outline your new waitlist and check-in process
  • Showcase products that help with certain ailments; 
  • Educate your customers on medical marijuana benefits; or 
  • Relate to your clientele with patient success stories. 

Strategically-implemented digital signage will let your customers know you’re there for and with them during these trying times, and can help make up for a lack of face-to-face interaction with your employees. 

#3 Employ Social Distancing Inside and Out

Social distancing is our new reality and several practices can be implemented to create more space for guests as they engage with your business. Due to the sensitivity of health concerns and the privacy of containing individual’s medical information, many cannabis dispensaries already restrict the number of customers within their retail store with physical waiting rooms, and upon entry they use aisle markers to section off the flow of traffic to well spaced out checkout stations. They also tend to utilize touchless surfaces to showcase their products and/or contain the bulk of what customers buy in a separate storage space. If you haven’t already implemented these practices, now is a good time to do so. 

In addition if your store is limited in square footage, please factor that into how many people you allow in at the same time. Offering curbside pickup is an excellent solution to remedy the situation in a responsible way. 

Guide to Making Cannabis Dispensaries Safer During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist App

Lastly, another form of a physical barrier that is globally becoming well known during COVID-19 is a face covering or mask. Encourage and require both your customers and employees to wear face coverings while interacting within and around your cannabis dispensary. You can even utilize NextME’s text messaging system to let those waiting in their cars know when your staff will be delivering products so they can reapply their mask if needed. This will help protect everyone against the spread of potentially infectious germs, and is in alliance with the CDC safety guidelines

The keys to making cannabis dispensaries safer during COVID-19 are effective communication and a welcoming environment.

The keys to making your dispensary safer during COVID-19 are effective communication, which NextME’s waitlist software encourages, and a welcoming environment that offers a variety of purchasing options. Using our technology allows you to minimize crowds within your store to improve your guests' overall experiences, strategically implement digital signage which helps make up for a lack of customer-employee interaction, and receive real-time data that shows actual wait times and customer retention rates. When these tools are combined with valuable social distancing protocols, face masks, and the option of curbside pick-up, your customers will feel connected and confident enough to keep coming back. 

If you’re interested in learning how NextME’s virtual tools can help your dispensary operate safely and efficiently during the COVID pandemic and beyond, follow this link to reach out. Together we can make the difference in your clients’ new shopping experience.


NextME Virtual Waitlist App Official Partner for Dine Out West Lakeview Chicago, IL

How Virtual Waitlists Can Help Reopen the Economy During COVID-19

Businesses are reopening, but how can we encourage customers to come back safely during COVID-19?

We are in need of individual and economic healing

Coronavirus case numbers have been rising in more than 20 states, and businesses that have reopened at limited capacity are hobbling along in hopes that both the public and the economy will recover from this detrimental blow. With recent news of increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in states like Arizona, Texas, and Florida, how can we create space for healing so people are confident enough to leave their homes and businesses are safely catering to their much needed arrival? 

NextME has a solution that’s safe, smart, and step-by-step 

NextME's online waitlist system helps consumers not only feel safe, but be safe as they return to their favorite restaurants and stores. Our smart approach eases traffic, enables contactless check-in options, eliminates crowded waiting rooms, and helps businesses follow the CDC’s guidelines on social distancing. With an easy-to-use step-by-step platform that utilizes a virtual waiting room, both customers and businesses can communicate real-time status with real-time results. 

Feel safe, be safe using a virtual waitlist

It’s 4pm and you’re starting to think about what you want for dinner. Your mind begins to process different options when it lands on a Cubano wrap from the brewery 5 blocks away. From that point on, you can’t think of anything but the ham, pulled pork, and perfectly pickled delicacy that pairs so well with an amber beer. If only you could go knowing that 1) the brewery is practicing safe measures to minimize any risks you may be exposed to, 2) you can maintain social distancing throughout the entire experience, and 3) you won’t have to wait an unknown amount of time until you can sit to enjoy your meal. 

NextME Virtual Waitlist Keeps Customers Safe During COVID

Many people are just learning about NextME’s virtual waitlist app, and they are starting to associate it with a positive step in the right direction. When they see that they can sign in to a virtual waiting room and utilize contactless check-in features prior to arrival, they know that the business they are going to cares about their health and well-being without shutting their doors. Taking precautions that nurture the ability to maintain social distance until it’s time to enter the facility, while also communicating real-time status via the virtual platform, is proving to be beneficial to every party involved. These simple yet innovative web-based solutions help people feel safe and be safe when returning to their favorite businesses. 

Smart virtual solutions that keep guests engaged even when face-to-face communication is limited

Every last Friday of the month for the past few years, you get together with a small group of your best friends. In the past your group would meet at a local diner or spend the afternoon browsing your favorite storefronts, but this month is different and it’s been awhile since you’ve all gotten together. Now that some places are open, you’ve decided to make it happen and meet at a restaurant downtown. Beyond the challenge of making the decision to go, you're all still a little uneasy. You have no idea what's open and whether or not you'll all be able to be served. If only there was a way to know more...

NextME Virtual Waitlist - Smart virtual solutions that keep guests engaged

NextME’s virtual tools provide restaurants, hospitals, retail stores, and other businesses a smart solution as they invite guests to return without compromising their well-being. The virtual waiting room provides guests easy access to the queue management process and up-to-date content so they stay informed. It's a great way to make up for the lack of customer-employee interaction that’s required by COVID-19’s enhanced safety protocols. By removing the element of uncertainty, businesses and organizations can provide the best experience possible to their guests while also keeping them engaged. 

Step by step, supporting communities in need

You and your local community are suffering during this time period that some are calling “the most severe economic contraction since the Great Depression.” What can you do to help? What can you do to support your neighboring businesses while also following national guidelines? How can you avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowds, and close contact with others yet still be an active member of society?

Dine Out West Lakeview in Chicago, Illinois is a prime example of how communities and businesses are working together to answer these very important questions. And they are doing it with NextME’s help. The Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, is helping create outdoor dining rooms that will be shared by multiple local restaurants. The program will allow diners to enjoy food and alcoholic beverages from local restaurants in open air settings, while also using NextME’s virtual app to mitigate the crowds. 

NextME Virtual Waitlist App Official Partner for Dine Out West Lakeview Chicago, IL

NextME’s virtual app is both practical and informative. In the case of Dine Out West Lakeview, customers will be able to access important information about their community and learn more ways they can help, donate, or support specific causes while waiting within the virtual waiting room. With the ability to stay engaged, learn more, and click on ways to help, people will feel more connected to each other and the places they live. We all need resources and a sense of connection to survive, and together both individuals and businesses are finding ways to make sure those aspects are not lost within their valuable communities.

Be part of a success story

We all want to be part of a success story, and by joining NextME you’ll do precisely that. NextME has grown 1,102% since the start of the pandemic by helping reopen the economy and protecting people’s lives in the process. To continue the momentum, we are offering a referral program that gives individuals - such as yourself - the opportunity to spread the word. Learn more about our referral program so you can help create safe, smart, and step-by-step solutions for your community.  

 


A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19

As the nation’s economy reopens, it’s time for your retail business to do the same. And NextME can help make that transition smooth and easy. With guidelines that vary from state to state and a long list of to-dos, it may feel overwhelming. We’ve simplified the process with this step-by-step guide to help your business reopen with confidence during COVID-19. 

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist AppTips on Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19, and Essential Tools that Can Help

#1 Use a Digital Reservation System

Space is of essence during social distancing, yet we are all craving a bit of normalcy and the opportunity to shop at our favorite stores. To make this possible during COVID-19, retail stores can now turn to technology and implement a digital reservation system  to help control their customer intake process. 

Welcome your guests with a reservation and/or appointment. Let them know you’re taking their health and well-being seriously by minimizing crowds and maximizing their shopping experience. Gain insights into your day-to-day operations so you can spread out customer visits, streamline your staffing requirements, and prepare for a safer environment from open to close. Although this form of preparation may be newer to retail stores, it’s proving to be successful in other industries, such as the restaurant and healthcare spaces, during this transition into the ‘new normal.’ 

#2 Make Use of Virtual Waitlist Software and Virtual Waiting Rooms that Enable Contactless Check-In

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Virtual Waitlist Software and Virtual Waiting Rooms

At NextME, we’ve taken our software one step further than reservation platforms. Our virtual waitlist software is a new category of service that helps retail stores and other organizations stay connected to their guests at all times, thus enabling flexibility in scheduling. Unlike digital reservation systems, NextME doesn’t create expectations that customers are entitled to a specific appointment time. Rather, they're joining a virtual waitlist for same day service on a first-come first-served basis. This gives you more flexibility on when to text notify your guests to check in one-by-one versus having guests walk in assuming they're ready to be serviced. 

NextME enables contactless check-in for guests. This can be accomplished via your store's website through a customized widget, or by scanning a specialized QR code placed on your storefront. While waiting within their cars or outside, they can use NextME’s virtual waiting room to see their position in line or interact with your store’s online content. Whether you have a hot item that people want to purchase, or your store is regularly at capacity, NextME’s virtual waitlist software gives you the chance to communicate real-time status to ensure your customers never arrive disappointed! As soon as it’s safe for guests to enter, they receive a text message notification. The waitlist functions on a first-come first-served basis, yet is designed to offer same-day service. 

Already have a preferred appointment or reservation system? No problem. NextME’s virtual waitlist can easily work as an added feature in conjunction with your existing system. As an added bonus, since our platform is SMS-based, your guests don’t need to download a separate app to use it! 

#3 Establish Regular Employee Health Screening

Healthy businesses start with healthy employees. By establishing regular employee health screening before each shift, you can support the overall well-being of your staff and clientele. 

Ask your employees how they are doing. Check in with whether or not they have been feeling even the slightest bit ill lately. Encourage them to take their temperature or screen for symptoms prior to entering the premises. This will let them know you care about their well-being, while also giving them the confidence to be honest with their current state. Set the example and be dedicated to keeping everyone safe as you reopen your retail store. 

#4 Restructure Space to Allow for Social Distancing

Social distancing is our new reality and can be encouraged by restructuring your retail space to create healthy boundaries. Whether you move all the furniture, space out the clothing racks, or mark the floors with tape to specify a safe distance and flow of traffic, your customers will notice your responsible efforts. 

Physical barriers are one of the easiest ways to assure social distancing, however you still want people to move freely around your store. Mark designated browsing spaces for customers that are 6 feet apart and place arrows on the floor that follow a one-way route. Since many grocery stores have already started implementing these practices they won’t feel too restrictive or odd to your customers. Instead many will appreciate the safe direction. 

#5 Require Face Coverings for Employees and Customers

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist AppAnother form of a physical barrier that is incredibly important is a face covering or mask. Require both your customers and employees to wear face coverings while within your store. This will help protect everyone against the spread of potentially infectious germs and is in alliance with the CDC safety guidelines

#6 Implement Accessible and Frequent Sanitation Procedures

Lastly, implement accessible and frequent sanitation procedures to keep your business safe. Set up sanitation stations upon entry and throughout your store to encourage their use. Instruct your employees to pay special attention to high traffic areas and commonly used surfaces so they can disinfect them regularly throughout the day. Sanitize equipment between each use. These somewhat small practices will have a positive effect on your customers’ experiences while also encouraging businesses such as yours to remain open.  

The key to reopening your retail store during COVID-19 is effective communication and creation of a welcoming environment.

A Guide to Reopening Your Retail Store During COVID-19 - NextME Waitlist App

The key to reopening during COVID-19 is making sure your business is a welcoming and safe space for all. Utilizing new virtual tools, such as NextME’s waitlist software, will help eliminate crowded waiting rooms, enable contactless check-in and virtual communication, improve your customers’ experiences, and provide you important insights around actual wait times and guest retention rates using real-time data. Establishing regular employee health screening will support necessary safety measures. Restructuring your space will prevent overcrowding and promote healthy boundaries. Requiring face coverings will protect everyone. Implementing accessible and frequent sanitation procedures will give both your staff and clientele the confidence to keep coming back. 

If you’re interested in learning how NextME’s virtual tools can help your store operate safely and efficiently during the COVID pandemic and beyond, follow this link to reach out. Together we can make the difference in your clients’ new shopping experience. 


6 Tips for Reopening Your Restaurant During COVID-19

As the nation begins to reopen following months of lockdown, people are itching to get back to their favorite restaurants. Welcoming customers back into your establishment might seem overwhelming with the stringent yet varying guidelines being provided for restaurant owners in each state. But there are steps you can take to help your restaurant reopen safely. 

6 Tips on Reopening Your Restaurant During COVID-19, and Essential Tools that Can Help

#1 Practice Social Distancing in Dining Areas

We’ve all been practicing social distancing in our neighborhoods to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Many of the practices we’ve adopted will need to be extended into your newly reopened dining rooms. To start, tables should be placed at least six feet apart in both indoor and outdoor spaces to minimize customer contact. When the room allows it, using physical barriers between tables can also help ensure social distancing is being upheld. Since most restaurants are reopening with limited capacity, these reorganizations of dining areas should be easier to achieve than they would have been just a few months ago. 

#2 Implement Virtual Waitlists and Virtual Waiting Rooms that Enable Contactless Check-In

Implement Virtual Waiting Rooms for COVID Restaurant Reopening - NextME

Like dining rooms, waiting areas create social distancing challenges. NextME can help alleviate this strain via our virtual waiting room and contactless check-in functionality. By simply embedding a customizable widget on your site, customers can join your waitlist directly from your site without ever setting foot on your premises. Alternatively, customers walking by can join the waitlist by scanning a customized QR code with their phones. And if you’re worried that diners will join the waitlist from too far away, you can implement geo barriers so guests can only join from within a certain area. This service can be leveraged for dine-in, curbside pickup, and carryout. Guests simply join virtually, wait wherever and however they want, and then head to your restaurant upon receiving a text that their table or order is ready for carryout.  It’s easy to tag customers in the system as either 'dine-in' or 'curbside' - and you can even switch between the two tags when needed to keep track of each customer’s reason for visit.  

What really sets NextME’s virtual waiting room apart is our guest engagement platform that allows you to display custom messaging and content to customers wherever they’re waiting - be it in their cars, in the restaurant, or on the sidewalk. This is a great way to make up for the limited customer-employee interaction that's required by COVID-19's enhanced safety protocols. 

#3 Utilize Outdoor Spaces As Much As Possible

There’s less chance of spreading COVID in outdoor spaces with open air. Reopening during the summer months means it’s the perfect time to lean heavily on patio space and open roofs, making them the most-used areas of your restaurant. To help with this, many cities and neighborhoods are closing down roads and sidewalks to open up additional seating for dining.

 

Utilize Outdoor Space for Restaurant Reopening COVID - NextME - Virtual Waiting Rooms and Waitlists

NextME’s SMS system is here to help you make the most of this newly apportioned outdoor space. Our text-based system is easy to use, and doesn’t require diners to download a separate app. Restaurants across the US are leveraging it for curbside pickups, carryout, and cocktails-to-go. You can even use our system to text delivery drivers when to check-in one-by-one to pick up their deliveries. The SMS system also allows customers to walk around the neighborhood or sit in their cars while they’re waiting for a table, as opposed to crowding the bar or waiting area.

Southport Grocery & Cafe in Chicago knows first-hand what a difference NextME can make in easing the customer experience. After experiencing bad reviews regarding long wait times, the popular brunch location revamped their waiting system with NextME to provide diners with accurate wait times and personal communication catered to their specific needs. 

#4 Use a Digital System that Enables Easy Contact Tracing

Use a Digital System that Enables Easy Contact Tracing - NextME Virtual Waitlist and Waiting Rooms - COVID

One of the newest ways restaurants are assisting in limiting the spread of COVID is through contact tracing. Many cities and states are asking restaurants that offer table seating to log customers’ contact information when they dine-in, which in turn will help trace people who have come in contact with the Coronavirus. NextME can help facilitate the secure and safe collection of customer contact information. Using our virtual waitlist technology, customers can easily check-in online by adding their contact information, thus helping your business collect the data needed to follow each state's contact tracing policies.  

#5 Require Masks and Provide Hand Sanitizer

After getting customers into your restaurant and seated safely, providing hand sanitizer and requiring both employees and patrons to wear masks when they aren’t at their tables will help limit the spread of any dangerous germs. Be sure masks worn by employees abide by the CDC safety guidelines

#6 Institute Employee Health Checks

Lastly, employee health checks can help ensure your workers and customers are entering the safest environment possible. Take employees’ temperatures before they start a shift. Encourage employees to stay home if they are feeling sick. You can even provide additional sick days and shift flexibility to ensure your employees feel comfortable taking the time they need if they’re feeling ill. 

Institute Employee Health Checks COVID Restaurant Reopening - NextME Virtual Waitlist Waiting Rooms

Effective communication and creation of a safe, welcoming environment is the key to reopening safely in the midst of the COVID pandemic. 

And staying safe means eliminating overcrowding in dining rooms and waiting areas. NextME's suite of virtual tools can help by enabling contactless check-in, SMS-based waitlists, and virtual waiting rooms that display your customized content and information to guests as they wait. No need for diners to download a separate app. No need for guests to arrive until the minute their table or orders are ready, or for delivery drivers to crowd your entrance waiting for orders. If you want to learn more about virtualizing and optimizing your dine-in, curbside, and carryout processes, reach out.


How to Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19

How To: Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Long wait times can hinder customer experience across a number of industries - from food services, to retail stores, to medical offices. However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the potentially negative effects and dangers of overly crowded hospital waiting rooms and long wait times beyond an inconvenient patient experience. Specifically, they can increase the spread of illness to waiting patients and working staff. Similarly, long wait times create delays in treatment for the severely ill or injured patients - these scenarios can result in an increased risk of death for emergency departments. 

Guidelines for Reducing Waiting Room Crowding and Limiting the Spread of Disease

How To: Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19: NextME Digital Waitlist App

With the increased risk that our current landscape brings, the OHSU School of Medicine has developed a set of guidelines to help reduce overcrowding and long wait times in emergency departments in order to improve patient experience and eliminate delayed patient care. Although these guidelines were made for emergency departments, they can be extended to cover waiting rooms across various clinics and physicians’ offices. Through interviewing top performing hospitals, OHSU School of Medicine narrowed down four Ways to reduce waiting room crowding, thus improving patient care. 

Support and Involvement of Medical Clinic Executives

First, a hospital or clinic must have strong support and involvement of their executive leadership teams. Cultural shifts happen from the top down and it’s imperative that leadership stands behind decisions made to keep waiting patients safe. Executives also control funding shifts and can set large projects in motion. 

Coordination and Involvement of All Medical Clinic Staff Members

Moving down the chain of command, a second way for hospitals to lessen patient wait times is for hospital care coordination to occur through the involvement of all staff members. For example, involving all staff members in the turnover process so multiple tasks can be done at once can open up more beds sooner for waiting patients.  

Use Predictive Analytics to Forecast Wait Times in Medical Clinics

NextME Predictive Analytics to Forecast Wait Times in Medical Clinics

Third, medical offices can leverage predictive analytics to forecast high traffic times and adjust their staff and practices accordingly. This can seem daunting and complicated for many local offices, but NextME is here to make it easy. Not only can NextME provide a digital waitlist and waiting room system to limit the number of patients physically waiting together, our predictive analytics help medical clinics analyze their existing practices. This includes quoting wait times for patients and determining how to adjust to make the process more efficient and seamless. NextME has already helped Mid City Pediatrics, a physician's clinic in Louisiana, to improve their waiting room process during the Coronavirus pandemic. When the clinic began testing for COVID-19, they needed to pivot away from their existing waiting room set up to implement new protocols that keep patients and staff as safe as possible. As part of this protocol, they began screening patients at the door, asking patients to fill out virtual paperwork through NextME, and allowing symptomatic patients to wait in their vehicles until they received a text via NextME that it was their turn to be seen. As a result, Mid City was able to eliminate their crowded waiting rooms, implement contactless check-in procedures, separate sick patients from the healthy ones, and increase overall waiting room efficiency by using virtual paperwork and a text message-based apportionment system. 

High Staff Accountability

Finally, tying all of these concepts together leads to high staff accountability. Ensuring hospital and clinic staff are involved, knowledgeable, and responsible for their tasks in the hospital will help lower wait times, potentially saving lives. 

Implementing these 4 steps to improve the efficiency of waiting rooms is more important now than ever.

COVID-19 is changing the landscape and consequences of crowded waiting rooms, and of patients’ willingness to enter those wait rooms. As we all begin to re-enter our communities, a new normal is needed to ensure the safety of patients across the country. Now might just be the perfect time to explore how a digital waitlist can move your business and organization forward into this new normal. Request a NextME demo today to discuss what we can do for you.


The New Normal - Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID-19

We’re deep in the middle of a global pandemic. Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has changed almost every facet of life, the whole world round. For those essential businesses still allowed to be open, it’s vital to manage customer flow so that there are no crowds of people passing around the virus at your location. 

Some businesses, like doctor’s offices and restaurants offering takeout, are used to the waiting area concept. This means as clients arrive, they check-in and then wait in a designated area until it’s their turn to be served. Other businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies, are used to just allowing customers to come and go as they please. But at peak times there may be long lines and crowds. In the midst of COVID-19, we can do better.

Emerging Best Practices on Digital Care in the Medical Sector

Fortunately, there are a number of ways essential businesses can still serve their clients without risking the health of everyone involved. The CDC has recommended we all keep at least 6 feet of space between ourselves and others. They’re also suggesting we all wear face masks to ensure that we are not spreading the virus even though we may be asymptomatic. But how does a doctor’s office still manage to still see patients without allowing them to congregate in a waiting room? How does a takeout service get meals to customers during the dinner rush without a line forming? Here are three ideas we’re seeing implemented across a wide variety of businesses.

Virtual Waiting Rooms 

Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID - Virtual Waiting Rooms

Photo Courtesy of Textedly

Rather than gathering in a crowd at the front of a restaurant or healthcare clinic, many businesses are implementing virtual waiting rooms. The idea is to allow people to check-in digitally and then wait in their cars or outside where they can maintain at least a six-foot distance around themselves. When it’s time for them to receive service or be allowed inside, they’ll receive a text message alerting them to come in. 

Drive-Thru or Curbside Service 

Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID - Drive-Thru Service

Photo Courtesy of U.S. News & World Report

We’re all familiar with the concept of a drive-thru in fast-food restaurants or our favorite coffee chain. But this idea is going far beyond hamburgers and fries. Large sit-down restaurants are making use of “curbside service” as are retailers. Customers place an order with a click or call and then park in front of the business. When their food is ready, their groceries are bagged, or it’s their turn to be tested for the virus, the business’s staff comes to them and offers service at their car. It’s not unlike the carhops of the 50s and 60s, but it’s now being practiced in all sorts of businesses. 

Remote Service

Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID - Remote Service

Photo Courtesy of The Business Times

Finally, the best option for social distancing is remote service. This includes contactless home delivery and virtual visits for service companies. One of the top industries for this type of service is medical care. For many medical concerns, a simple telemedicine appointment can diagnose and offer treatment options without the need to break quarantine. We’re also seeing many delivery services being used more than normal, including grocery shoppers like Instacart and Shipt or meal delivery services from Uber Eats or GrubHub.

How NextME Helps Essential Businesses Implement and Manage Digital Queues

The best practices above may seem like a nightmare to manage if you’ve never done it before. How do you keep track of all those customers and notify them in a timely manner when it’s their turn? With the help of NextME, of course. 

NextME is a virtual waitlist management system. Whether you’re managing a digital waiting room, a parking lot full of drive-up customers, or a queue of remote appointments, this simple app can help. The app was originally designed with restaurants in mind but has moved well beyond its origins. It’s been used to great effect in the event marketing world and is now moving into other industries like salons, repair services, retail, healthcare, and beyond. 

Managing Appointments and Virtual Waitlists During COVID

Here’s how it works. A customer or client checks in, whether from their home or from their car using NextMe's online portal on your website. Your patron's info populates into your waitlist app and patrons receive a separate text with a link in it. When they tap the web link found in their SMS text, they arrive at your custom branded waiting page. There they’ll see a countdown timer letting them know where they are in line. But they can also see your custom queue management process, carry out specials, retail sales promotions, service provider information, social media links, or anything else you want to share. When it’s almost their turn, they’ll get another text asking them to confirm. They can reply with a simple yes or no and either come inside or stay put and wait for you to come to them. 

The best parts? No mobile app for your customers to have to install. Everything is done by SMS and their preferred web browser. And you can integrate appointments made in advance with same day service requests – no additional software needed. 

Not sure this would work outside the restaurant model? Check out what Kasey Osbon, office manager for Mid City Pediatrics said. “Even prior to COVID-19, we’ve been looking for a digital waitlist system like NextME for years. Moving forward, we can now assure our patients that they can wait and check into our facility in a safe and efficient manner.”

The New “Normal” 

You may think it’s just easier to go with a pen and paper waitlist for the next few weeks until things get back to normal. Unfortunately, this pandemic may not let us off so easily. 

Experts agree that there’s likely to be a new normal, even after the stay at home orders are lifted. When “shelter in place” is no longer required, the virus will still be out there. We’re likely to continue to see waves of infection until a vaccine is created and distributed. That means your business will still want to maintain these best practices long after the current rules have expired. It’s the safest way to protect your customers, your employees, and the community at large.

NextME Virtual Online Waitilst - COVID-19

A virtual waiting list is also more convenient for customers. Instead of sitting in a crowded waiting area, they can run an errand, take a stroll around the block, or just soak up the sunshine outside. So even after Coronavirus is little more than a bad memory, this technology can help your business grow and thrive.

Now might just be the perfect time to explore how a digital waitlist can move your business forward into this new normal. Request a NextME demo today to discuss what we can do for you.


7 Tools to Help You Switch to Virtual Events

The news is startling. Governments are closing off travel. Schools and offices are closing down. Entire sports leagues are on hold indefinitely. And events, big and small, are being forced to cancel. Of course, the last thing you want to do with the coronavirus threat looming is to bring together a large group and cause the pandemic to spread further.

So what’s an event marketer to do during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

It’s time to go virtual, and here are 7 tips for making the switch.

 

7 Tools to Help You Switch to Virtual Events During COVID19 Pandemic

 

Of course, a face-to-face event is an excellent way to spread brand awareness and make a personal connection with your audience. But in the midst of a pandemic, it’s just not a good idea. So instead, many marketers are turning to technology to host virtual events. This means live-streaming content to those who “attend” from the comfort of their own screens and devices. It means bringing people together online for informal chats and networking opportunities. It means changing in-person one-on-one meetings to video or telephone chats. 

Virtual events have been around for years, but most often they have been used concurrently with in-person events. And in some cases, a hybrid event may still be a good idea, with some people attending in person and others attending online. But for most events, going entirely virtual may be the best option. The good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own. There are a number of tools out there to help you create a virtual event that will resonate with attendees. Here are a few of our favorites.

Hopin

Hopin is an online event platform that lets you create a full event digitally. They offer several segments to mix and match into the perfect blend for your needs. These include:

  • Event Reception - a welcoming experience for attendees.
  • Event Stage - live streams or webinars with live chat function included.
  • Event Networking - a way for attendees to connect one-on-one and exchange ideas and contact details safely.
  • Event Sessions - small group video conferencing with plenty of functionality.
  • Event Booths - a way for vendors and groups to have an event presence digitally
  • Event Registration - that’s right, they’ll even help you organize your event from the ground up, or plan for next year with pre-registration during this year’s event.

Run The World

7 Tools to Help You Switch to Virtual Events During COVID19 Pandemic - Run The World

Run The World is a brand new live event platform that allows you to create an online event quickly and simply. With just a few clicks, you can set up your event and start recruiting speakers and attendees. The vision is to allow any individual, group, or company to create digital gatherings with expert speakers and quality connections. They offer a variety of formats including presentations, panels, live Q&As, cocktail meet-ups, and exhibitions. Even better? They’re currently waiving all set-up fees for events impacted by coronavirus

Calendly 

If you’re looking for a way to book appointments during your event, look no further than Calendly. Touted as the world’s number one scheduling tool, this handy option lets you schedule on the fly without all the back and forth. Just set up your schedule with a few simple rules, then share your link to attendees, allowing them to reserve spots on your calendar that suit their needs. They integrate easily with all of the major calendar apps, and even adjust time zones on the fly so everyone will be on the same page. If you haven’t tried Calendly for scheduling, you’re really missing out.

GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar

For simple and feature-rich online video conferences, it’s hard to beat GoToMeeting. From a handful of telecommuting employees connecting in an online meeting to a full scale webinar for enterprise businesses, the platform is incredibly scalable. The platform works on your Android or iPhone, and integrates with Office 365 to make scheduling a breeze. GoToMeeting will support up to 250 participants and up to 25 active HD webcams per meeting. And you’ll even get meeting transcription and unlimited recording too. Meanwhile, GoToWebinar offers fully interactive presentations to keep attendees engaged and energized.

NextME 

NextME is a waitlist management tool designed to keep your marketing events running smoothly while allowing your attendees the freedom to manage their own time. As fears over the COVID-19 pandemic increase, NextMe recently launched a new way for attendees to jump into your waitlists remotely via your event landing page. Event planners can now add their video links into NextME's SMS texts and have attendees join your online meeting remotely. Whether you’re managing your waitlist in person or online for 1:1 meetings, NextME makes managing your events more functional and organized to keep your guests happy during dreaded wait times.  

7 Tools to Help You Switch to Virtual Events During COVID19 Pandemic - NextME Waitlist App

Slido

Need a quick and easy way to get feedback from your virtual attendees? Slido offers interactive online polling and surveys to give your audience a voice. You can poll your audience in real-time, manage live Q&A sessions, and come away with all sorts of valuable analytics. And it integrates easily with tools like Slack, Google Slides and Sheets, Vimeo, and more. You can even run a pop quiz for your audience to make sure they’re paying attention. 

Zapier 

For those wanting a tech-savvy tool to help with API integrations, Zapier is the way to go. This one simple tool allows you to connect apps to automate all sorts of tasks across platforms. Use it to seamlessly add attendees to your Mailchimp mailing list. Export analytics from your GoToWebinar directly into Salesforce. Or automatically upload reports generated by your event software into dropbox to share with your team. The possibilities are endless.


Event Marketing Tips: How to Find the Right Venue: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Event Marketing Tips: How to Find the Right Venue

Event marketing is the big trend everyone is talking about. In fact, 41% of marketers call them the most effective marketing channel and 77% of marketers are using experiential marketing as a key piece of a brand’s ad strategy. 

While it’s easy to create an event for marketing purposes, creating the right event can be a bit more tricky. We’ve already discussed how to choose the right event type and which KPIs to track. Next, we’ll tackle finding the right venue based on your marketing goals and event type.

The venue you choose sets the stage for your marketing event. Sure, you could just create a standard booth at whatever relevant trade show is closest to your HQ, but is that going to give you the most impact for your efforts? We believe finding the right venue is vital to running a smooth event marketing campaign. Here’s how.

Choosing the Right Event Venue to Align with Your Marketing Goals

Event Marketing Tips: How to Find the Right Venue: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Learn from Past Events and Customer Demographics

The first and most important step is to look at the data you’ve gathered from past events. Review what went well and what went poorly. Hopefully, you’ve gathered feedback from your attendees to help guide you. Consider how space was used at these events and if it could have been configured more effectively. Did you have enough room to accomplish your goals? Was there space for networking? Was the space quiet enough for easy conversation? Did you have room for one-on-one meeting spaces? 

Next look at data from customer demographics and social media. Does your brand have a large following on the east coast? The west coast? Middle of the country? Maybe you’re gaining traction in a specific city or region. Or perhaps there’s a market you’ve recently broken into where you’d like to spread the word a bit more. When choosing where to host your event, be strategic. Traveling to a different city on the other side of the country might be worth the cost and effort if it’s done strategically. But picking the wrong host city could mean an event that fizzles before it even begins. 

Plan Your Space 

Event Marketing Tips: How to Find the Right Venue: Plan Your Space: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Once you’ve reviewed all the data available to you, it’s time to set out a space plan. Be sure to consider the various ways space will be used and the needs of your event. The information and feedback from past events should help. 

But more than simply laying out an event space, you’ll need to consider the design of the space. Its feel, smell, lighting, textures, and comfort are all relevant. You want your guests to feel welcomed and to associate positive experiences with your brand. A booth close to the aroma of food stalls might be too distracting and split visitors’ attention. Poor lighting might make it hard to see your materials. Uncomfortable seating (or none at all) might mean customers spend less time at your event than you had hoped for. 

Finally, you want everything to be on-brand. A fashion brand activation event should look very different from a tech event. Luxury brands should have a different feel than their less extravagant cousins. Color, texture, decor, and other aspects of design should all work together to tell the story of your brand.

Consider Convenience

The last thing you want is for your event to be difficult to find or otherwise inaccessible. Is there ample parking available nearby? Can attendees get there by public transit or rideshare easily? Are there rooms available for guests coming from out of town? Will guests feel comfortable in the neighborhood? Consider the environment around your event as much as inside it. 

Inside, you’ll want to make your event easy to navigate and simple to understand. Clear signage, maps, and event staff who are ready and able to help are all helpful to guests. Schedules should be easy to read and follow. There should never be a time when attendees don’t understand where to go or what they should be doing. 

Finally, don’t force attendees to waste time standing in lines. Instead, manage waitlists with technology. A waitlist app like NextMe can keep track of appointments and queues efficiently while allowing guests to make better use of their time. Not only that, the technology allows you to present marketing information to interested parties without the need for them to download anything. And it will collect data and create custom reports for your use in planning your next event, so you can improve on your efforts year over year. 


5 Tips for Arranging Individual Meetings at B2B Events

B2B conferences and trade shows are a great way to generate leads and connect with potential clients. But if they’re not well managed, they can be chaotic and unhelpful. Be sure you’re getting quality time with visitors to your event booth by setting up individual meetings at conferences. 

If you’ve never thought of or tried one on one meetings at large events, you may not know where to start. If you’ve used this tactic at conferences and trade shows, you likely know how impactful it can be. But were you getting the most bang for your B2B buck? 

Best Practices for Creating 1:1 Meetings at Conferences

Schedule in Advance

Best Practices for Creating 1:1 Meetings at B2B Conferences NextME Waitlist AppIdeally, you’d like to start off the conference with plenty of one on one meetings already on the books. But those meetings aren’t just going to fall into your lap. To make the most of your marketing efforts, you need to start with outreach in advance. For most companies, about 4 months out seems to be the sweet spot. 

Start by mentioning the event to clients in that area and others who you think might be interested. Ask if they’ll be attending. Offer to give them a face-to-face demo or some one-on-one training while you’re in town. In addition to promoting your booth number, send your leads a Calendly link to easily book appointments ahead of time.

You’ll want to schedule as many clients as you can before the event, but also be sure to leave room in your schedule for walk-ups too. If you have enough interest, it might be worth sending additional representatives to handle the overflow.

Keep Things Organized and Moving

Best Practices for Creating 1:1 Meetings at B2B Conferences NextME Waitlist App - Next ConferenceWhen scheduling meetings, the last thing you want is to force attendees to stand around your booth waiting for their turn. It’s inefficient and looks incredibly unprofessional. And it’s likely to turn away more clients than you’ll ever realize. Fortunately, there are excellent tech solutions like NextME to help you manage an event waitlist. 

This simple-to-use waitlist app will make it a breeze to keep track of your meetings and appointments, add in walk-ups, and allow visitors to monitor their place in line as they check out other booths or take advantage of networking opportunities. With a simple text message to their phones, you’ll also get to push out a custom marketing page, giving attendees a taste of the topics they might want to discuss when their turn comes. 

Listen as Much as You Talk

It’s easy to get sucked into a trap. You spend days or weeks carefully crafting the perfect sales pitch for your conference meetings. You prepare, rehearse, and know your talking points inside and out. And then you get to sit down with clients and prospects who want to talk about something else and all that prep is out the window. 

It could be that each client has a different agenda for the meeting. One may want you to show them how a specific feature works. The next might want to discuss ROI. A third might want to see your product in action. And a fourth may want you to help troubleshoot some difficulties they’ve been having.

In general, it’s best to have some idea of what to talk about should the client not have specific questions, but don’t rely too heavily on this idea. You should approach these one-on-one appointments with an intention to listen more than you talk. Avoid a set agenda or pitch and instead take the time to really connect to your prospects or clients. Creating a good relationship with them is a better tactic than any pitch anyway.

Be a Good Host

Best Practices for Creating 1:1 Meetings at B2B Conferences NextME Waitlist App - Be A Good Host

Again, you should remember that this is at least as much about relationships and building rapport as it is about marketing. As such, it’s important to remember that you’re a host welcoming a visitor into your event. Respect your clients’ time. Offer them a beverage or snacks if appropriate. Make sure they’re comfortable and at ease. You want them to walk away with a positive feeling about you and your brand, even if they don’t intend to purchase. Create a good enough impression, and they’re likely to speak positively about your brand to others at the event. And we all know the value of good word of mouth.  

Follow Up After the Event

Remember to collect client contact details as you meet with each person on your schedule. If you’ve implemented a waitlist app like NextME, you likely have this info already recorded. You’ll also get plenty of data from your event to help you make the most of each opportunity. And you’ll have lots of analytics to help you plan your next event too!

It may also be helpful to include a few brief notes about the things each client wanted to discuss or your own insights into what might be beneficial to their company. At the end of each appointment, ask when would be a good time to follow up. And most importantly, follow through with every client or prospect, every time. This is your chance to show them that you are reliable and that you appreciate that they took the time to meet. 

Ready to start scheduling meetings for an upcoming event? Give NextME a call to see how we can help you make the most of one-on-one meetings. 


Event Marketing Tips: Choosing the Right Event Type - NextME Waitlist App

Event Marketing Tips: Choosing the Right Event Type

If you work in the marketing world today, you’re probably familiar with event marketing. This technique promotes products or other ideas through live events. It can be as simple as a table in the vendors’ area of a trade show. Or it can be complex and creative, like the many viral events we’ve seen of late. 

With so many concepts and ideas floating around, how do you know which is best for your next project? It’s vital to marry the concept of your marketing event with the message you want to convey. A green message that creates loads of trash with excess brochures and flyers is unlikely to resonate with its target audience. But give the public the chance to test drive a high-performance car on a closed track and you’ve got marketing gold. Read on for some ideas to help you get started with your next event marketing project.

Choosing the Right Type of Event to Align with Your Marketing Goals

It’s no secret that the closer you tie your event to your message, the clearer that message will be. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you choose the right type of event for your goals. Conferences and Seminars are wonderful in some industries, but in others, they’re not going to reach your target market. A virtual event might be best for a tech startup, while a brand activation is a better fit for a new cosmetics or clothing line. We’ll walk you through the types of events so you can plan something that will wow your audience and convey your message at the same time. 

Brand Activations

Event Marketing Tips: Choosing the Right Event Type: Brand Activations: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Photo Courtesy of trendhunter.com

Brand activations are a fun and dynamic option for companies fresh on the scene. These are typically B2C (business to consumer) events, designed to introduce a new brand to the public at large. They can also be used to bring an existing brand into a new market, to launch a new product for a well-known brand, or to launch an overhaul of an older brand. A few brand activations you may have seen include:

The most important thing to remember with a brand activation is that creativity is key. The more over-the-top your activation is, the more likely people are to talk about it and to remember it. That equates to word of mouth marketing and even viral sharing on social media. 

Conferences 

Conferences are nothing new. They bring together large groups of people for presentations and workshops and often plenty of networking. We’ve seen conferences with all sorts of themes. And they can be B2B (business to business) or B2C endeavors, depending on the theme. Examples include:

When planning a conference, be sure to carefully plan for downtime and space for networking. Many conferences have failed to do this, leading to clogged hallways or missed opportunities. If you want to keep your crowds happy, give them the freedom to spend their time as they see fit.

Expos and Trade Shows 

Event Marketing Tips: Choosing the Right Event Type: Expos and Tradeshows: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Photo Courtesy of Team One Exhibits

Expos and trade shows are similar to conferences in that they gather together large groups of people around a single theme. These can also be B2B or B2C. But where conferences are all about learning and sharing ideas, trade shows are more about exploring new products and services. Examples include:

As with conferences, planning is key here. But the most important thing to be concerned with is the movement of people through the trade show. You want visitors to be able to see as many booths and displays as they like, without getting lost or having to spend a lot of time waiting around. 

Gala Events and Awards Ceremonies

You’ve likely seen some of these events on television. The entertainment industry is famous for awards shows like the Oscars or the Grammys. But most often, these sorts of events are used to raise funds or awareness for nonprofit groups. 

At Galas and Awards Ceremonies, the key is special treatment. You want to make your guests feel honored, whether they’re receiving an award or not. This may mean delicious food and drinks, an opulent setting, or black-tie formal attire. No matter how you choose to hold the event, it should be memorable and something worth talking about. 

Networking Events

Event Marketing Tips: Choosing the Right Event Type: Networking Events: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Photo Courtesy of FinTech Connect

Networking events are generally social opportunities for people to make connections and interact with others whose business interests are similar. These can be large or small but are rarely consumer-focused. Instead, they tend to focus on professionals from similar or complementary industries.

At a networking event, you want to give attendees plenty of time to talk amongst themselves in an informal setting. But icebreakers are a great way to get the ball rolling. Key to a successful event here is the ability to bring together the right people. You want a broad enough group that they won’t likely already know each other, but not so broad that they have trouble finding common business interests.

Product Launches

Similar to brand activations, product launches are B2C events used to introduce a product to consumers. They can be as simple as handing out samples or creating a pop-up shop in an exciting location. Or they can be unique and creative, the kind of event that gets plastered all over Instagram and other social networks. 

The key to a good product launch is getting your product to stick in the minds of your target consumers. To do this, you’ll want to build up anticipation before the launch, often with teasers or hints about what’s to come. Then be sure to deliver on your promises, making sure to associate your brand or product with a positive experience.  

Seminars

Seminars tend to be smaller events than their larger cousins, conferences. But like conferences, they’re typically focused on education and an exchange of ideas. Because they tend to be smaller and more intimate, seminars are an excellent way of building a community around an idea or theme. 

When running a seminar it’s important to not be overly sales-related. Remember that the focus should be education. Instead of spending the seminar singing the praises of your product or service, educate attendees about the problem your product solves. Or discuss the importance of the type of service your company offers. Attendees should walk away with broader information than your product’s features and uses. Give them something they will find valuable in their lives or businesses, whether they become a client or not.

Virtual Events

Virtual events are attended remotely, rather than held in a physical space. They can include everything from virtual conferences broadcast across the web to social media influencer campaigns. As virtual and augmented reality platforms grow and become more mainstream, expect to see these incorporated into virtual marketing events more often.

It can be tempting to default to virtual events because they typically require fewer resources. But don’t discount the importance of face-to-face interaction that is missing in these events. Often combining virtual events with live ones can give you the best of both worlds. This allows you to reach people who would never consider traveling to your live event, while still making meaningful connections with those who do.

The most important thing to consider if you’re hosting a virtual event is technology. You want to ensure that your event runs as smoothly as possible, without bandwidth issues or other technical problems. But in order to create a memorable event, you should also ensure you’re using the most up to date technology you can. A new and novel concept can draw crowds that you might not otherwise reach.

No matter what type of event you choose, you’ll want to attract a crowd to spread your message as far as possible. If you manage this, it’s vital to keep your crowds happy to make sure the experience is positive. One important aspect is making sure you don’t force visitors to stand in endless lines. Instead, check out NextME’s waitlist app. It’s the easy-to-use solution that event marketers are falling in love with!