Last week, we sponsored Shop.org, one of the world’s biggest and most important conferences for digital retailers. But this wasn’t just business as usual.

Like many of you, a big part of our event focus centers on delivering a booth experience that genuinely resonates. Sometimes that comes in the form of a can’t-miss visual hook, other times it’s an exciting social campaign, but ultimately, the core of any event experience comes down to one thing: messaging.

For shop.org, that meant focusing on what was most important to online retailers: the ability to deliver a meaningful, personalized experience.

With this tagline as the foundation, we then brought this concept to life by turning our booth into a physical store that sold motorcycle gear.

Our idea was to simply convey how our solutions deliver the right digital experience for each site visitor, realized through the metaphor of an actual bricks-and-mortar store and featuring three key elements:

  1. A classic Triumph motorcycle attendees could enter to win.
  2. Motorcycle accessories donated by our client and leader in the e-commerce space, Motorcycle Superstore.
  3. A monitor that displayed Motorcycle Superstore’s streaming analytics data, which highilghted individual visitors on their site.

Most importantly, each booth element – the design, the motorcycle, the tagline – served as discrete conversation starters that all then drove back to a central retail story.

Visual Cue Talk Track
Motorcycle giveaway “Let’s say you just won this motorcycle. You would need to get yourself some motorcycle gear.”
Accessories “If you went into a bricks-and-mortar store and I was the sales rep, I could see what you were browsing and help you shop, drawing your attention to things that matter and letting you know about relevant offers. If you were browsing helmets, I’d let you know about a limited time helmets + boots offer we had running.”
Streaming Data “Webtrends makes this possible for your digital store. We can leverage everything a person is doing from the moment they walk in the virtual front door to deliver the right experience for each person.”

This simple talk track articulated our message and set the groundwork for questions and a deeper dive into how solutions could help the people were talking to. People who came to our booth simply interested in entering to win the motorcycle were easily led into a deeper discussion about our solution through this talk track.

With all that said, here are 5 tips for building a better event experience:

1. Know your audience.
We spent the last year-and-a-half getting into the heads of the online retailer – reading their trade publications, attending their webinars, listening to our retail customers, so when it came time to build the booth at Shop.org – we knew full well whom we were talking to.

We also attended a handful of major retail events and tested different messages. Those experience made one thing clear: We needed to give retailers themselves “that 1:1 experience” we were touting in the booth. And we needed the message to be perfectly tailored to them.

2. Don’t write messaging in a vacuum.
The secret to successful writing of anything is to revise, listen, and revise again. For most marketers, there is no lack of passion when it comes to messaging. Use this passion to collaborate and get great feedback. Test messaging with your target audience. Listen, and don’t be vain. Rewrite. And when at last you have all the data to support your message, hold your ground. (HIPPOs love to get involved in messaging as much as they love designing web pages.)

3. Keep it short and simple.
The right message will resonate with people you never even talk to – extending your influence past the leads you capture. A trade show booth is not the place to deliver a philosophical dissertaion on the evolution of your company. You have only seconds of your target buyer’s attention. Don’t waste their time.

4. Test, learn, and apply.
We tested different messages at previous retail-focused events. We tested messages to retailers within email. We tested different video content. We tested where to place the motorcycle in the booth. We tested different sizes of and approaches to collateral. After all, we’re an optimization company, and we extend this practice to all of our marketing efforts. We test, we learn, we apply, and we grow. Optimization works.

5. Keep it in perspective.
A show is just one point in a continuum of touches to an audience with whom you are trying to cultivate relationships. Implement pre-show and post-show activities that help carry your message forward through multiple, effective touches. Build content that supports your message and your strategy. For example, we developed a Retail Playbook that matched the design of the booth to serve as a follow-up resource for those we met.

All in all, it was a great Shop.org this year! For any marketers looking to connect with digital retailers and ecommerce executives, this is the place. We’re taking our own advice and planning to apply these learnings and insights to future vertical shows. Stay tuned to learn our progress!