Virtual trade shows: How companies present digitally
Alternatives to trade shows & why the digital switchover is worthwhile in the long term.
With trade fairs being cancelled worldwide, exhibitors lose a key way in which to present their company. Online events are the virtual solution, enabling them to present successfully all the same or even better. Digital methods bring the trade show experience to the customer, wherever they may be.
In this article you learn more about the possibilities and advantages, as well as 11 tips for successful online events.
Come together: What makes trade shows special
Normally, representatives of an industry meet at trade shows to exchange information about product and brand trends along with innovations. Attendees wander from stand to stand, shake hands, have conversations, drink coffee, collect business cards and try to take in as much as they can in a day. Companies take the opportunity to present themselves to a large audience, demonstrate products and services, meet customers face-to-face and analyse competitors. For many, especially medium-sized companies, trade shows are therefore among the most important projects of the year. If – like we are currently experiencing due to bans on public assemblies – trade fairs are postponed or cancelled worldwide, companies lose one of their most important sales channels. And whether or not trade shows will begin to take place again in autumn is something nobody knows at the moment. A real, digital trade show alternative is needed to ensure that companies can still present themselves successfully and create meaningful virtual experiences.
Virtual trade fairs as a sustainable alternative
Virtual events are short-term, but above all, sustainable solutions and therefore have many advantages over the classic trade show. For companies, presenting content online with the help of digital solutions means customers from all over the world can conveniently visit their virtual trade show exhibits, take part in web conferences or learn about new products via live demonstrations from their PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. By integrating live- or video chats, the interaction between product experts and customers is also maintained. Thanks to digital tools, the virtual trade show is not tied to a physical location and can therefore take place despite current restrictions. This not only eliminates long journeys and high costs for participants and organisers; by implementing a virtual trade fair you are also investing in your future. Content that you create now for an online event can be used efficiently throughout the year on various channels – as a sales tool for online presentations, for virtual showrooms or even for future physical events. For this reason, virtual trade shows are not only a quick answer to the current trade show cancellations; they are also a useful supplement, if not an integral alternative, to conventional trade show appearances.
Advantages of online events
• high flexibility (period, location, budget, scope, relevance) • low cost (travel expenses, booth rent) • strong focus (quiet, less distraction from stressful trade show environment) • efficient content utilisation (digital content is easily adaptable) • comprehensive tracking & data evaluation possible • low environmental impact • applicable as a supplement or integral trade show replacement
With striking and valuable content you win over your customers, no matter where they are, or where you are. So, turn necessity into opportunity, convert your trade show business to digital! These tips will help you:
11 tips for successful online events:
1. Create a personal atmosphere
Virtual trade shows are new territory for you? They certainly are for your customers, too! This makes it all the more important to build on the existing basis of trust and create a personal atmosphere by sending out personalised invitations (e.g. with a personal login code) for your online event. On the day of the virtual trade fair itself, the contact persons on the company side should take care of their existing customers and attend to them personally. It is worth writing to contacts directly instead of sending a generic mail.
2. Close the distance
The supposedly greatest disadvantage of digital trade shows is the physical distance between the company, customers and products. This won't be the case if you use creative ideas to create proximity. Make products tangible even before the online event by sending personalised packages with product samples and advertising material ("Booth in a box"). Where possible, this allows the customer to hold your product in their hands in advance, test it and ask more specific questions at the event. Exciting landing pages and relevant product content help you to quickly convey unique selling points online and shorten the path between the customer and your product.
3. Provide exclusivity
With a virtual trade show you can reach a large audience. These contacts become sustainable when you turn them into relevant leads. Therefore, make sure that you create intensity with exclusive features, especially for long-term customers. Arrange personal web appointments, for example a product demonstration, or provide exclusive, interactive highlights in a protected login area. Now is the time for creative ideas such as augmented reality, special package inserts or pop-up showrooms. Everything is now conceivable and can be realised more economically than you think.
4. Choose the right technology
Do not feel pressured to use the latest technology. Use what makes sense for you and your customers. A video conference with rich features is always a good choice. You can demonstrate your product's features in real time, share the screen for all conference participants and exchange documents – direct live feedback from customers included. The interactivity in the presentation enables the presenter to choose the right speed, respond to customer needs and go into depth when relevant. Convincing 3D animations or interactive product animations are a helpful feature that can be used outside of conferences, e.g. on landing pages, social media channels or as a sales tool. By using three-dimensional presentations and simulating product functionality, you can create the necessary understanding of the USPs, even from a distance.
5. Create a trade show feeling
For a successful event, it is crucial that the entire appearance is seamless. Invitation, agenda, registration form, digital forum, live presentations, on-air graphics, stage design - all of them have to create a conclusive overall experience that inspires the visitors. A platform can bundle the different items on the agenda and offer a consistent brand experience to the user even during breaks. While planning the event, the participation of online users worldwide is the central component: the user experience must be optimised for interactivity and a collaborative experience. Participation can be increased, for example, through gamification, surveys or by a live connection with users.
6. Occupy thematic fields
The optimal self-portrayal in the context of the industry is part of every trade show appearance and should also be taken into account for a virtual trade show. Use experts who are well-known in the industry to give lectures on topics and give your customers the necessary overview of trends. In this way, you occupy a leading topic in your industry and the customer automatically links it to your brand. Repurpose this content on other channels as well, for example as a blog post, Facebook post or web special.
7. Put your products in the spotlight
Here, too, the rule is: Use what works best for you! If it isn’t possible to hold your product up to the camera or perform a live demonstration, show a video or simulation. Present different versions of your product, let designers, engineers and users have their say to substantiate the benefits. Showroom invitations for a hands-on demonstration or sneak-peek of future products ensure further exclusivity. An ‘Online Academy’ is also worthwhile for sales support and training purposes. Customisable, ready-made solutions are already available. Beyond the duration of the online exhibition, you can explain the functionality and advantages of your products there.
8. Organise pop-up trade fairs
Today Berlin, tomorrow Shanghai? No problem online! Take the opportunity to host several regional pop-up events. This allows you to reduce the number of participants (contact will be more personal & intensive!) as well as individually adapt your agenda to local customs and the needs of different groups.
9. Promote your event
Remember: You are now organiser and exhibitor in one. So, fire up the advertising machine for your event. This ensures that as many potential customers as possible find out about it in addition to your existing clientele, and you can continue to spin your network. Micro-campaigns, for example, are suitable for this purpose as they can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively. In addition, use relevant social channels for targeted content, either organically or paid.
10. Use sustainable, long term content
Digital content works for you in the long term and has an effect far beyond the duration of the virtual trade fair. Share the content on different channels or make it permanently accessible to customer groups. Every measure you develop today should, if possible, also be useful after the end of the online event. In this way you will make the best and most sustainable use of your budget. The technical possibilities here are manifold and should be selected specifically according to the intended use.
11. Let the data speak for itself
When the trade show is over, a large part of your work really gets underway. Now it's time to cultivate contacts and turn them into leads. To do this, you need a plan, the so-called lead flow, on how you can work with these leads in the best possible way. Get customer feedback and learn more about your customers than at any traditional trade show event with the help of the data you have gathered.