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Time Out Explores the Future of Customer Experience with Experience:NYC Small Business Festival

As New York City enters the fourth and final stage of the state’s reopening plan on Monday, indoor dining has yet to appear on the agenda.  For Time Out, that means their 24,000 square foot market, located in the heart of DUMBO, remains shuttered.  The New York location is the third installation of the concept space following markets in Lisbon and Miami; the space features 21 different eateries, 3 bars, a video installation wall and a demo cooking area. The company’s mission: showcase the best of New York City’s local cuisine all in one place.

The media company has since had to pivot in how it engages with its customers as the market has remained closed to accommodate safe social distancing, but their commitment to highlighting New York’s local businesses has not waned.  As a part of their ongoing Love Local Campaign, Time Out partnered with Instagram to host Experience:NYC, a two day festival highlighting small business from across all five boroughs.  The event was entirely virtual, taking place exclusively over Instagram live.  Here, 16 different small businesses with specialties ranging from candlemaking to Japanese mixology had one hour to showcase their wares to Time Out New York’s over 490,000 Instagram followers.

For CeCe’s Closet, a sister owned clothing brand that seeks to celebrate the beauty of West African prints, that experience provided a virtual fashion show in advance of the release of their newest collection.  The models walked through the bright, open air venue offering a final pose directly in front of the camera, while the host provided information about the garments’ construction, among other whimsical commentary. To close the show, the brand encouraged interaction from attendees, asking everyone to vote on their favorite look or send a reaction in the form of an emoji leveraging the comments feature built into Instagram live.  Finally, the brand promoted their own social channels for those interested in more content.

Models take a final walk on the runway during Cece’s Closet’s virtual fashion show

Sarah Paji Yoo, founder and CEO of Blueland, an eco-conscious cleaning product company, set up her broadcast from her Manhattan apartment.  After pinning a comment to let newcomers to the livestream know about the event’s description, she began to demonstrate different cleaning products in her kitchen, all while explaining her company’s mission to provide quality cleaning products with no plastic waste.  The demonstration took on the likes of a casual conversation, as viewers asked questions throughout, again utilizing the comments feature, as Yoo simultaneously shared her story and product recommendations with attendees.

Sarah Paji Yoo, founder and CEO of Blueland demonstrated different cleaning products from her NYC home

As the country gradually reopens with social distancing measures becoming the norm, the traditional customer experience, oftentimes rooted in crowded venues and shared spaces, is in jeopardy.  Many customers still remain apprehensive to return to in person shopping and digital tools such as Instagram and Zoom are continuously building out features to further support robust online interaction between event hosts and attendees, giving virtual events increasing promise. With customer safety top of mind, retailers will undoubtedly have to get creative in leveraging digital tools to connect and engage with their consumers, ultimately to prove that a meaningful and a digital customer experience are not mutually exclusive.

Reagan Jacobs

Reagan Jacobs

rjacobs@mdretail.com

Reagan is a summer intern at McMillanDoolittle with a specific interest in fashion, grocery and sustainable retail. In the Fall she will return for her senior year at the University of Notre Dame where she studies Economics, Digital Marketing and Computing and Digital Technologies.

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