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.  

 


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.


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.


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!


Impossible Burger Pop Up by marketing-interactive.com - NextME Waitlist App - Experiential and Interactive Marketing Trends 2020

7 Trends in Experiential Marketing for 2020

 

Dinner in the Sky by unusualdinner.com

Dinner in the Sky by unusualdinner.com

Top Experiential and Interactive Marketing Trends for 2020

Marketing trends are always evolving and the world of experiential marketing is no exception. If you want to create relevant interactive marketing events for your customers, you’ll need to stay two steps ahead of the game. Here are a few of our predictions for the industry in 2020.

Tech-Driven Experiential Marketing

The first and biggest trend we’re seeing for the coming year is technology playing a major role. As the experiential marketing space continues to grow, more and more companies are taking advantage of tech advances to really engage the market. 

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are big pieces of this puzzle. The ability to digitally create whole worlds, or manipulate the real world, is just too much fun to pass up. Not only that, this sort of technology creates an immersive experience unlike any other available today. 

But in addition to attendee-facing technology, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes tech making marketers’ lives easier and marketing experiences run more smoothly. NextME is an excellent example. The simple concept of the app is to manage waitlists and appointments. This amazingly intuitive app has become a huge help to experiential marketing teams across the country. With one simple interface, you can keep track of your waitlist, manage appointments, notify attendees when it’s their turn, present them with marketing messages or other online content, collect data, and so much more!

Sensory-Driven Booth Design 

“Instagrammable moments” in marketing are on the way out. That’s because they only engage the eyes, and skip over all of the other senses. The next trend we’re seeing pop up is full sensory design. By engaging all five senses, your event marketing will become infinitely more memorable. But how do you accomplish this? 

Sight and sound are easy. We’ve been doing those from day one. But taste? For a food or beverage company, it’s a no-brainer, but for the rest of us, that’s likely not a sense we’ve thought about in connection with our brands. Consider catering your event if it’s upscale, or just offer some tasty snacks and beverages for your visitors on the go. Be sure to have options for specific diets like allergen free, low carb, and vegan. To really do this right you want top-end food that everyone will be able to try and adore.

Smell is partially about what people do smell, but also about what they don’t. A booth too close to overflowing trash cans or the restroom could leave an unpleasant experience in visitors’ minds. And too much strong scent is overwhelming, even if you’d enjoy the fragrance if it were dialed down a bit. 

The last one is touch, and it’s easier to incorporate than you might think. Pay attention to the textures in your booth. Are you going for sleek and smooth or fluffy and cozy? Offer guests soft chairs to sit on, use rich fabrics to cover tables or choose tables with a texture of their own. Natural wood, stone, or even tile table tops can each give a different sensory experience. 

Experiential Art Installations

Mysterious Oreo Storefront - Photo Courtesy of Marketing-Interactive.com

Photo Courtesy of Marketing-Interactive.com

Experiential marketing, at its heart, should be creative. Increasingly, brands are taking this to a whole new level and elevating their marketing with art installations. From the mysterious Oreo storefront last February to the 3D Burgers from Impossible Foods last summer,  this is an attention-grabbing technique that could work for any industry. 

A well-designed art installation should be bigger than life. It should grab the attention of anyone who walks past. And it should be highly memorable with a tie-in to your brand. Successful installations will instantly go viral as people begin to talk about that cool thing they saw on the street or at a convention. 

“Stayable” Experiences

It used to be that grabbing the attention for a moment or two was all we were after. After all, people are busy, right? While that’s certainly still true, many brands are now aiming for a longer experience that will last several hours or even overnight. 

This sort of event is completely sensible for the travel and hospitality industry. After all, “stayable” is what they do. But what about other sorts of brands? Your local zoo has probably been doing this for years. They often host overnight events at their locations, allowing families to experience wildlife after dark. You might also remember the Bates Hotel at SXSW a few years ago. This overnight stay helped to promote a television show. Get creative and design an experience that immerses visitors, not just for a few minutes, but for a full day or overnight stay.

Green Initiatives and Advocacy

Climate change, pollution, single-use plastics, and other green initiatives are making their way into the interactive marketing world. The first way this is happening is when environmental campaigns create their own events. A great example is the trash cleaning robot you control like a video game that’s aiming to clean up Chicago’s waterways. But the movement has gone way beyond this simple concept. 

Now, we’re increasingly seeing a call for sustainable marketing materials and recycled or reusable experience materials. And many brands who aren’t directly involved in advocacy are promoting green messages alongside their marketing. One such experience is the Pokemon GO Earth Day Cleanup promotion. In April of 2018, the AR video zgame partnered with the likes of Mission Blue and Heirs to Our Oceans to encourage players to pick up trash. More than 6,000 kgs of trash later, they had engaged over 4,200 attendees and created a positive association between their brand and an environmental cause.

Pop-ups

We’ve been seeing Pop-ups for years now, but the concept continues to grow and get more creative. Originally, we’d see pop-ups for retail brands and restaurants. A brand that’s new to town would rent a short-term space to introduce itself to the locals. Or a new restaurant concept would pop up to test its menu before opening a permanent place. But today’s pop-ups are so much more. 

Fast Food Aid Pop-Up- Tokyo, Japan

Photo Courtesy of Dezeen.com

To announce his 6th album last summer, Ed Sheeran opened 32 pop-up shops for precisely 6 hours. In Tokyo, a restaurant specializing in healthy foods opened a pop-up lab and gave away vitamins to people who ate fast food. “Dinner in the Sky” hoists guests off the ground to enjoy a world-class dining experience. And extreme sports clothing brand 37.5 opened the
World’s Most Remote Pop-Up Shop” on the side of a sheer cliff in Colorado. The lesson here is to get creative and think about ways a pop-up can be more than just another short-lived retail shop or restaurant.

Viral Challenges and Social Media Contests

Finally, we predict the era of viral challenges and social media contests will continue through 2020. You remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, right? It raised funds to combat ALS. Since then, the concept has been used by all sorts of brands and causes. The Vans challenge had people tossing their sneakers in the air. Lil Nas X had us all dancing to promote his Old Town Road single. What will your brand challenge us to do?

Want to go a different viral route? Lots of brands spread awareness with social media contests. Invite fans to caption an image. Have them share your brand with friends. Let them vote on a new product concept to win. Or go all out with a social media scavenger hunt. The sky is the limit here, and for the cost of a few nice prizes you’ll have people all over sharing your brand with their friends and followers.


What Is an Appointment Waitlist System?

How Appointment Waitlists Work

Perhaps you’ve seen the buzz about appointment waitlists and wondered how they could benefit your business. Today’s technology is allowing all sorts of industries to manage their clients professionally and efficiently. And since nobody has to spend time sitting in a waiting area looking through old copies of Time and National Geographic, it’s a true win/win!

But What Is an Appointment Waitlist Exactly, and How Do They Work?

Today’s waitlist technology is a great way for any service-based business to schedule customer appointments and walk-ins alike. A waitlist allows you to schedule clients way ahead of time — regular visits, planned service appointments, monthly appointments. And it also allows you to manage walk-in clients, who are of course far less predictable. So if your nail salon has regular monthly manicure clients along with walk-ins who are trying your salon for the first time, you can include all of these types of visits in the same system. This allows you to fill slow times or no-shows with walk-in clients, and also reschedule late clients or last-minute drop-ins on the fly.

The best part? Nobody has to sit around and wait. Waitlist technology, like the NextME app, allows your clients to monitor their place in line from the comfort of their phones. A simple text message gives clients a link to a custom webpage where they can see their spot in line, in real-time. Another text when it’s almost their turn confirms that they’re coming back, so you can give away their spot if they’ve changed their mind.

How Appointment Waitlists Benefit Busy Businesses

If you’ve run a business in any service industry for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with the nightmare expense of no-shows. The restaurant industry is a classic example. It’s not uncommon for 10-20% of the reservations on any given night to result in tables that sit empty waiting for fickle diners who are not coming. Knowing the famously thin margins of restaurant budgeting, this can be a real problem with a huge impact on the bottom line.

Many restaurant reservations and waitlist platforms exist, but most have no idea how to handle no-shows. NextME, with its simple texts, custom pages, and unobtrusive customer experience, has proven to be a great way to fix the problem. By texting a confirmation to customers just before their reservation is set to begin, restaurant hosts can know in a flash whether it’s safe to give away that coveted Saturday night spot or if the diner who’s reserved it is on the way.

But this technology is not just for restaurants. All sorts of other businesses are finding it to be a perfect option for managing their queues of customers too. In a salon, having just a few large appointments not show up can make or break a stylist’s day. The cost of no-show salon customers can add up quickly, disrupting your stylists’ momentum and leading to disgruntled employees and management difficulties. A strong cancellation policy is a good start, but wouldn’t you rather be able to retain as many appointments as possible, while filling in the empty slots with walk-ins?

Auto Repair shops can face similar issues. Customers notoriously don’t understand the amount of time involved in complex repairs like timing belts. So they may not consider it a big deal when they book an appointment and then miss it. But if you’ve blocked out several hours for your top guys to handle a technically challenging problem, the last thing you want is for them to be standing around waiting for the car to arrive.

Today’s event marketing agencies spend a fortune creating unique customer experiences to help connect consumers with a brand. Elaborate convention booths and pop-up customer experiences are a great way to build a brand’s name and a ton of customer loyalty. But you don’t want to force show visitors to stand around waiting, blocking the way to your booth and generally getting frustrated with the experience before it even really begins.

Instead of eating the costs of dreaded no-shows, why not choose a solution built to handle them with minimal disruption to your business? Contact NextME today to find out how our appointment waitlist system can help.


How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointment Waitlist Management

How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointment Waitlist Management

Waiting is a fact of life. And managing waitlists is often a big part of doing business. 

You may be thinking of the waiting area at your favorite salon or those little buzzer coasters at restaurants. But there are so many more industries who have to tackle this problem. From bowling alleys, to car lots, to stylists, to sales professionals, to event organizers and exhibitors, waitlists seem to be everywhere.

And those annoying buzzers or the old-fashioned clipboard technique are a poor way to keep track of such a vital part of your business. Fortunately, today’s technology has given us a better way to manage the wait through appointment waitlist platforms.

How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointments and Waitlist Management

Create an Appointment Waitlist

If your salon, repair shop, or other service business uses a walk-in model, you might be leaving money on the table. But moving to an appointment-only model can also have financial drawbacks. A better solution is to create an appointment waitlist — it’s the best of both worlds.

An appointment waitlist allows you to schedule clients way ahead of time — regular visits, planned service appointments, monthly appointments. And it also allows you to manage walk-in clients. So if your dog grooming business has monthly bath and cut clients and walk-in flea baths or nail trims, you can include all of these types of visits in the same system. This allows you to fill slow times or no-show appointments with walk-in clients, and also reschedule late clients or last-minute drop-ins with ease.

Confirm Appointments with Text Reminders

Many walk-in type businesses have found that setting appointments can actually hurt their bottom line when people don’t show up. They may have booked a full day of appointments and staffed their business appropriately only to find that half of the clients have gone elsewhere or forgotten the appointment. Staff is left twiddling their thumbs waiting for people who are not coming. The whole business is less busy, and consequently less profitable, than it should be. 

This is similar to the no-show problem restaurants have faced for years using reservation systems like OpenTable. Since NextME was originally designed for the restaurant industry, our platform was created with this difficulty in mind. 

With a simple text message, just before their appointment clients can let you know if they’re still planning to keep their appointment. If so, they are prompted that they’re soon to be next in line. If not, the waitlist is moved forward accordingly and the day progresses smoothly. The staff stays busy, the business stays active, and workers and clients alike don’t have to waste time waiting. 

Let Clients Control How They Wait 

By sending SMS updates estimating wait time and then notifying clients when they need to head back, you allow clients to control and manage their own time. They don't have to hover in or just outside your shop (or keep checking back). They can take off and do as they please, then only begin to return once they receive a text letting them know that they're next or almost next in line. 

Not sure how this would look? Take Apple's Genius Bar. They do an excellent job of allowing clients to schedule their appointments and then wait wherever or however they like. Since many of their locations are inside shopping malls or busy commercial areas, this means people can shop or run errands as they wait. This leads to happier clients and better customer service ratings across the board. And there’s no denying that they’ve managed to create a loyal following.

Take Advantage of Clients' Captive Attention

In today’s data-driven world, your clients are constantly bombarded by marketing messages. So finding ways to get their attention is harder than ever. What if you could get your clients to view a page with your chosen messages, voluntarily?

One of the best features of NextME’s waitlist platform is that it sends your clients to a page where they can monitor their place in line in real-time. This creates a captive audience who is already interested in your business and its services. And you get to decide what content is displayed on the page beneath the countdown. 

This means you could advertise potential upsell products or services like adding a blowout to a hair cut or offer new air filters for clients coming to your automotive shop. You could also showcase your website, give customers the option to sign up for your email list, or encourage them to follow your brand on social media. Have a customer loyalty plan? This is a great place to give them a sign-up link.

This waiting page is also a great option for event management teams. It allows event exhibitors to manage wait times for attendees visiting booths. The marketing page allows exhibitors to prep attendees while they’re waiting to experience all a booth has to offer. They can use the page to help attendees make a more meaningful connection to your brand or cause by combining mobile marketing content and one-on-one meetings with staff members. 

Want to see how an appointment waitlist can help you grow your business? Give NextME a call today!


NextME Waitlist App - Top CRM Consultants in Chicago by Clutch

NextME Featured on Clutch’s 2019 Top CRM Consultant Report

Clutch Top CRM Consultants 2019 NextME Waitlist App

NextME Appointment Waitlist App Wins Top Honors from Clutch

NextME is the ultimate solution for helping various businesses, event organizers, exhibitors, and restaurants effectively manage their appointments and waitlists while improving efficiency and customer satisfaction. As technology develops, virtual solutions are being used more frequently as a method to manage customer relations, which includes managing a queue if you’re an appointment-based business. Due to our success in improving appointment and waitlist management across industries, we have earned a Clutch award for being one of the top CRM consultants in Chicago.

Located in Washington, DC, Clutch is a ratings and reviews startup dedicated to B2B service firms. Since 2013, Clutch’s platform has connected thousands of prospective buyers with service providers for their business needs. By carefully analyzing industry data and conducting their signature client interviews, the Clutch analysts are able to rank and rate the top companies in a variety of industries. We are very grateful to NextME’s clients for taking the time to participate in the interview process. 

Along with our rating on the main Clutch page, we have been featured on The Manifest and Visual Objects, sister-sites of Clutch. The Manifest is a business news platform featuring how-to guides, state of tech news and industry rankings. We can be found listed among the top CRM consultants on The Manifest. Visual Objects is designed to highlight the work of a wide variety of creative agencies ranging from advertisers to software developers. Each Clutch listing offers buyers a unique look into what we can offer to clients. 

We are thrilled to have been selected for these awards. Going forward, we hope to grow our client base and expand our brand. If your business could use help optimizing your appointment and waitlist operations, let’s get in touch today! 

 


Why All Event Organizers Should Use An Appointment Waitlist App - NextME

Why All Event Organizers Should Be Using An Appointment Waitlist Platform

Nobody likes to wait. This is even more true in today’s fast-paced, on-demand society. But waiting is made so much less annoying when you’re given accurate information and kept informed. This is just one of the benefits a waitlist platform can provide for attendees at your next big event. 

Waitlist platforms like NextME are an increasingly popular way for businesses to handle a queue of customers. From restaurants to healthcare clinics to conferences and industry events, this simple to use technology is taking the sting out of waiting. 

And waitlist technology is making things easier on the exhibitor’s end too. It’s taking care of back end tasks like collecting customer data and keeping track of appointments. 

Read on to find out why an appointment waitlist platform is a win/win solution that every event organizer should be using.

Why Appointment Management is Important for Events and Conferences

Greater Exhibitor Retention – Waitlist solutions like NextME allow your exhibitors to properly manage appointments and visitors during events. This leads to greater retention of exhibitors from one event to the next. 

Let’s face it. Your exhibitors are investing a lot of capital to be a part of your event. And they want to ensure they’ll get a good ROI for this investment. The most valuable commodity they’re after? Qualified leads. If you can provide them with the ability to easily capture and qualify potential leads, you’ll see exhibitors come back year after year. 

Providing NextME to your exhibitors is a great way to do this. In fact, this appointment and waitlist platform has been proven to improve lead retention rates by up to 35%. And it’s been tried and tested by the big boys like GE Appliances, who were able to capture more leads and close more sales than in prior events.  

Greater Attendee Retention – Just like exhibitors, you want to entice your attendees to return for future events. A solution like NextME presents a seamless and user-friendly face to visitors at each booth of your event. If they can spend their time networking, browsing, and learning rather than standing in line, they’ll feel like it was time well spent. 

At BMW’s Ultimate Driving Experience, NextME was deployed to great effect. As attendees waited to test drive the car of their choice, the chaos of this packed event was effectively managed with this waitlist platform. It allowed for quicker turnarounds so that visitors could participate more fully and test more cars. At all 16 of these events across the country, this lead to enhanced attendee experiences and positive responses. 

"This appointment and waitlist platform has been proven to improve lead retention rates by up to 35%"

The Benefit of Using a Platform that Offers Waitlist and Appointment Management

So why NextME? Why not just combine a basic appointment software with a simple waitlist? Or even just use an old school appointment book? 

Many event exhibitors have found that setting appointments at an event can actually hurt their bottom line when visitors don’t show up. They may have booked a full day of appointments and brought the appropriate staff only to find that half of the visitors have changed their minds or found other things to do. Staff is left twiddling their thumbs waiting for people who are not coming. And booths are less busy, and consequently less profitable, than they expected. 

It’s similar to the no show problem restaurants have faced for years using reservation systems like OpenTable. Since NextME was originally designed for the restaurant industry, our platform was created with this difficulty in mind. 

NextME offers a combined “appointment waitlist” where people can get a priority spot for a specific appointment time but the expectations are that they still may have to wait. 

With a simple text message, just before their appointment attendees can let booth operators know if they’re still planning to keep their appointment. If so, they are prompted to return to the booth as they’re soon to be next in line. If not, the waitlist is moved forward accordingly and the day progresses smoothly. Staff stays busy, booths stay active, and exhibitors and attendees alike don’t have to waste their time waiting. 

So before your next big event, why not give NextME a call? We’d love to show you how our platform can fit into your plans seamlessly.