Event technology is an “absolute necessity” to satisfy today’s B2B marketers. Trade show organisers need to explore how technology and data can deliver maximum return on investment (ROI), otherwise they risk falling behind.
Covid-19 has forced everyone to realise that technology – whether rented or owned – is an absolute necessity. Trade show organisers cannot simply go back to the way things were done before Covid-19, because the way things used to be done – combined with the absence of performance data – has become an increasing challenge for marketers looking for hard numbers (read: ROI calculations). Data and supporting tools should be used to generate clear measurements around ROI. Covid-19 has obviously accelerated the need for wider technology adoption. That is for sure.
ONLINE / LIVE
For the past 16 months, US company Emerald (https://emeraldx.com) has been focusing on data and consolidating this information to create a single view of a customer’s behaviour across all the organisation’s products and platforms. This means that everything they have learned from their digital assets and live events has been incorporated into one platform. It is clear that a visitor (potential customer) who indicates to be interested in one subject, for example, may show a wide range of interests both on site (at the live event) and online. This means that there is huge potential for us to set up hybrid events. Not just to attract a wider audience or to come to terms with ourselves ecologically, but also to use its full potential.
HARD KEY FIGURES
The Digital Market, an online platform that provides year-round access to sourcing and ordering of products for and by the community that surrounds trade fairs, is the outspoken tool for getting hard data, this in addition to the data strategy that should be utilised. Now we have the possibility to see not only the leads exchanged, but also the actual transactions made between buying and selling customers. We now know that a certain number of euros have actually come into existence as a result of these customer exchanges. We now have the ability to report not only on leads created, but also on the actual transaction value, which is a huge advantage when quantifying ROI. The B2B industry historically lagged behind technologically because the business model of trade fairs had worked so well all along: money was made and people kept coming back to trade fairs, although there was a noticeable downward spiral in some of them. It created a certain hubris and an unwillingness to change and invest – because why bother if it works so well? Some organisers put their heads down and pretended not to believe that the world was changing under them. Even though exhibitors kept saying ‘I’ll take less space this year’ or ‘I’ll take a break this year and maybe come back next year’. Meanwhile, the marketer of the same company demanded more data on the investment they had made. Others tried to tackle it in a slightly different way by delving into technological improvements – a little matchmaking here and there to make the customer experience a little different.
CHANGING REVENUE MODELS FOR FAIRS
It is not only in the States that we notice this trend. These changes are also under way in Europe. In France, the surface areas occupied by exhibitors are cut in half (https://www.lesechos.fr/industrie-services/services-conseils/les-foires-et-salons-au-rendez-vous-de-la-rentree-dans-des-formats-divises-par-deux-1341456). Research shows that event planners are adapting their business models to make their budgets about 25% digital – up from 2% in 2020. The hybrid organisation of events leads to a spectacular increase in visitor numbers. The French company Viva Technology was to receive 26,000 visitors in Paris Expo Porte de Versailles in June 2021. As many as 116,000 visitors connected digitally. A doubling of the number of (paying) participants. The larger number of visitors also interests the sponsors, especially since the event can continue digitally for quite some time.
There is today a greater acceptance of how technology has advanced and how it can be used by organisers, but this realisation has come slowly compared to other industries. For example, channels selling directly to consumers have developed a much more data-driven and sophisticated marketing approach over the past 15 years. Direct-to-consumer marketers are more advanced in using data to understand the importance of behaviour and emotion that can influence buyers’ decisions. Online consumer marketplaces such as Amazon have grown rapidly by using features to build a user profile and make suggestions for items they might like. This is now also possible with online exchanges. The top 100 – such as Amazon and eBay – will have gained £1.92 trillion ($2.67 trillion) and a 62% share of global digital sales by 2020, according to research by ComprarAcciones.com. That is a 29% year-on-year increase in gross sales, while for non-marketplace sites it grew by 25% over the same period. B2B marketers have so far been slow to develop a strategy that mimics the success of those who sell directly to consumers. A study by B2B International showed that industries with a more direct exposure to consumers – such as technology and finance – were more likely to see interactions with a target customer end before they had even requested a quote. The market research suggests that people are now so used to smooth consumer experiences in these sectors that they want the same performance when they buy for their businesses.
A SPRINT AROSE TO TRY TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE CUSTOMER
There is a clear gap between what marketers within B2B organisations pay for participating in trade shows and their expectations. This became clear when the coronavirus forced a worldwide halt to live events. It was a race to meet customer needs, maintain contacts and realise the resulting income wherever possible with any solution one could think of. Many of the available solutions were many years old and frankly had not matured and evolved because there was no money to do so. So they did not meet the needs. Suddenly, people became very interested in online solutions, and we have now seen a proliferation of platforms and solutions of different types and qualities, some more performing than others. Some of these solutions have a video component and content scheduling, while others create a carbon copy of live exhibitions in a virtual environment.
EMBRACE THE OUTPUT THAT TECHNOLOGY CAN PROVIDE
Organisers of today and tomorrow – who want to succeed – must accept that the sector will have digital components – and make the best of it by training or recruiting technologically-savvy staff or by bringing in a technology partner.
Very often, at live events, a survey was sent out to the visitors and exhibitors the week after the show. A few weeks later, the results of some of those visitors and exhibitors were given, and then the results were considered and, at best, some changes were made – and then they tried again next year, eleven months later. So the cycle of data collection and what to do with that data was quite long, too long. Many of today’s technology platforms allow you to collect the data, view and analyse it in real time and adjust it as needed. If, for example, a certain stand receives too few visitors, a pop-up can be activated in no time for those visitors who might be interested in the products of that exhibitor. It means you can keep measuring, changing, getting better, pivoting, testing and learning. Embrace the output that technology can provide, namely data that demonstrates success or a need for change.
⦁ Diego Dupont (CEO Fairtual Technologies BV)
ABOUT FAIRTUAL TECHNOLOGIES
The Belgian-French company Fairtual Technologies (Bruges – Sainte-Maxime) is a start-up company (January 2020) that specialises in building and hosting digital solutions for trade shows, job fairs, conferences, webinars, showrooms, corporate experience environments, product presentations and so much more. With a dynamic team of some 14 passionate professionals, the company quickly developed various digital platforms that have since been used for some 60 events by customers in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. In addition to its established products such as the VirtualFairManager, Jobcity and Webi&More, Fairtual offers its services tailored to the customer’s needs, from the creation of an own digital showroom or a virtual booth to a complete customer experience environment. The absolute USPs of Fairtual at a glance: ⦁ Immersive 3D integration ⦁ Use of VR / AR ⦁ State of the art development of functionalities ⦁ GDPR compliant – Security ⦁ Multilingual platforms ⦁ Support from A to Z by digital event managers ⦁ Own marketing team
VirtualFairManager With the VFM, an organiser of a trade fair or congress can set up a digital event in no time at all. A backend is provided for the organiser and for each exhibitor. The State of the Art platform (built entirely in 360° – 3D) includes a choice of 5 outdoor environments (pavilions) with accompanying reception, conference rooms, a Market Place with a choice of 300 stands for the exhibitors (equipped with all useful functionalities, such as video, chat, downloads, meeting rooms with time slots for video calls, quote requests, order application and so on), a network café, a speed dating module, etc…. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Jobcity With Jobcity, an organiser of a job fair or other HR event can set up a digital HR event in no time. A backend is provided for the organiser and for each exhibitor. The State of the Art platform (built completely in 360° – 3D) contains an outdoor environment (pavilion) with accompanying reception, conference rooms, a Job Exhibitor Place with a choice of some 300 stands for the exhibitors (equipped with all useful functionalities, such as video, chat, downloads, meeting rooms with time slots for video calls, and so on), a network café, a speed dating module, etc…. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) The platform has an integrated job board to easily find vacancies and apply directly (even directly in the Applicant Tracking System of the exhibitor) and offers the possibility to let CV analysts analyse CVs of visitors.
Webi&More One of the main goals of a Webinar organiser is to generate leads. This can be done through fantastic rhetoric combined with stunning visuals. But the audience wants more… much more. Gone are the boring PowerPoint presentations streamed via Zoom, Teams or the like. People are thoroughly fed up after the Covid period. Webi&More offers more… much more. It is no longer a monologue by a speaker, but a networking event that can continue long after the Webinar. Communities are formed in this way. Each Webinar takes place in a 360° 3D venue with space for placing flags and billboards of the speakers and sponsors. In the 360° 3D reception area, visitors register. There is a 360° 3D conference room where the Webinars take place. Live or pre-recorded, with or without a live Q&A. Besides the speaker and the sponsors, each participant can showcase his or her business in the 360° 3D Marketplace. A virtual booth (choice of more than 300 stands) is provided with videos, visuals, chat room, downloads and so on. There is a network café where one-to-one chats and group chats (according to certain topics, for example) can take place and there are break-out rooms (virtual meeting rooms) where discussions or negotiations can take place.
Websites: https://virtualfair.be https://virtualfair.fr https://virtualfair.be/job-city-virtuele-jobbeurzen/ Fairtual Video’s