theMART, formerly Merchandise Mart, is woven into the fabric of Chicago’s history as an innovator in culture, art, business, fashion, media, and more. The massive 25-story building which spans two city blocks is home to 15 major trade and consumer shows involving more than 2000 exhibitors each year.

Numerous clients lease office space at theMART, and hundreds of meetings, pop-up shows, and other special events take place there. An average of 25,000 people visit theMART every business day (nearly 10 million people a year) to explore its luxury kitchen and bath, home furnishings and outdoor furnishings showrooms.

Solvative is theMART’s a primary web services provider. Along with designing and managing theMART’s main website, we also design and develop websites for all of the theMART’s permanent and temporary exhibitors to facilitate the needs of show organizers and attendees.

How They Challenged Us.

With millions of dollars at stake from every show and event, and thousands of people needing to know where, when and how to engage, The Mart approached Solvative in 2013 with the challenge of better organizing its massive inventory of events in a digital environment.
theMart image mobile 1

From exhibitors to consumers to theMART staff, everyone involved was in need of ways to gather mountains of information and data into manageable online systems.

What We Discovered.

We found that theMART and its clients were in desperate need of a highly systematic database that would seamlessly integrate all relevant show information and become a more effective & transparent first point of contact between them and all online users.

The shows have two inherent challenges: first, each show has its own annual cycle; second, the sites must each be developed and ready months in advance. That means Solvative has to be highly organized and responsive, since we’re often creating, modifying, and/or managing several show websites at the same time.

Working with theMART means answering to two clients – in some cases, shows are managed internally with a team from theMART; in other cases, shows use their own design and marketing teams. Solvative works seamlessly with all of them.

theMart mobile image 2

How We Solved IT.

Working with theMART and also directly with their clients has never been a “one and done” proposition. Since 2013, each time a new show takes place, theMART turns to Solvative to design and customize a new website. Needless to say, each client is unique, and the challenges are numerous. There are countless sets of parameters, images, content, and rules that must be dealt with, and we’ve been able to develop a process that successfully works across all channels:

Streamline the System – Our first step to help address these ongoing challenges was to completely rebuild theMART’s online system into WordPress and eliminate the multiple hosts. One host plus one set of rules equals far fewer complications. When an exhibitor gets approved, the system sends them a log-in and password that allows them, in a secure fashion, to upload photos and information about what they plan to promote at the show, and easily register online.

Respect the Deadlines – Typically, the process takes up to three months from start to “live.” Anyone who’s gone through the exercise of building even a simple website knows that completion in such a short time frame is an impressive feat. But that’s what theMART requires and their exhibitors expect, so we do what it takes to get the job done—and done beautifully.

Solve for the Big Picture – Websites were our primary focus, but Solvative also examined the rest of the user experience. We designed a website specifically to address the exhibitor parking system management, as well as iPad kiosks where visitors to the permanent and temporary exhibits sign in as they enter the complex. For each client’s event, Solvative also develops an online exhibit space locator which visitors can access from their phone. The locator also provides branding and scheduling services.

Be Over-the-Top Responsive – Technical issues and questions come up. That’s the nature of technology. And while theMART has its own internal support team to handle these, every exhibitor also has our name and number. Making ourselves available to help, long after the job is done, is just the way we do things at Solvative.

The Results.

For theMART and its long and ever-growing list of show clients, having the most effective and intuitive online system—along with the support of Solvative’s responsiveness—has eliminated virtually every bump in the road when it comes to executing exhibitions and accommodating each customer’s unique requirements.

While focusing on the here and now is important when you’re working under tight deadlines, it’s important to theMART to look toward the future on their behalf. Everything we do for them today, like streamlining their hosting, helps to better position theMART for digital transformation to come. With the rise of 5G, we’re already exploring new ways to market shows, track user journeys, and create enhanced engagement experiences between visitors and exhibitors. We can’t wait!

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