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What does the future hold for trade shows and exhibitions?

At a time when finding new clients and opportunities is crucial for your business, we take a look at how trade shows and exhibitions have been affected by Covid-19, and ways in which you can engage your prospects through alternative digital avenues. 

Exhibition - South West Innovation Expo

As reported in our recent blog, McKinsey & Company identified that B2B buying behaviours have changed dramatically since the start of the COVID pandemic.

B2B has taken a dramatic shift to online, with rapid growth in webinars and video conferencing, with 88% of B2B decision-makers saying they are likely to maintain working online or remotely in a post COVID world, but what does this mean for the future of trade shows and exhibitions? 

Trade shows and exhibitions were hit hard in 2020, and two years on - we're far from returning to any kind of 'normality'. As events were forced to shut down, organisations turned to virtual webinars as a means of engaging with their prospects. For many companies however, the absence of trade shows didn't affect their sales, and in fact, money that was previously spent on marketing collateral, travel, hotels, and sponsorship was saved.

So, are businesses eager to return to the world of trade shows, or have they re-invested money saved to utilise elsewhere? And what about attendees, how did they find the products and services they needed in the absence of the trade show and how comfortable will they feel about returning when social distancing rules are less severe? 

Applegate for suppliers - book a demo

Salespeople are keen to return having missed the opportunity to interact in person and face-to-face with customers and prospects. It's true that a virtual webinar can never fully replace or be as beneficial as speaking to somebody in person, however, it's likely that whilst people will return to trade shows, the numbers doing so will be dramatically reduced for a number of reasons.

Many people will still have health concerns about gathering amongst large numbers of people. In a recent poll I posted on LinkedIn, 33% answered that they would either prefer to do things virtually moving forward, or they were unsure about how they felt, highlighting the uncertainty. We're also witnessing staff shortages due to illness or isolation requirements which may have a logistical impact as to whether businesses can or cannot attend. Having said that, for exhibitors choosing to attend, it shows a great deal of commitment to their prospects and, whilst attendee numbers will be lower, those that are in attendance are more likely to be serious and willing to commit - not just looking for a free pen or two. 

It's clear that there is most certainly still a place for trade shows and exhibitions post Covid-19 in some way, shape or form, however it's highly likely that the format of exhibitor booths and numbers of attendees are going to be affected. Whilst they gain momentum, what can businesses do to fill the void, continue to drive new leads, or find the new supplier they've been searching for?

For exhibitors and businesses looking for new leads, it's crucial you're found online amongst your competitors. Businesses choosing not to utilise trade shows to find the products or services they need, will turn to online avenues or marketplaces to connect with a potential new supplier.

Ensure that your business can be found, gets noticed and, drives enquiries. Your website will act as your exhibitor stand, so it's key that it's up-to-date and fully represents your offering. Review your content and activities such as PPC and SEO to ensure stand out. Adopting the use of a marketplace such as Applegate or Europages can help with all of these areas and provides a platform to connect with the buyers looking for your products and services, without having to go searching for them. 

As a buyer looking for a new supplier, utilising free marketplaces can save you time, money, and the hassle of trawling through many pages of internet search results. Marketplaces provide you the ability to compare multiple suppliers, as well as their products and services, and choose the one best suited to your needs. 

To learn more about the online alternatives to trade shows and exhibitions, you can book a demo with us or drop us an email.

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