A new digital model for the tradeshow industry

First published in Exhibition World – Issue 2, July 2018

AMR’s Executive Chairman Denzil Rankine on new ideas, new revenue streams and new skillsets in tomorrow’s digitalised exhibition industry.

Look at a photograph of a tradeshow 10 or 20 years ago. It looks much the same as most today; plenty of big stands plenty of profit for the organiser. But don’t be fooled. The audience has changed.

Visitors used to travel to trade shows to learn about developments in their industries and to see product launches. Today’s visitor expects instant access to information; there is no question of waiting for an annual event.

Exhibitors now have increasingly sophisticated CRM and digital marketing tools; some may have better datasets and know more about the visitors than the event organiser. They expect tradeshows to provide superior customer insight, engagement, follow-up and ROI. Otherwise they won’t pay to be there.

Consequently, organisers must become more self aware and figure out what business they are really in.
Is it to sell space, or to deliver value to customers via participation?

It is time to accept that traditional business models are destined to be transformed as alternative ways for their audiences to meet, learn and do business continue to emerge.

It is not all bad; events can remain centre-stage if they develop offerings that meet their audiences’ needs before alternative channels and solutions crowd out traditional shows. As organisers seek to present an enriched proposition to their audiences, digitalisation is an obvious and compelling tool.

In the first instance saving costs has been the a or benefit of digitisation. Now we are in the phase of supporting value through an enriched, targeted and customised proposition. There is also the opportunity for straightforward revenue generation.

Organisers should adopt a value-first approach to examine their proposition and the breadth of potential services.

A good place to start is the customer journey – or customer stumble – from way before the event, right through the cycle to the next edition, an area of massive opportunity as so many organisers don’t realise how broken it is. A broken customer journey creates broken conversations between organisers, exhibitors and attendees.

The modern organiser has data at its heart.

A well-designed customer journey produces a clean, usable, relevant data ow that can be leveraged alone or combined with other datasets to produce new insights.

For example, digitalisation enables an organiser to assess and present return on investment in a way that non-uniform, disorganised data cannot. An organiser can provide evidence as to why a visitor attended, how they came across the event, what they did there and so on. Money can then flow in line with engagement and value.

Organisers are increasingly finding ways to monetise digital services which their audience value; the astute ones ensuring that pricing is linked directly to value. A handful are also awakening to the several ways to leverage data from the digital exhaust and beyond in a revenue- generative way. For example, they can package up data and insights to sell to organisations that lack the customer access that event organisers enjoy.

Forward-looking organisers have the opportunity to enhance their offering through digital and data and stay competitive. Others can continue to make good money “as is”, for now.

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