Understanding the Shifting Mindset of Trade Show Attendees

Sue Pelletier, Senior Editor
CEIR Omnichannel Marketing Insight Series

DALLAS — While just 4% of B2B trade show attendees say they have decided to permanently stick with the digital channels they learned to love during the COVID pandemic, trade show organizers shouldn’t let down their guard. Though the in-person channel remains strong, research from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) finds that 13% of those surveyed had no plans to attend an in-person trade show this year, and 38% say they may go to fewer B2B events now that they can interact online.

The question is, how do you expand and deepen engagement opportunities among those who are shifting to other channels, whether temporarily or permanently, and perhaps even sway them to return to in-person exhibitions in the future? That’s what the third of six reports in CEIR Omnichannel Marketing Insight Series delves into. Here are a few topline results.

The Changing Role of Exhibitions

Only 6% of exhibitors say they don’t plan to exhibit this year, according to the report, which states, “The bigger issue is where the role of exhibiting for those with plans to exhibit will be reduced.”

The report also finds that 24% of those surveyed say they will reduce their use of exhibitions for existing product promotions and testing out new business sectors, while 23% say they will use expos less for targeting specific business sectors.

Another 15% overall say the role exhibitions traditionally play in achieving sales objectives also is on the way down. Specifically, exhibitions will play less of a role in generating sales orders with prospects, growing sales leads in new business sectors, and supporting a company’s distributors.

Related. 87% of Attendees Have In-Person Expos on Their 2022 Agendas

Omnichannel on the Rise

This is where omnichannel opportunities come into play, the report finds. Exhibitors are turning to digital B2B online marketing channels to achieve marketing objectives (60%), sales objectives (56%) and purchase process stages (50%).

The report found that 40% of those surveyed say they are turning to virtual events to achieve their marketing objectives, while just 24% say they’ll go to a different in-person event for that reason. Similarly, 67% say virtual events are key for achieving their sales objectives now, while just 45% say they expect to do that at another in-person trade show or event.

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

The bottom line is that, while the percentage of attendees and exhibitors who are cutting their in-person trade show participation is small, organizers still must beef up their omnichannel marketing sides.

“This study uncovers that a minority of exhibitors and attendees may not look to B2B exhibitions to support some business needs,” IAEE Executive Vice President & COO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM, said. “The report also provides insights for organizers into other channel opportunities to stay relevant and connected with those preferring other options; these are ways to expand and retain market share among communities served. The good news is that most exhibitors and attendees expect to return to in-person B2B exhibitions.”

The third installment, like the first two reports, is free to CEIR members and available for $99 for non-members through the CEIR website. 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.

Reach Cathy Breden at (972) 687-9201 or cbredent@iaee.com