Some time ago, I had a chat with a friend about trade fairs. He said, “I love attending them. The floor of a trade show always has such a wonderful cosmopolitan atmosphere”. What sounded like a naïve statement to me at first, really made me think about the psychological effect a trade fair has on its attendees and the importance of exhibitions in B2C marketing.
Why do people attend trade fairs in times when they can find anything they want on the internet? Search engines have become more intelligent than ever. When I look for something on the internet, I will easily find it. When I need to buy something, I have the possibility to order it online. Why go out and attend a trade fair when the magical world of the WWW provides me with anything I need?
Creating a Multi-sensual Event Experience
After all, we mustn’t forget we’re human. Our brains react to pleasant music, imagery, scents and fine food. Live events have the ability to really address consumers’ emotions and create a multi-sensual experience. There must be a reason why people consider taking a day off or sacrificing their beloved Sunday in order to attend a trade fair. Maybe because they know there will be an exquisite French pavilion with cheese and wine. Or a really nice Spanish Flamenco dance performance.
Good event websites, live entertainment, culinary offers, beautifully designed exhibition stands—there are many tiny details that influence the atmosphere at a show and the way attendees perceive the event. It is worth keeping an eye on the details and creating a pleasant, memorable event experience so trade show attendees are willing to come back.
Knowing the Consumers’ Interests and Expectations
Focusing on specific target groups, observing trends and getting familiar with consumers’ interests has never been more important. Only with enough knowledge on trade show attendees will organizers be able to meet their expectations and retain customers. Clients with special interests are particularly willing to find the time and money to attend a trade fair that focuses on their area of interest, but in return they want to find the exact information they are looking for. It is important not to “overload” them or confront them with themes and topics that are irrelevant to them. If special interest exhibitions are well-targeted and structured, they can be a profitable addition to an organizer’s exhibition portfolio.
Often defined as a “counter-trend” to globalization, there seems to be an increasing level of interest in regional topics, cultural specialties and traditions. People buy regional products and strongly relate to the cultural assets and products they have available “on their doorstep”. As a result, local fairs and regional topics might become more attractive than ever in the future.
The “Digital Age” – Friend or Foe?
While digital technologies are often considered as a threat to events, an actual live conversation and experience can never be replaced by webcams and chats. Exhibition organizers shouldn’t be afraid of the Digital Age, but embrace the possibilities opening up to them and try to link virtual and live experiences. Social Media channels are a great way to engage attendees online and “wow” them before a show even begins as well as keep them engaged after it has ended.
Interactive event guides offer possibilities for organizers to improve the event experience and provide a way to easily access event details, create personal agendas or write messages to other attendees—no matter whether they use their pc, phone or tablet.
Still, the undeniable competition of digital technologies makes it even more important for exhibition organizers to clearly communicate the USP and uniqueness of their trade fairs. Consumers need to understand why a show offers them a higher value than a virtual marketplace does.
While I do believe that consumer fairs will continue playing an important role in marketing, I am convinced that exhibition organizers need to focus on specific target groups and provide the right information to the right people at the right time. With “digital threats” and well-informed, demanding consumers, the reasons why people should attend a trade fair have to be clear and convincing.