Will in-person conferences make a comeback after a year of virtual shows?
Surveys show an eagerness to return to in-person trade shows and market appointments, but also an expectation that virtual meet-ups are here to stay.
A survey of nearly 500 company decision makers in the U.S. and U.K. taken in December by FTI Consulting showed 46 percent plan to increase their trade show budgets to above pre-pandemic levels. Twenty-seven percent expect to keep budgets the same.
“Respondent sentiment indicates an eagerness to resume trade show participation to increase awareness of their companies’ products and services, following an unprecedented FY2020,” FTI noted. “Trade shows remain critical platforms for networking, lead generation, branding and knowledge development.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that virtual events are going away. Sixty-two percent of those attending virtual events were more satisfied with those experiences than in-person events. FTI wrote, “While virtual trade shows have impactfully filled the void amid the pandemic, they will likely remain and grow in a post-pandemic world.”
A dimmer view of virtual events was seen in a survey of 343 exhibitors across trade shows last August from event solutions company Tradeshow Logic. Forty-three percent of those who had participated in a virtual trade show indicated they wouldn’t do so again.
Virtual shows scored best for education/thought leadership, with 62 percent indicating they met or exceeded expectations. Only 33 percent, however, felt networking met or exceeded expectations at virtual shows and below-par scores on the same basis were seen for new product promotion, 37 percent; and branding, 48 percent.
A recent survey of 500 global fashion brands and retailers from wholesale management platform Joor found 89 percent of retailers plan to use virtual buying this summer, despite the return to in-person market appointments.
“While brands and retailers are keen to return to in-person showroom appointments, neither group is willing to give up the efficiency and extended reach of virtual selling,” said Kristin Savilia, CEO of Joor, in a statement obtained by Footwear News.
Twenty-two percent of brands in Joor’s survey are committed to a fully virtual market, while 16 percent of retailers are conducting only virtual appointments. Of brands hosting in-person meetings, 80 percent are meeting people in showrooms and 42 percent are going to trade shows.
- FTI Insight: Trade Show Industry Post-Pandemic Outlook – FTI Consulting
- Redefining Value For Today’s Exhibitors & Sponsors – Trade Show Logic
- Survey: Virtual Market Appointments Could Be the New Normal Post Pandemic – Footwear News
- How will digital transform trade shows? – RetailWire
- Will virtual trade shows replace in-person events? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Have virtual events proved themselves as a complement or replacement for in-person trade shows and market appointments? What’s your own experience with both types of shows and what do you expect to see going forward?