Online trade shows are a recent development to arrive on the trade show scene. An online trade show holds many similarities to that of the current trade show structure. Companies are able to purchase space to showcase and demonstrate their products or services and the visitor is able to converse with traders, through audio or text facilities and swap contact details.
In 2009 Networking Today commented on the progressive emergence on the new event platform noting that only 1% of Trade shows are currently held online. However they stated that industry experts expected that by 2015, more than 25% of trade shows will be conducted in virtual environments suggesting that this could be a growing trend. In the same year a survey was conducted by WCP Exposition Services stating that 7 out of 10 people are actively interested in pursuing virtual events, however they have no intention of replacing live events and instead will use a balance of the two to "address a changing market". (WCP Exposition Services, 2009) Is it just too risky for business' to turn their back on the 'real life' tangible event? The trend of transferring aspects of our day to day lives online is undeniable, but where is the line? Will consumers and businesses' shun opportunities to stay at home and attend online tradeshows in their pyjamas in favour of the tangible experience of visiting a tradeshow and stuffing their pockets with business cards?
We want to have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of moving trade shows into the virtual world to perhaps better understand if there is a demand for this type of event.
For Attendees; No travelling or accommodation required and less time away from work.
For Traders; Lower charge for ‘stall’ space and no travelling or accommodation charges. Lower production costs also.
For Attendees; No travelling time and can attend for a length of time suitable to their needs.
For Traders; No travelling time and less staff time required.
No concerns over the flow of traffic in terms of visitors, staff, amenities and deliveries.
For Attendees; Less risk in attendance. People can be experimental and attend trade shows that they may not of otherwise attended.
For Traders; Less risk participating in virtual trades shows as inputs, in terms of those discussed above, are minimal. Can be experimental. Good for emerging companies.
Better for the environment as no tangible event causing associated pollution.
Will appeal to the emerging digital generation who are very comfortable using technology and the internet.
A larger volume of visitors and demographics are likely to attend due to the ease of attendance.
Some of these positives can be exactly what new companies need to forge
a path into the market place. With investment money scarce on the ground,
especially within the Eurozone, new businesses need to find ways of gaining
exposure, credibility and custom with as little risk associated to the process as
possible. Likewise attendees will want to be at the forefront of change and virtual events provide a good platform for businesses, on either side of the desk, to be exposed to new services and products.
Despite the long, convincing list of benefits of a virtual trade, as with everything, a list of disadvantages follow. These should be noted carefully by all involved. To address and overcome these barriers could be what makes a virtual stand achieve success over the increased number of stands that will be available at a virtual trade show.
Attendees can just simply log off and leave should they wish. They may not be as engaged with the event as much as if they were there staying at the event for the day, over night or for the weekend.
It will be harder to create a 'buzz' as many human senses will be neglected.
Interacting at a virtual event will be harder as it will have to be conducted purely through visual, audio or messaging which could cause misunderstandings and breakdowns in communication.
Reliant on everybody having a reliable internet connection. Connection or technological issues could severely impair the experience.
This platform assumes everybody is computer literate and comfortable with attending an online event. There will be many demographics this will not appeal to and therefore could exclude potential buyers or sellers.
There are some serious draw backs to exclusively hosting trade shows online. For example the 'Internet Connection' issue could be devastating to the success of traders or attendees. Issues will connection could result in lost time, money and resources. Although we have discussed how these risks are minimised at virtual events an internet connection issue is the equivalent to being in the middle of a real event and everything around you disappearing! Not very good for business.
Our next post will consider how these events are being received in practice and what others in the industry and academics are saying about virtual events. In the mean time here is a video displaying an example of a virtual trade show created by XPOFAIRS.
Networking Today, (2009) Six Advantages to Virtual Trade Shows. [Online]. Available at: http://www.networkingtoday.com/article/Six%20Advantages%20to%20Virtual%20Trade%20Shows-872 (Date Accessed: 16th April)
WCP Exposition Services, (2009)
Champion Exposition Services Releases Findings from Survey on Use of Social Media and Digital Tools by Associations. [Online]. Available at: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Champion+Exposition+Services+Releases+Findings+from+Survey+on+Use+of...-a0210708633 (Date Accessed: 16th April)