Nationwide Marketing Group’s Virtual PrimeTime came to a close on Friday, October 30, wrapping up the group’s first ever all-digital three-day conference. This year’s PrimeTime saw record member attendance from members across the U.S. and Canada, and included all the education opportunities, keynotes, networking, vendor deals and hallmarks the event is known for.
“This has been a massive effort,” said Tom Hickman, president and chief member advocate of Nationwide Marketing Group, “but we wanted to make sure that what we put in front of our membership was as close to an actual PrimeTime as we could get. So we didn’t skip education…we didn’t skip peer-to-peer networking events, and we stayed true to every piece and every pillar of PrimeTime.”
Having attended previous PrimeTime events in person and experienced the energy and camaraderie members have firsthand, the TWICE editors were excited to see how Nationwide would handle their first all-digital PrimeTime. We were wowed.
Of all the virtual industry events we’ve attended this year, PrimeTime was the most like the “real thing” we have experienced – minus the sore feet and airport hassles. As Hickman told TWICE, Nationwide did everything they could to bring “every piece and every pillar of PrimeTime” to their members they could – which is no small feat.
Just like an in-person PrimeTime, we were able to meet and chat with NMG members and staff, wander the exhibit hall and visit with vendors and hear the industry updates and keynote speakers–just virtually. Members could also attend Nationwide Learning Academy educational opportunities, connect with each other in the lobby and during online social events.
Members didn’t miss out on any deal opportunities either, with PrimeTime Palooza deals available to members from select vendors who offered limited-time and limited-quantity specials right in their virtual booths. The Expo Hall was open for two of the three days of the show, and as members visited each booth they earned points towards their entry into the $100,000 store makeover sponsored by Nationwide Marketing Group and 12 of its largest vendor partners–one of the easiest ways we’ve ever seen to enter a drawing. The winner of the store makeover will be announced on November 5, and we’ll be sharing that announcement here on TWICE as well.
Continuing their outreach of excellence, Women In Nationwide (WIN) held two sessions featuring Bossed Up CEO, Emilie Aries, who led workshops titled “Beat Burnout: Gender and Sustainable Success”, and “Own Your Voice: Assertive Communication”. These powerful workshops discussed ways to identify personal burnout triggers, and how to battle fatigue and burnout through positive strategies, while addressing how to speak up and assert yourself at work in a world that doesn’t always like women who speak up. Aries’ insights were thought provoking and brought timely topics to the forefront for WIN members to discuss and offer their insight and support.
One concern our editors expressed amongst themselves when NMG announced PrimeTime was going virtual was how Nationwide would continue their cornerstone tradition of giving back through their partnership organization No Child Hungry. It is an amazing thing to see dozens of tables set up and loaded with food in convention halls as hundreds of NMG members measure ingredients, package meals and stack box upon box of food to assist the hungry every year, and we were as disappointed as the members that it wouldn’t be an option to participate in this year.
Fortunately, thanks to selfless volunteers from Nevada communities (where PrimeTime was originally scheduled to be held), as well as NMG and No Child Hungry members and staff, meals were still able to be packaged during PrimeTime, with Nationwide Marketing Group pledging to donate one meal for every booth visited by each member on October 29. Donations from members were, and are, also accepted on behalf of No Child Hungry, continuing the legacy of Nationwide members giving back.
We’re Better Together
It’s no secret that 2020 has been a trying year, even for the seemingly successful retail appliance industry. And while many Nationwide members are finding great success, there were some scary times at the beginning of the pandemic. Approximately 1200 Nationwide members, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of Nationwide Marketing Group’s membership, shut their doors sometime in March and April due to shelter-in-place and essential business orders in their areas. Nationwide’s response? Pull together and support each other with the grit, determination and resolve the group’s members are known for.
“Our members have been incredibly resilient, and all 1200 of those folks are back up and running and they are giving it their all,” says Hickman. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of the independent channel throughout all this. Our members kept delivering, kept showing up, kept going into homes where people needed refrigeration, needed laundry. I say it all the time, they are the backbone of the economy, and they proved it during COVID.”
A key to finding success during the pandemic for NMG members has been pivoting to digital. Digital services and expansion was on the move at Nationwide, with membership beginning to catch the vision, but the accelerator was pushed to the floor when COVID forced drastic changes in retail.
“The amount of dealers that came to us and really leaned into the services that we provide was just great,” Dean Sottile, SVP Digital & Technology, NMG said about the more than 300 percent increase of dealer contacts to RW and Site on Time year-over-year since March, 2020. “They really did amazing things like putting the people they needed on their site to make their website their main store. They invested in digital marketing, they added chat, they put live inventory on their website. They did whatever they could to meet the consumers where they were during the pandemic. Website traffic, as a group, was up over 300 percent year-over-year in late May, and continues averaging 150 to 200 percent and up today.”
Additional online digital tools members learned about at Virtual PrimeTime included the Assortment Rationalization Tool, or A.R.T, which helps member retailers see exactly how their product mix is performing and adapt. This proprietary tool also allows them to see how the products they have on their floor are performing, how much the products they are buying from vendors are costing them and how much margin they could make on other products that are similar within that area.
One of the benefits of being a member of the press at an event like PrimeTime is being able to be a fly on the wall and observe, and we were impressed with the positivity of the members we saw during this trying time. Messages of encouragement and hope abounded in chats, and we saw many members reaching out to help their fellow members who had questions or concerns about how to succeed during the pandemic. The platform used for Virtual PrimeTime was easy to use and made it simple to connect with anyone attending the conference.
So, what does the future hold for PrimeTime?
“When we look at how PrimeTime will evolve, our path is very similar to our members,” says Melissa Stenson, Vice President of Member Experience. “They’ve had to pivot and change and think of new ways to engage with their customers, and we’re basically doing the same. There will remain a place for virtual as we go forward into 2021, and we’ve been able to really reach some of our members that haven’t travelled with us in the past, and providing them with education and with connection is one of our main goals.”
“Our commitment will be the same,” adds Hickman. “We will meet when it’s safe, and we will meet when we can execute with excellence. We’ve had incredible engagement with the membership, and we’ll have some version of virtual no matter what we do going forward to reach the folks that can’t leave their businesses, providing them everything PrimeTime offers.”
Virtual PrimeTime 2020 was undoubtedly a success, and, in our opinion, has raised the bar for all retail industries by showing what is possible when you provide excellent peer-to-peer networking, top-notch education opportunities and presentations, include and integrate vendors and stay true to your organization’s cornerstone values.
TWICE offers its congratulations to Nationwide Marketing Group for the level of commitment it has shown its members and for a successful virtual show. We look forward to meeting next year to get energized in person–or virtually–with Nationwide at the next PrimeTime!