We spoke with Justin Rivers, Chief Experience Officer at Untapped New York, to find out why he decided to switch to Livestorm from another platform, how he did it, and the results he saw.
Since 2009, Untapped New York has grown to reach over 700,000 unique visitors a month and become a trusted tour company. From a spooky abandoned hospital on Ellis Island to the iconic Grand Central Terminal, Untapped New York helps curious minds and adventurers alike unearth the secrets and hidden gems of New York City (NYC).
Results with Livestorm
more attendees than before
hours saved each week
While the company’s website saw steady traffic, the self-generating ad sales from their editorial content did not generate enough revenue to support the growth of the company. This model was not scalable either.
That’s where Justin Rivers came in. Justin is a savvy playwright-turned-Chief Experience Officer at Untapped New York. When he joined the company in 2014, he had the crucial role of creating memorable experiences in and around NYC.
The ticket sales from this initiative helped balanced revenue with a model that was not only scalable, but also in line with what Untapped New York did best: highlighting landmarks and spaces in NYC. While the self-generating ad sales only accounted for one-third of the company's revenue, the tours and experiences filled in the other two-thirds.
It seems that this success story should stop there; however, when the state of New York was forced to shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Untapped New York had to reinvent the concept of in-person tours and experiences.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw people, businesses, and nations screech to a halt. Of the industries that were hit the hardest, tourism was front and center. Untapped New York was suddenly faced with zero ticket sales and a return to the unsustainable revenue model that relied solely on ad sales from their editorial content.
Moreover, they encountered several roadblocks as they took tours online using Zoom for their existing Insiders program, a program that gave paying members access to carefully curated live and on-demand virtual experiences.
The team’s first challenge concerned the friction and lag that they and their presenters (the tour guides) experienced when sharing their screens. Because presentations and media could not be loaded directly to any one Zoom webinar, a pause would be needed when it came time for the presenters to share their screen in order to share their presentation slides and media.
The team’s second challenge came from the time that was required to download and edit the virtual tour video files from Zoom. These videos are important, because they serve as on-demand content for their Insiders members. Justin said:
Zoom was really restricting because you’d have to show up when you’d start the event, you’d have to have everything ready to go - there was no opportunity to make last-minute changes.
In speaking with one of his presenters about these challenges, Justin was told about a newer, more efficient alternative to Zoom called Livestorm. After getting a quick walkthrough from his presenter, who had already been using Livestorm for other virtual tours, Justin and Co-Founder & CEO, Augustin Pasquet, decided to test it.
After starting with Livestorm’s demo webinars, which were available live and on-demand, they tested the platform and video quality during internal meetings. This progressed to running mock virtual tours and the onboarding of their presenters, tour guides who were more accustomed to in-person experiences, to make sure they were comfortable with the platform. Finally, delighted by the automation capabilities and overall user experience, Untapped New York moved all their live events over to Livestorm.
While there was initial hesitation from presenters who had never seen the platform before, the ease of use and browser-based system made the onboarding very simple. Justin explained:
I always tell (new) presenters that this will be a 15-minute tech check. It will only take 15 minutes unless you have a lot of questions, but I can get you everything you need in 15 minutes.
Untapped New York's favorite features
Get a sense of your participant's mood thanks to live emoji reactions.
Question and answer
Centralize audience questions and answer them through a tab in the event room.
Connect to the event room directly from a browser without downloading software.
Between smoother events, time savings, and happier customers, Livestorm’s video engagement platform helped Justin and the team at Untapped New York accomplish a lot. That’s not to mention the additional benefits of better internal meetings and an increased global footprint.
No longer seeing lags, hosting virtual experiences became frictionless. Untapped New York and their presenters found that they were able to integrate their presentations and high-quality videos seamlessly. Justin said:
The reason why we like Livestorm is the functionality of not needing to screen share. Period. End of story. Being able to call up a presentation and not having it run off the screen got rid of the lag we used to experience with Zoom.
Being able to meet and rehearse before the recording started was not only handy, it also saved time. And when it was show time, all they had to do was hit "Participate" to present and record, and the rest was automatic. Justin remarked:
What’s great about Livestorm is that you record once you start the event, so there is no editing after that, which saves me 2-3 hours each week! Plus the recording goes straight to the members, since they get an automated email after the event with the recording.
Engaged customers are happy customers, and that’s exactly what Justin saw. Their Insiders found Livestorm’s chat feature and emoji reactions not only easy to use, but also a lot of fun. Moreover, he told us that their best-attended virtual tour of 142 live attendees out of 189 registrants was thanks to Livestorm! With Zoom, their best-attended event saw only 77 live attendees out of 105 registrants - that’s an 84% increase!
Attendance and engagement go together. Justin added:
With Zoom webinars, our attendees complained that they felt disconnected because it was hard to chat. Livestorm struck that balance with a chat function that’s open and easy to use. At the end of an event, the whole screen would fill up with emojis!
Even as traditional tourism was opening up in June 2021, when the interview was conducted, Justin told us that they had no plans to take away their virtual experiences and were hooked on the platform. He further explained, "We found a way to virtually open up our product to the entire world and will continue to use Livestorm as long as I can see. We are invested in it and don’t want to go anywhere."
To get the same results as Untapped New York, create a free account on Livestorm now.
“We found a way to virtually open up our product to the entire world and will continue to use Livestorm as long as I can see. We are invested in it and don’t want to go anywhere.”
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