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Virtual trade shows: the future of trade exhibitions?

Technology has been constantly reshaping the professional landscape and its rise has led to revolutionary perspectives that respond to the problems of digitalization of companies. And trade shows, conferences, fairs, exhibitions, and any other event do not remain excluded from the equation. Unfortunately, these events, which are tremendous levers for communication and business opportunities, were strongly impacted by the health context: many were moved or, worse, cancelled. Nevertheless, aware of their value, some organizers have decided to use technology to their advantage and transform their physical events into virtual events.


What is a virtual trade show?

Far from being a new phenomenon, virtual trade shows have become popular with the social distancing that gave the final push to adopt this emerging technology. Between digital and physical, trade shows keep the same objectives: presentation of products and services, professional meetings, lead generation, improvement of notoriety, increase of visibility etc. But unlike traditional trade shows, online trade shows are permanently “open” to welcome prospects and partners from all over the world and include additional functionalities to overcome the lack of physical interactions: chat module, appointment scheduling, presentation screen, rooms dedicated to exchanges and many others.

Light & Shadows’ booth at the virtual exhibition VIRTUALITY 2020

Why participate and what are the benefits?

  • Gain visibility

There will be fewer geographical, hygienic, and temporal restrictions because visitors only have to access the exhibition in a few clicks from the comfort of their home! Moreover, this long-term access will not only increase visibility but also generate international leads through this flexibility, convenience and accessibility. Exhibiting in a virtual trade show also ensures an innovative and modern image, demonstrating that a brand does not hesitate to use the latest technologies in an attempt to stand out!

  • Fewer logistical and material constraints, saving money and time!

The incessant hubbub, the jet lag, the multiple administrative procedures, the prices of plane tickets, accommodation, manufacturing and transportation of the stand…. To sum up, participating in a trade show is expensive. To illustrate this, according to the magazine EXHIBITOR, the exhibitors dedicate :

  • 35 % to their booth space,

  • 13% to trade show services,

  • 14% for travel and accommodation expenses,

  • 10% to graphic design, production and promotion.

While for a virtual trade fair, its organization is not only more flexible, but also allows considerable savings in terms of time and costs. Indeed, the booth requires only a 3D modeling, not considering the physical constraints related to its construction or transportation. In addition, costly expenses related to installation, maintenance, cleaning and the organization of other services will also be removed. Aurélie Colin-Thévenet, co-founder of Lux-Lingua, a marketing agency, said during an interview with France 3 that their participation at CES 2021 cost about three times less than usual to organize.


  • Better data for better analysis

To digitalize the event is also to digitalize and collect data. Better than in a physical show, virtual trade shows provide valuable and insightful data that can be used later. More than just booth and trade show attendance figures, some virtual events offer the ability to track visitor movements, engagement levels, and interactions during an event: which part of the booth generated the most traffic, the average time it took booth staff to contact visitors, which products were most viewed, and so on. Then any brand is free to use this new data to guide future business strategies!


  • Go virtual, go green

The convention and trade show industry is one of the most waste-generating industries, producing an average of 600,000 tons of waste per year according to a study by Washington-based Smash Hit Display. Most of this waste is material by nature and can come from print marketing materials (posters, kakemono, flyers, etc.) or booth materials. As a result, the use of 3D technologies to create booths and digital content helps curb these negative externalities. And beyond material waste, virtual events make carbon-intensive travel (planes, trains, cars etc.) unnecessary, making virtual trade shows a more sustainable alternative.


Light & Shadows at the virtual exhibition VIRTUALITY 2020

What guarantees the success of participating in a virtual trade show?

Many factors influence the success of such a virtual event, from the efforts made by the exhibiting brand to the organizing company. Of course, an excellent media coverage and communication helps because the better the visibility, the more exhibitors and potential customers will be. But this will remain insufficient without a solid technological infrastructure: aesthetic 3D graphics; a reliable and stable streaming service to guarantee quality, speed or accessibility etc. On the other hand, it is not necessarily for technological reasons that an exhibition does not become virtual. And rightfully so, some organizers prefer to postpone or cancel their event because it is difficult to create virtual events that perfectly mimic the pure and spontaneous human contact or the feeling and excitement of a physical convention. Even today, it is still presumptuous to declare that tomorrow’s trade shows will inevitably be virtual. Perhaps there will be hybrid forms where the show will be both virtual and physical at the same time? But one thing is certain, this concept has changed habits and allowed everyone to have a different vision of technology.


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