HP Uses Virtual to Engage its Global Customers
HP has the daunting task of marketing to millions of customers in 170 countries. So two years ago, the high-tech giant started laying the foundation for a customized virtual events platform that would address the fast-changing needs of its Web 2.0 customers and provide the brand with a marketing tool that could engage its global customers. The platform, dubbed Virtual Events Central, went live in December 2009.
Much like a real-world event, HP’s virtual event (Design Reactor, Campbell, CA, handled) welcomed attendees into an immersive, 3D representation of a convention space where content was delivered through presentations, keynotes and demos—both live and on demand. Attendees traveled from virtual exhibit halls to auditoriums and selected content to watch, and then chat, ask questions and network with HP reps and their peers in real time. They dropped event content and collateral into an event bag, and when they had completed their experience, they were able to take their bag with them, just like they would at a physical event. The platform could be used as a standalone, or as an extension of a live event.
To plan a virtual trade show, event owners started by selecting the business unit they were associated with. With a few clicks, the program instantly “skinned” the platform with the appropriate branding, icons, logos and color palettes. Then, they planned their layout. For every business unit there was a library of between 180 and 200 booth designs to choose from, all with branded colors and imagery appropriate to the customer and audience base they were presenting to.
Last stop, they uploaded collateral and video content, and then tracked and managed the whole shebang in real time with the help of an event metrics dashboard. The resulting exhibit halls were soaring, spacious and light-filled; demo stations plentiful and limitless and the game-like interactive elements were fun to play with and were never blocked by throngs of people.
“It’s like it’s paying homage to our customers, because that’s what it’s all about,” says Marie Cottrell, Event Marketing Manager at HP. “It’s about the customer. And it’s about ensuring a rich experience for them. It’s about allowing them the space, meaning the platform, to be able to go and navigate and find what they want when they want it.”
HP is seeing “significant ROI” from its virtual events platform. Post-event analysis comparing the physical and live event showed an increase in ROI from 15-to-1, to 51-to-1. The brand also saw a marked increase in lead capture, a five-fold increase in qualified leads and a 95 percent improvement in the cost of qualified leads.