Trade show trends you should be following in 2019
Posted by Tom Oakes
There are plenty of statistics out there which prove just how important trade shows can be.
Did you know that 81% of exhibition attendees have the authority within their organisation to make a purchase? Or that 46% of the people you meet at an exhibition will be itching to take action, because it’s their only show of the year?
Getting your exhibition appearance right can therefore be critical to the success of your business. Which makes staying on top of the trends—and keeping up with your competitors—an essential part of your exhibition plans.
Here’s what we think you need to be doing (and what we’d like to see more of) in 2019:
1 Pre-show contact
This should be a no-brainer, but we’re still seeing it so badly managed that we can’t help but feel things have to change and (hopefully) next year will be the turning point.
Contact your audience ahead of time!
Research has revealed that 83% of companies who had a successful trade show were those that went to the trouble of contacting their audience beforehand. This is because they not only raised attention of their presence at the exhibition, but also generated interest and set expectations of what exciting things people could expect from them.
Without pre-show contact, you don’t have the chance to warm the audience up. Which makes it more difficult on the chaotic show floor to do everything from grabbing their attention to showing how you can help, all within the space of a few minutes. Setting aside the time and budget for a few simple emails and social media posts ahead of time is, therefore, essential—and something we’d like to see companies do more in 2019 for a better chance of success.
It’s cheap, it’s easy. Get it done.
2 A comfortable experience
Exhibitions in 2018 have been about grabbing attention. With lots of new technologies, flashy designs, and fresh and unusual materials and fabrics, everything has been created to blow attendee’s minds. But… has it been almost too overwhelming?
We think paring back your exhibition stand design could be a big hit in 2019. This doesn’t mean giving up experimenting with all those great new styles or materials. But rather using them in a way which creates an entirely human-centric—and more comfortable—experience for the customer.
Any exhibition is like a microcosm of the outside world. It’s noisy and chaotic. By providing an escape from all that and offering an experience that attendees can engage with without being too overwhelmed, we think you’ll have a better chance of attracting (and keeping) your target audience at the stand.
3 Intuitive exhibition stand design
Providing a more comfortable experience for attendees isn’t just about the physical aspects. You also want potential customers to be able visit you and instantly have an understanding of how your products and services can help them.
Everything about your exhibition stand should be intuitive. Like the previous point, you don’t want to overwhelm people with information or complex processes. You don’t want them to have to think too hard about the benefits on offer. So whatever materials you use or colours or technologies, it should all work in tandem with your messaging. All with a single goal, which is to make your offering easily understood.
4 Involve all senses to attract and engage visitors
Bearing the above in mind, we still think there is scope to push the limits of your stand design to create an attendee experience which surpasses all others—while still being intuitive and comfortable.
Most stands you’ll have come across in the past will traditionally focus on sight and sound in their design. But, as we’ve previously suggested, how about pushing beyond those to involve all five senses, including touch, taste, and smell?
Smell, especially, is the most powerful and potentially emotional of all the senses, and an exhibition is one of the few places you’ll be able to engage in ‘scent marketing’. Yet it remains a vastly underrated technique that has the ability to tap into an attendee’s subconscious like no other.
So have a think about what you want your audience to think and feel when they pass or visit you, and then figure out how you can hit those touchstones through all five senses. Because by creating a multi-sensory experience for your attendees, you’re more likely to draw their attention and get them to engage with you, as well as leave a longer-lasting impression.
5 Brand consistency wins potential customers
We discussed this in our piece for trends in 2018 and it’s something we really hope continues in 2019. Because having a universal event strategy, with more holistic approaches to events (tying them in with overarching marketing themes), plays a big part in creating and solidifying customer trust in your company.
Why? Because again it makes things simple for your audience. It’s easier to identify your brand in the colourful chaos of an exhibition. It helps people make faster connections between you and your products or services when they see a recognisable campaign. And it creates a level of familiarity and trust in your brand, which means potential customers are more likely to purchase with you than a competitor.
6 Keep things fun
Seen the news lately? It’s not that much fun out there. So we certainly don’t think it’ll hurt to give your attendees a bit of light-hearted enjoyment if they visit your stand.
Is there a VR experience you can offer that simultaneously showcases your offering while making it a fresh and fun experience? Can you gamify your lead registration, turning an otherwise mundane process into something everyone wants to do—increasing your leads in the process?
You don’t need the latest technologies and it doesn’t have to be budget-blowing expensive (VR-enabling Google Cardboard is only about £10, after all). Just make sure the concept has the ability to engage and you’re not introducing too much complexity (which could hinder rather than help the customer experience), and it will pay dividends. Both creating an enjoyable experience for attendees on the exhibition floor and some potentially long-lasting memories for them to take away, which means they’ll remember your brand in future for all the right reasons.
7 Let people charge
Another carry-over from 2018, but it’s important. Let people charge their phones and tablets!
Trade shows can be long and draining, for both attendees and their mobile devices. They are out of the office, so will need to be making calls. There will be plenty of sights they want to capture in pictures and videos. And there will be a lot of brand and product research they need to get done in order to better inform any potential purchases.
These days we’re now fully in the mindset of identifying where we can charge our devices if we know we’re going to be out and about. So make sure your exhibition stand is one of those places that people recognise as somewhere to take a load off and power-up for a few minutes.
It not only gives them a good reason to visit your stand, but it also puts your products and services right in front of them and could lead to an unexpected sale—or, at the very least, allows them to spread the word about your stand on their exhibition travels.