APRO member Nationwide Marketing Group — along with Nationwide RentDirect — recently held its second Virtual PrimeTime, providing more participants with more buying, education, and networking opportunities than ever. During the three-day all-digital event – themed Better. Faster. Stronger. – more than 2,500 attendees logged into the Virtual PrimeTime platform, which featured over 100 Nationwide Learning Academy sessions and keynote presentations.

Chief Member Advocate Tom Hickman welcomes attendees to Virtual PrimeTime.

“There were many sessions that rent-to-own dealers could take back with them, like Day One: Winning the Most Important Day of Your Team’s Career! from the Nationwide Learning Academy, or the main-stage session, A Deep Dive into Retail and Digital Trends, presented by Google from the Independent Thinking Podcast,” said Keven Dalke, Director of Nationwide RentDirect. “RTO dealers and vendors soaked up all they could by attending sessions like these and connecting in the exhibit hall. Overall, Virtual PrimeTime was a hit!”

Nationwide members also engaged with vendors at notably high numbers; total booth visits at the show rose almost 20% over the organization’s initial online PrimeTime event, held last October. Additionally, PrimeTime Palooza staged its comeback via an app-based experience packed with hundreds of show specials and other limited-time, limited-quantity purchasing deals.

The event spotlighted the launch of the Nationwide Learning Academy, an online learning platform designed to help members grow and develop their teams through a broad spectrum of coursework. The platform not only customizes to align with each company’s member profile – so users see only training relevant to their business, position, and brands – but also offers subtitles for every training program in U.S. Spanish, Spanish, French-Canadian, French, and a wide variety of other languages. Additionally, the platform permits members to upload their own company training programs, as well as to host, record, and save live events.

During day one of Virtual PrimeTime, division directors presented updates on the latest trends, insights, and must-know info in appliances, electronics, and furniture & bedding. These experts agreed that the fact that customers are still spending plenty of time at home, combined with a new round of stimulus checks and upcoming tax refunds, means consumer demand will likely stay high across the board. While supply-chain issues remain – especially regarding container shortages and shipping costs – they are slowly improving, and, as vaccine numbers begin to surpass COVID-19 cases, every sector expects to more or less normalize by year’s end.

APRO’s booth at Virtual PrimeTime allowed members to “stop by” and visit with staff.

Another consistent message throughout the event focused in on what might have been the biggest change of 2020 – consumers’ mass exodus from storefront shopping to e-commerce. Patrick Tam, Strategic Partner Manager at Google, during a special live recording of the Independent Thinking Podcast, referred to an analysis that estimated the shift to online retail was accelerated by four years due to the coronavirus crisis.

“The embracing of e-commerce is the one thing that will certainly outlast this pandemic,” said Tam. “Your online store, your website, is really your best employee, because they’re always working, always available, always helpful.”

“This isn’t the time to go dark,” Tom Hickman, Nationwide’s Chief Member Advocate, advised members. “This is the time to make sure your website is the best and most engaging in your market. This is the time to make sure your brand is competing for awareness and a place in the consumer’s consciousness. What you invest today isn’t just about driving traffic this weekend; today’s investment pays off weeks, months, or even a year down the road.”

The 59th edition of Nationwide’s biannual show is scheduled to return to an in-person format, this August in Nashville.

“Virtual PrimeTime has enabled us to remain connected with our members during the pandemic, and offer them the best possible networking, education, and buying opportunities while we stayed socially distanced,” Nationwide’s Vice President of Member Experience Melissa Stenson concludes. “That said, while PrimeTime will continue to have some virtual aspect moving forward, we can’t wait to meet with our members again in person and are eagerly looking forward to our next PrimeTime!”