Can the trade show industry rebound?
Trade shows have been hit hard by the pandemic. As a result of lockdowns and social distancing guidelines, many trade shows haven’t been able to operate over the last couple years. For now, these guidelines seem to be relaxing, which could mean that trade shows start to become popular again. But can this industry truly recover?
This article looks into whether trade shows have a viable future and whether your business should still invest in them.
The effect of the pandemic on the events industry
The US B2B trade show market was worth 15.58 billion dollars in 2019. However, in 2020 it sharply declined to 5.6 billion dollars. Many event companies took heavy losses and some have since been forced to close.
However, despite taking a heavy hit, the events industry seems to be recovering. While some companies have folded, many new events companies in the last year – in fact, event tech companies have grown 4 fold in the last year.
The trade show market is expected to rebound back to a total value of 14.5 billion dollars by 2024, which is not as strong as it was in 2019, but still fairly promising.
Are trade shows still relevant in this age of digital marketing?
Many companies may be wondering whether trade shows are still relevant in this age of digital marketing. Nowadays, it’s possible to throw ‘virtual events’ which don’t require consumers to travel to an event, as well as being a lot cheaper to put on. Are virtual events likely to replace physical events?
It is unlikely that this will be the case. Surveys show that 70% of event attendees still prefer in-person events over virtual events. In-person events still offer advantages over virtual events – attendees can physically interact with products. This includes being able to get hands-on with gadgets, try on clothes, taste foods and smell scents.
After two years of social restrictions, many of us are also likely to be eager to get out and re-experience physical events. Experiences via a screen are becoming less appealing to some of us – there’s been a huge reduction in the amount of Zoom calls over the last year in exchange for in-person meetings.
Of course, there are still many people who still don’t feel comfortable attending events in person, especially since the pandemic is still happening. A solution that can help to cater to these attendees is to embrace hybrid events, which allow consumers to attend in-person or attend virtually. Events no longer have to be wholly physical or wholly virtual.
The key to future trade show success
Trade show organisers are going to have to adapt to keep the industry alive. The integration of digital technology will help to keep trade shows relevant and exciting. Trade shows are already exploring different ways to improve the virtual trade show experience for those that don’t want to attend in person – this involves using cameras to live-stream each stall, offering chat-rooms for attendees to talk with vendors and access to exclusive discounts. For those attending in person, technological integration is also important – 5G technology will likely encourage the adoption of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) at future trade shows, which will make these events much more exciting and unique.
As for individual companies taking part in these events, many of the traditional rules of trade show success still apply. An eye-catching trade show display is essential for standing out – it could be worth doing your research in order to find the #1 trade show booth company so that you can produce a booth that grabs people’s attention. It’s worth also considering other display accessories such as LED screens and lighting that can help to make your stall more visually striking. Make sure to promote the event on social media to help generate more interest – do this before, during and after the event. Things like free samples, discounts and contests are meanwhile a great incentive for getting people to interact with your stall and are worth incorporating into your trade show strategy.
Trade shows can be a big investment, but ultimately they can be a very successful way to generate leads providing they are run efficiently and providing companies promote their stall effectively. Even if you fail to generate a profit on the day, it’s worth considering the other benefits of trade shows such as increased brand awareness, the opportunity to network and the opportunity of market research.