Zillow bills itself as the leading real-estate and rental marketplace “dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration, and knowledge.” If that’s the way it engages potential homebuyers online, it would follow that the company would take a similar tack to attract real-estate professional attendees to its conference.
At Zillow’s fourth annual Premier Agent Forum, held last year at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace, Oct. 25–27, that high-tech strategy began with registration. The system provided timely information to help the company nudge those who hadn’t registered, and aided the sales force in drawing high-level real-estate professionals to its forum. Using the platform, provided by eventcore, Zillow’s sales force is able to determine whether a registrant has looked at the conference information, signed up, or failed to follow through, and can respond appropriately, said Stefany Blinn, an event manager at Zillow. Zillow is also using eventcore’s registration platform to improve internal events.
“The way we were able to integrate with eventcore’s system has made that process more seamless,” she said. “Because this was a custom solution, we found it was more accurate than anything else we’ve used.”
Interoperability Between Platforms Allows for Innovation
Last year’s Premier Agent Forum drew about 2,000 real-estate professionals to attend sessions on how to generate leads and spot real-estate trends, along with interactive workshops and panel discussions.
Zillow staff worked closely with eventcore for more than five weeks to integrate the registration process with the real-estate company’s customer-relations platform, Salesforce. Because those two platforms had high levels of interoperability, the registration platform updated Salesforce in real time, showing whether someone had been invited to the event, whether they’d visited the site, registered or failed to register, or had canceled. This gave Zillow’s sales team, Blinn said, a lot of information to work with.
“This is our marquis client event for the year,” she said, “so it’s important for our sales staff to have visibility into what their client groups are doing and where they are in the registration process.” That data was used to inform automated e-mail marketing campaigns for example, that might note a possible attendee had visited the site and hadn’t registered, and then emphasize the value of the program. Zillow’s sales team was also able to proactively reach out to key clients with a phone call or email based on the information provided by the registration platform.
“We wanted to make it really easy for them,” Blinn said, “to follow up with their key clients and say, ‘We really need you here. You don’t want to miss this program.’” Because the two systems had been integrated in a customized way and information was updated in real time, information shared was “incredibly accurate,” she said. Zillow was able to avoid a situation, for example, in which an attendee had already registered but received an email or call saying they still needed to sign up.
Customization Is Key
While there are many registration platforms available on the market, eventcore specializes in customizing its product to the needs of the client — particularly making different systems work together, said eventcore CEO Mark Johnson. Like Zillow, many companies want data shared between platforms, in real time, or in a unique way to perform business functions, he said. That often means that “out-of-the-box” solutions won’t work for some companies, and a more customized effort is needed.
Eventcore’s integrations can allow information such as attendee title, company affiliation, and event history to be shared between registration, a mobile app, a lead-retrieval system, or tools for sponsors, he said. Without that shared data, a mobile app might not be able to display a personalized attendee agenda or push out suggestions for networking and panel sessions, and a sponsor might have to resort to collecting paper business cards to collect data on booth visitors and leads.
“The majority of our customers these days have come to the realization that they need custom integrations,” he said. “They need a solution that meets their exact requirements.”
Zillow also wanted its event-registration page to mirror its own brand — not that of an outside platform. Eventcore again provided a customized experience, Blinn said, allowing Zillow to personalize the landing page to reflect the real estate company’s look and feel, while also making sure that nothing would get in the way of registration technology.
The registration page “looks like an extension of our brand,” Blinn said. “But they also provided guidance so we didn’t do anything that wouldn’t render properly on mobile, for example.”
Making Registration Intuitive
Zillow is using technology to make registrations easier for its own employees too. Its annual company meeting at Zillow headquarters in Seattle attracts 3,500 employees, each of whom has to register for the event. This year, employees were able to register using their in-house Zillow user names and passwords, without the hassle of creating an extra set of login credentials. Employees simply logged into the Zillow “intranet,” and clicked a tile on the regular menu to register for the company meeting. Employees could sign up for sessions or meetings, add hotel or other travel accommodations, all with the same login.
“Employees could click on that tile and it did all of the security validation behind the scenes,” Blinn said. “It was a really streamlined and frictionless experience.”
It’s not always easy to bridge the gap between what technology developers say is possible, and what a company wants to do. To help span this gap, eventcore provided Zillow with a project manager who understood both sides of the equation and was able to navigate both worlds, said Zillow’s Stefany Blinn. That project manager helped Blinn explain to developers the features Zillow wanted in its systems and helped interpret for Blinn how those features might impact registration flow and user experience from a technological perspective.
“With a million things on my plate, there was someone else watching out for the attendee experience and not just focusing on the technical stuff,” she said. The project manager was “somebody who could translate ‘dev speak’ into planner speak.”
Eventcore’s Mark Johnson said the project manager also plays an important role in making sure each side understands not only the limitations and the realities, but also can suggest “what else is possible that they might not have thought of.”
From a customer perspective, there was a lot of value in having someone in that role, “who could synthesize both sides of the equation,” Blinn said, and “was able to bring the best ideas to the table.”