From brick and mortar shops to virtual experiences

How small businesses are turning to virtual events during COVID.

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Tango lessons, wine tastings and cooking classes. These are some of virtual experiences that businesses are creating to engage with customers and succeed during this challenging time. This trend has been particularly successful for many small businesses, who have had to quickly convert their brick and mortar shops to digital-first businesses, with investments in e-commerce platforms, remote collaboration tools and solutions that enable touchless transactions. Prior to the pandemic, many businesses who would have only sold products are now changing their model to sell experiences that complement those products. This has been an effective way for many of these businesses to adapt to restrictions, meet their customers’ changing needs and stay in business.

Listening to Consumers’ Evolving Needs

It’s no surprise that the use of remote collaboration tools such as video conferencing applications are on the rise. According to Forbes, the demand for virtual events has gone up by 1,000% in the last year. The trend for hybrid events, events that bring together an element of physical interaction with virtual gatherings, is also increasing. For example, a yoga class (with limited class spaces to ensure social distancing) is now often complemented with a virtual option for those who prefer to follow along at home. Never before has the need to accommodate consumers’ various and changing needs been as important as it is today. If businesses weren’t listening before, they certainly are now.

Interactive Events that Sell More than Products: They Sell Experiences

Not only do virtual tastings and hybrid events create a useful platform for small businesses to sell products and create brand awareness, they enable a unified experience for participants. Another reason for the popularity of virtual and hybrid events besides safety, is the flexibility it allows for customers, with affordability and ease at their helm. Thanks to the increased offerings in virtual classes, the barriers that once existed - time, geography, cost - are gone. You can now enjoy a wine tasting in Tuscany, a walk through your favorite city and a tour of a museum, all in a matter of hours!

Dallas chocolatiers and mother daughter small business owners, Andrea and Cindy Pedraza have found success in virtual events such as this free Valentine's Day chocolate tasting event this week. "Rebuilding our business during the pandemic has been challenging, but it's also created many opportunities. Events like our virtual tastings are a great way to reconnect with customers we haven't seen in a while and also open our virtual doors to new faces. It's a great way to be able to interact with our community during a time when it's not easy for everyone to make it to our shop," said Cindy Pedraza, co-owner of CocoAndré.

Even as shops reopen across the country and vaccines offer a light at the end of the tunnel, the trend for virtual and hybrid events is unlikely to disappear. While virtual events will never replace the joy of in-person human interaction, one thing is for sure, they are here to least for now.

And while they are, celebrate Valentine’s Day this year at home watching the video replay at the top of this article featuring CocoAndre’s free and interactive chocolate tasting class.

CocoAndre is a paid spokesperson of Verizon Business.

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