Business-to-business (B2B) news organisation Creamer Media, publisher of Engineering News & Mining Weekly, has launched a new Web-based interactive platform called the Virtual Showroom.
The thinking behind the Virtual Showroom is revealed in an interview with Creamer Media CEO Kenneth Creamer and Creamer Media sales and marketing COO Reinette Classen.
The thinking behind the Virtual Showroom is revealed in an interview with Kenneth Creamer, CEO of Creamer Media, and Reinette Classen, Creamer Media’s COO: Sales and Marketing.
Q: What is the Virtual Showroom?
A: Creamer Media’s Virtual Showroom is a new interactive online platform for companies seeking to showcase their existing products and services, and launch new ones.
The Virtual Showroom – which can be accessed via Creamer Media’s websites - is positioned to serve as a key B2B communications platform that is ideal for product launches, demonstrations and webinars.
It is not only easy to use and access but also takes full advantage of the growing appetite for virtual exhibitions and webinars by leveraging the technologies - such as Zoom - that enable them.
By offering live and asynchronous functionality, we believe that Creamer Media’s Virtual Showroom is poised to become an important new marketing and communications platform for companies operating in the industrial, construction and mining sectors. We look forward to partnering with companies and associations to increase the visibility of their products and services, to help them showcase their latest innovations, and to spread their key messages to market.
Q: Elaborate on the context of this new offering from Creamer Media.
A: The Covid-19 pandemic has created what is now referred to as the “new normal”. Covid-19 has impacted on many aspects of life, but in the B2B marketing communications space, it appears to have further accelerated the pre-existing trend towards digitisation. Many companies worldwide have expanded to include digital platforms in response to lockdowns and physical-distancing measures imposed to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
In fact, a report by McKinsey Digital on Europe’s digital migration during Covid-19 highlighted that the rate of digital adoption has been “concertinaed from years to months”, with the average digital adoption rate increasing from 81% to 94% during the pandemic. Such accelerations in the digital adoption rate is also prevalent in South Africa and we expect these new forms of digital communication to remain as an important part of the B2B marketing landscape even after the pandemic subsides.
For Creamer Media, our digital transformation has been steadily progressing since the launch of our online websites in 2000. As part of a “multi-media, multi-platform” philosophy, we have consistently expanded our digital offering over the years - including websites, email newsletters, e-magazines, mobi-sites, IOS and Android Apps, online Press Offices - just as we maintained and developed our traditional print offerings. This approach has allowed us to continually expand and adapt to current technologies and changing reader habits. In this sense, the launch of the Virtual Showroom is part of our ongoing publishing evolution.
Q: How does the Virtual Showroom relate to Creamer Media’s online Press Offices?
A: The Press Office offers businesses a digital platform on which to curate and organise their online content, such as press releases, statements, news and announcements. The Virtual Showroom is a natural progression and adaptation of the Press Office, as it offers more functionality, such as the ability to focus more intensively on launching new products or hosting product offerings for a specific period.
The Virtual Showroom provides advertisers with the means of direct marketing to their clients. For example, a companies could use the Virtual Showroom to host a webinar to launch a new product aimed at their clients and potential clients and then maintain a record of press coverage related to their product launch and other initiatives in the Press Office.
Q: How will the Virtual Showroom be used in relation to trade shows and exhibitions?
A: We believe the Virtual Showroom will not replace an in-person exhibition or trade show, but rather will serve as a complement to such events. A digital showroom cannot replace the real-life experience of attending an exhibition at a physical location. Rather, it will be regarded as an extension of these events.
Visitors can enter a Virtual Showroom to watch a video of the product in action, download product brochures and specification sheets, attend webinars to learn more about the product or organisation, and then attend the physical exhibition to assess the actual product and discuss their needs face to face with a sales executive.
When the Covid-19 pandemic is finally behind us, physical events will make a strong comeback, as people will still enjoy the physical aspect of attending an event to speak directly to product experts, experience products in real time and meet people face to face. Simultaneously, the virtual space will also evolve and, ultimately, the real and virtual platforms will work together to improve market reach and overall impact.
Eventually, we expect that our Virtual Showroom will continue to adapt and change as user expectations and technological possibilities evolve.
Q: Do you think webinars will become more important?
A: We believe that webinars are set to become prominent platforms for companies, owing to their convenience, accessibility and lower costs. Webinars also create an ideal opportunity for companies to promote their thought-leadership and know-how, as well as promote their product and service offerings.
By hosting a webinar with Creamer Media, companies are able to cross-promote their events on Creamer Media’s other platforms – to ensure impressive attendance by new and existing customers.
During and after a webinar, companies can also direct readers to related videos, supporting documentation, product specs and related PDF documents, all housed for quick, convenient access in Creamer Media’s Virtual Showroom environment.
Q: How can the showroom assist clients in increasing their company’s product and service visibility?
A: The Virtual Showroom offers the client a wide audience. Companies that are looking to expand their reach into different geographic locations can make use of the Virtual Showroom. Once contact has been made with potential clients and decision-makers, these can be redirected to the virtual showroom to showcase specific product and service capabilities.
The platform enables businesses to take their showroom directly to their target market. The Virtual Showroom offers a targeted marketing opportunity that is at once both global and targeted. For example, Creamer Media recently hosted a book-launch webinar for the International Zinc Association. This online, live event attracted participants from around South Africa and from across Africa and the wider world. It was incredible to watch a global conversation of experts discussing the uses of zinc and technical details related to galvanizing processes.
Q: How is the Virtual Showroom different from a company website?
A: Corporate websites, while essential for modern-day business, are fairly inflexible and offer static information such as contact details and a standard list of products and services. Some pages on corporate websites may be regularly updated, such as the news page, but in general, the sites remain the same.
The Virtual Showroom is a highly flexible platform that works in conjunction with the corporate website and can be quickly and easily adjusted or updated to showcase specific information at specific times, for example, when a new product or service is launched or a new technical breakthrough is achieved.
Companies could embed a link on the corporate website to the Virtual Showroom to highlight a prominent product or project for a specified period to draw attention to the information currently prominent in a company’s showroom. The showroom is specifically designed to target specific products in a direct marketing effort without the distraction of other elements on the corporate website. It focuses the visitor’s attention on the business-critical product or service for a specific time period.
One of the distinct advantages for a company that has a Virtual Showroom with Creamer Media is that the contents of the showroom can be easily integrated with, and communicated to, the large, global readership of Engineering News Online and Mining Weekly.com. Companies can amplify their marketing efforts by leveraging an expanded network of readers and visitors. The Virtual Showroom expands the marketing reach beyond a company’s own database.
Q: What functionality does the Virtual Showroom offer?
A: The Virtual Showroom has been specifically designed to offer a range of functionalities. These include:
Videos. These can include videos of a specific product that is on show, an interview with a company representative or a corporate video.
Brochures. The showroom offers the convenience of having built-in links for up to five pdf documents, such as product brochures, specification sheets or company profile information.
Press Office. There is a link to Creamer Media’s Press Office for companies who choose to use Creamer Media’s Press Office to maintain a curated record of their media coverage and increase their brand presence online.
Zoom meeting. Virtual meetings can be scheduled through the Zoom meeting platform. Visitors can request a video meeting with a company’s sales representative who can offer more information about the product being showcased.
Corporate website. There is a link to the company’s corporate website.
Contact details. This immediately puts visitors in touch with the relevant person by opening an email form, which is then sent to a specified company email address.
Social media links. The company’s social media links are included for easy access by visitors to the Virtual Showroom.
Webinars. Clients can host a webinar directly from the Virtual Showroom platform or host live question-and-answer sessions with sales representatives about specific products or services.
Q: How can representative bodies and event organisers benefit from having a Virtual Showroom?
A: Organisations and representative bodies can arrange for their entire membership to benefit from Creamer Media’s new Virtual Showroom platform. Recently, the South African Capital Equipment Export Council (SACEEC), which represents the capital equipment and project sector for new projects and the aftermarket, entered into an agreement with Creamer Media whereby a presence on the Virtual Showroom was negotiated for all SACEEC members to display their products, services, branding and contact details. More than 100 SACEEC members will be encouraged to create a presence in Creamer Media’s Virtual Showroom to use the new platform to assist in their communications with their targeted audience.
Creamer Media is in ongoing discussions with a number of other important industry representative bodies to enable such bodies to expand the Virtual Showroom offering to their members.
Discussions are also ongoing with a number of event organisers who could use the Virtual Showroom platform to offer their exhibitors an additional virtual value-add alongside their live event offerings. Such an arrangement would offer event organisers the best of both worlds - where event visitors can attend the live exhibition to view products in real life and they can also research the exhibitor and products before and after the show, and download product brochures, or watch videos, or attend a live webinar.
As part of such an arrangement, exhibitors could showcase their products in the Virtual Showroom for several months before and after a physical event takes place, offering extended visibility of their products and expanding an event’s footprint both in time and in space.