Digitaler Wandel

Trade fairs in the digital age

Increasingly sophisticated technologies and the varied application possibilities of the internet are causing quite a stir in many industries. Tried and tested concepts and business models are faltering and its time to rethink. The best example of this is the retail sector, which has been exposed to intense competitive pressure as the result of online shopping. But not without an ace up its sleeve that still beats all else: the emotional factor of that which is real.

People are first and foremost emotional beings, who are driven by factors when researching or purchasing, which the digital can not adequately replace. In retail stores, this can be a likeable salesperson, a pleasant atmosphere, the enthusiasm of touching and trying a product, or the individual consultation. This applies equally to B2C and B2B markets – because emotions play a significant role in business as well. Trust, competence and exact matches are even much more important here. Skills of which people prefer to be convinced personally, from face to face.

For the trade fair industry, which has always primarily created platforms for real meetings between business partners, a key for future success can be found its traditional value: face-to-face communication. For this industry, digital transformation means focusing on the actual essence of the business. After all, even if companies ultimately perform the business transactions, normal people play a decisive role in the actual interactions. Even if the deals being made are in the billions. Bringing these people together and creating the right platforms for encounters, talks and information will remain the job of trade fairs in the future as well, but this will extend beyond the analogue meeting place to include a second, parallel level in the digital world. This was also shown by the scenario analysis “Trade Fairs & Live Communication 2020”, an AUMA study conducted together with the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management: “Experts agree that personal communication from face to face will still be highly valued by exhibitors and visitors alike in 2020. The characteristic transaction function of trade fairs will lose traction, while the contact and communication function will gain importance.”

Thus digital technology, with all the possibilities it provides, will serve to support live events like trade fairs and conferences by allowing visitors, for example, to navigate the trade fair grounds, find information on exhibitors, schedule meetings or send questions in real-time during a presentation via Twitter or an event app, all using their mobile devices. Event organizers around the world are currently in the process of conducting serious upgrades in this regard, making large investments in infrastructure, technological features and the development of innovative additional business areas.

One of these areas consists of extending real trade fair events to the virtual realm. In doing so, they are striving to attract visitors with search tools for optimum preparation and business-matching functions well before their visit to the trade fair. They are thus also expanding the time frame of the events, as visitors and exhibitors can make contact with one another before, during and after the actual event. Due to this strong online presence, trade fair participation is gaining marketing value for exhibitors and will continue to justify including it as a fixed part of themarketing mix. Whereas physical stand size will most likely continually dwindle, the digital presence in online catalogues, ads on event websites, content streams in social media and multi-media trade fair publications will grow bit by bit.

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