From ‘Search and Click’ to ‘Feed and Follow’: Has Questex Redefined the B2B Customer Experience?

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Editor’s Note: See Questex CEO Paul Miller and Group President John Siefert talking about creating a new chapter for events, data and digital at the 2019 Business Information & Media Summit, Nov. 12 in Hollywood, FL.

While consumer media gets the glory (and the headlines), B2B media is actually ahead on some of the hottest trends today, from diversifying revenue streams to paid content to leveraging audience and market data (the real power behind Hearst isn’t Cosmo, it’s Hearst Business Media driving 40 percent of profits).

Where B2B continues to lag woefully behind is in digital customer experience. In a world where everyone expects the same level of experience they get with an Instagram or Amazon, our slow, static platforms are going to cost us.  

This week Questex launched what it’s dubbed “the future of event and digital integration” with The Beauty Experience, a content and marketing platform serving its beauty industry vertical that upends the traditional “search and click” way of scrolling through websites or apps.

The Beauty Experience offers a “feed and follow” model that puts the user in charge by choosing specific content tags they want to follow, which then serve up relevant videos, blogs, articles and more that have been vetted by the Questex editorial and conference teams.

“When we were doing an audit of websites and apps serving the beauty category, everyone was stuck in that Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 experience where users search for something, scroll through results and finally find what they are looking for, only to be followed by ads the whole time,” says Questex Group President John Siefert. “We wanted to consider user experience today and redefine our approach based on how those expectations have changed. We re-imagined the user experience based on what people are used to, which are social platforms today.”

How It Works
Users set up a profile including their email address and a short bio. They then can pick from 200 different content beauty tags ranging from themes and topics such as eye care to hairdresser to salon equipment, creating their own Personalized content feed.

Users also receive a Trending Beauty content feed that’s created by the Questex edit and conference teams, which prioritizes content that generates the most engagement within the beauty experience, as well as originals such as View From My Chair, which features a professional offering tutorials, and sponsored content.

Through that personalized content users are exposed to new solutions and suppliers, such as a topic tagged by beauty brand Ulta. The user can then click through to Ulta’s profile page, which features all of its products in an infinite horizontal scroll. Users can also opt to get Ulta’s updates through their personalized feed.

Tying to Events
While Questex has seen a digital resurgence (going from a digital advertising decline to double digital growth in just a few months), events account for 70 percent of its revenue, a ratio that Questex leaders do not anticipate changing. However, The Beauty Experience offers a way to tie digital and data to events to bolster programming, marketing and create a 365-day-a-year solution, rather than a one-off expo. 

In creating the Beauty Experience, Questex merged its flagship American Salon brand with the International Beauty Show, which occurs twice per year in New York and Las Vegas. “We have the ability to point all arrows to live events,” says Siefert. “Understanding the most popular beauty tags gives us the opportunity to do real time analytics and trending on what conference programs should look like while enabling pin point targeting for audience conversion around event themes.”

Sponsor Packages: Presence, Experience, Dominance

Questex offers three different sponsor levels within the Beauty Experience that integrate digital and events.

The entry level package, called “Presence,” offers a profile page and unlimited posts that show up in users’ feeds, plus a traditional 10x10 or 10x20 booth at a Questex event, for as low as $12,000 per year.

The Experience package lets sponsors create digital and live experiences within the platform. Sponsors get what’s offered in Presence plus sponsored posts that run in users’ Trending Beauty feeds in addition to their Personalized feeds, as well as larger booth space at events. They also get the chance to work with the Questex team on creating experiences within the show environment, such as a special demonstration, sponsorship of a lunch or a roundtable discussion. Pricing starts at $30,000 per year. 

With the Dominance package, a sponsor can be an underwriter of one of the beauty tags. For example, Truss, a leading provider of haircare products, is the official sponsor of the “blonde” beauty tag, which means every time that tag is served in the Trending Beauty feed, the content is accompanied by both the American Salon and Truss logos as the providers of that content (users can also click through to the Truss profile page). Dominance also includes the Presence and Experience packages and starts at $100,000 per year.

In late fourth quarter 2019 or first quarter 2020, Questex will introduce The Live Experience, which features broadcasts (such as a sponsor conducting a demo) within the digital platform, similar to Facebook Live. 

“For the first time, we’ve been able to architect something from the ground up that’s an integrated event and digital platform, all focused on content delivered to our audience to help them do their jobs,” says Siefert.

Behind the Scenes

In creating The Beauty Experience, Questex drafted UI and UX experts from S2UI as advisors and it used React, the same Java script used by Facebook and Instagram, for the architecture.

“We created the entire architecture with a focus on scale,” says Siefert. “We want to learn from the frameworks used by the largest social platforms and niche down our strategy to have vetted content around topics most important to our audience, as opposed to the wild west content that’s on most social platforms.”

With S2UI, Questex tapped Contentful as the CMS, which enables the edit teams to do proper tagging and create personalized feeds for each individual user, while Marketo manages data. “Instead of using Marketo like an e-mail marketing machine, we use it as a data capture and analytics platform that enables us to position our events in the right way based on the tags people are following,” says Siefert.

On the content side, Questex went back through eight years of American Salon archives, scrubbed legacy content that was no longer relevant, and decoded and re-tagged evergreen content such as tutorials.

Siefert refers to the content strategy as an “anatomy.” “All that new content was built into the anatomy—we say we will have x number of articles that will run from American Salon, a specific number of View from My Chair pieces coming out each day or each week, while each conference speaker will have two to three posts that will run throughout the year leading up to the live event,” he adds.

Out of the gate, Truss and Ulta, two of the largest brands in the beauty category, have signed up for the Dominance sponsor packages. While he won’t share specifics, Siefert says that performance from the first week of the Beauty Experience launch has exceeded his expectations.

 “When you get some of the biggest players in industry to come in and say, ‘this is where things are going, we want to be a part of it,’ that’s a great sign,” says Siefert. “We refer to this whole project as a ‘beauty renaissance.’ For a market focused on beauty, a lot of what surrounds it really isn’t too appealing. We’ve got awesome events, we’ve got great content, let’s make it pretty and actually create something that’s aesthetically engaging.”

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.