Forging ahead with the industry’s first virtual convention over the August 31 weekend, BrandSource parent AVB pushed through to deliver a weekend full of fun, learning and deals for its members. And, to be honest, we at TWICE are pretty excited about how well the conference went, and what that means for shows in the near future and beyond.
Originally scheduled for members to gather in Dallas, TX, AVB, BrandSource and newly joined Northeast affiliates connected from their homes and offices around the U.S. and Canada virtually to listen to industry updates, visit the virtual expo hall where they could see new products and chat with vendors and meet with their fellow members in regional video chat gatherings.
The TWICE editors were a little nervous, but probably nowhere near as nervous as the AVB staff, to see if the Stampede – an annual event where vendors offer special convention only pricing and deals to members – would be successful. From our observation, Stampede was surprisingly smooth, with members and vendors reporting overall satisfaction from the event. “The orders exceeded our expectations,” Jim Ristow, CEO of AVB said about the Stampede event. “And the online order system was all automated…we didn’t get any negative feedback, which was shocking.”
Delivering the marketing update, AVB’s Chief Marketing Officer John White reinforced the need for members to make the move to digital. “I’m looking at a speed of change that no one could have predicted,” White said in his presentation. “Many experts now say that 25 to 50 percent of transactions will move to a dot-com purchase in less than five years, brick-and-mortar stores will serve as a community anchor and provide localization and logistic functions. All of this will be a catalyst for the fastest growth period of independent retailers that we have ever seen.”
“Retailers should expect and plan for a continuation of high-volume ecommerce activity well into the holiday season,” continued White. “It is essential, now more than ever, to shift our mindsets not to be just digital first, but digital only. We [members] need to invest in technologies that optimize the online experience through personalization, with AI and machine learning. We [AVB Marketing] will help you market to consumers with real time, contextual personalization and merchandising.”
At the March 2020 AVB Summit, Ristow and team pushed the digital message hard, sharing a three year prediction of 600 percent growth in online sales on the Alta platform. Thanks to COVID-19, the growth AVB predicted to take years happened in less than six months.
“The thing I am most proud of is the members,” Ristow said when asked about how AVB is handling the global pandemic. “They knew they needed to do something, even though they didn’t know exactly what to do, and they moved fast. During those first couple weeks [when COVID-19 prompted shutdowns], we literally had teams working overnight and weekends to get the members rolling. It was pretty impressive.”
“You’re going to see a very electronic, very online Q4 this year with us [AVB],” Ristow added, “We’re going to put our members where the customers are.”
Among the announcements made over the three day conference, AVB showed its commitment to furthering education opportunities for their members and vendor partners by announcing the AVB University Fall Series of vendor and business training classes, starting on September 8, 2020. The classes are open to all BrandSource members, their employees, and AVB’s Canadian and Northeast affiliates.
The weeks’-long curriculum of online courses will consist of 45- to 60-minute classes held twice a week starting September 8, with manufacturer product training on Tuesdays, in a similar format to what members would experience at AVB Summits and Conventions, and general business sessions held on Thursdays. The classes will be recorded and added to the AVB University library for 24/7 access.
Business classes will include:
- “Retail During COVID-19,” led by showroom designer, branding and display consultant, and YSN columnist Lyn Falk of Retailworks Inc.
- “Customer Experiences,” taught by Dean Lindsay, award-winning motivational speaker and business trainer;
- “Connect More, Convince Less,” with Ryan Avery, best-selling author and corporate consultant on winning principles and strategies;
- “Proverbs for Selling: Mastering Sales Through Prospecting, Referrals and Discipline,” hosted by renowned speaker, trainer and sales coach Tamara Bunte;
- “Next-Level Service: Transforming Transactions into Unforgettable Experiences,” with Scott Greenberg, acclaimed business motivational speaker who helps entrepreneurs engage employees, serve customers and grow their businesses.
While AVB members and vendors were not able to rub shoulders and feel the camaraderie in person this year, TWICE editors saw them connecting effectively, trading jokes and advice, and, overall, having a great time. The success of the AVB Fall Virtual Convention gives us great hope and expectations for the upcoming season of now-virtual conventions, especially with CES 2021 on the horizon. Congratulations are in order to the AVB teams and members who took the first step in making it possible to have confidence in virtual conventions in 2020. Take that, COVID-19!