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94% of Exhibitors Plan to Return to Live Events, Says CEIR Omnichannel Marketing Research Study


DALLAS — The first of six reports in the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) Omnichannel Marketing Insight Series tells the story of how brand marketers have had to adjust their tactics in the midst of the COVID pandemic. One statistic says it all: Despite being forced to rely on digital channels — from virtual exhibitions to emailing to digital advertising — to build their brands and reach their customers, 94% of respondents to the survey plan to return to exhibiting live in 2022.

Among exhibitors’ top-priority marketing objectives were to build and reinforce brand awareness; new product promotions and launches; and to target specific business sectors. Top sales priorities included new sales lead generation, relationship management and generating orders. Digital channels were considered most effective for brand reinforcement and building awareness, and targeting specific business sectors and job functions, and least effective for objectives where F2F engagement is an essential element — product demonstrations and prospect interaction with products, as well as testing entry into a new business sector.

Overall, only 17% of respondents rated digital channels as highly effective in achieving their most important sales and marketing objectives, compared to 40% giving live exhibitions the highest score in achieving those marketing goals, and 31% giving exhibitions top marks in achieving their most important sales objectives.

One upshot of the retreat into digital is that exhibitors now plan to use some of these tactics permanently as part of the marketing mix. Almost a third (29%) said they would continue to look for hybrid opportunities as the industry retreats from the pandemic, with the most popular channel being social media communities.

Related. Lessons From a Year of Online Events

“Digital and other channels have helped exhibiting companies and attendees meet their needs during the pandemic, though study results point to their limitations,” CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM, said. “For companies that exhibit, face-to-face marketing is an essential part of their marketing mix.”

The complete Omnichannel Marketing Insights series is based on a survey of 1,799 attendees and 316 exhibitors and will include five additional reports released over the next several months. The first report is free to CEIR members and available for $99 for non-members through the CEIR website.

Reach Cathy Breden at (972) 687-9201 or



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