Trade Shows - Going Virtual
By: Al Valente
"Only about one-third of interested people actually attend a show, so virtual shows [can potentially] reach 66-70% of the people who don't actually attend ... by 2005 at least half of the 9,000 trade shows held in the United States every year will be virtual as well as physical".
-- Dr Allen Konapacki, President, INCOMM Center for Trade Show Research, Chicago, USA
First There Was The Physical Trade Show
For years during the pre-web era we have taken traveling to physical events like trade shows for granted. After all they were the most efficient means of conveying a lot of trade information in a narrow amount of time.Furthermore, they utilized all the human senses of sight and sound, and even smell.And we all came back with a bag full of brochures.What did we do with them, anyway?
Up until recently, trade shows were the 500 lb. Gorilla for displaying a product to a highly targeted audience.Since airline deregulation, getting there was cheap for the attendees and since it was usually held at a favorable destination city, it was like an opportunity to mix business and pleasure and best of all, it was a tax
There’s Got to be A Cheaper Way To Show Your Wares
If one holds the notion that all information, even product information like features and pricing, is weightless, then, does it make sense to ship tons of products all over the country to basically convey a weightless
entity, i.e., the information about the product?
Information consists of “bits” and bits can be shot over wire and air waves practically at the speed of light. But products are atoms and atoms have to be carried on trucks, trains, planes, or cars. The costs of
shipping, handling, and demurrage can be downright crushing.
The end goal is not to put the product necessarily in front of the buyer, but to allow the buyer to witness the product, to understand its capabilities. And today, such visual and audio components can be
related by other means, perhaps more effective, definitely more cheaply.
Having come from a past life of selling intangibles such as custom software, I can assure you that a product can be sold without the customer seeing the end product (because it isn’t even built yet). They just
need to be able to get an image in their mind and a sense of security that it’s
meeting their needs.
Just What Is A Trade Show Anyway?
Let’s simplify the definition of a trade show.
When you step back and define it, a trade show is nothing more than a temporary bazaar. That is, for a 2-4 day period, a bunch of vendors set up camp to display their wares and a bunch of potential buyers circle about reviewing all of them.
It’s a fantastic exchange of commerce information. Buyers can see the latest products; vendors can meet a plethora of buyers, usually without even leaving their booth.
The sensory aspect is fulfilled, in many cases; buyers can actually try out the product. Product juxtapositioning allows for comparisons among competitors in a segment.
Therefore, in the commercial fitness arena, one can physically try competing fitness equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals, and so on. Furthermore, they can see demonstrations of the latest de rigueur programs to retain members such as the latest variant on group cycling, or core exercise.