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Research Finds Companies Favor the Expo Marketing Channel

Sue Pelletier, Senior Editor

DALLAS — If you want to know what’s motivating exhibitors to go back to the in-person show floor in 2022, there’s a new report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) that can provide some answers. The latest report, Report One: Marketing Channel Mix During Pandemic and Outlook Moving Forward for Brand Marketers That Exhibit at B2B Exhibitions, from CEIR’s newest research series Omnichannel Marketing Insights, provides an inside look at the omnichannel marketing practices business-to-business companies used during the pandemic, and why those who relied on B2B exhibitions pre-COVID are eager to get back on the show floor.

“The Omnichannel Marketing Insights study reveals that the B2B exhibitions channel is highly valued by exhibitors for achieving their most important marketing objectives,” CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM, said. “The research also reveals interesting insights on the digital channels they are using both in their corporate marketing strategy, and their interest in integrating digital tactics throughout the event lifecycle. The conversation around what corporate marketers are planning with digital plays an important role for exhibitions and an opportunity for organizers.”

When all but the most essential businesses shut down during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, 94% of businesses turned to digital channels, as did 87% of those who attended trade shows pre-pandemic. The heavy use of digital marketing did the job, said exhibitors, but not very well. In fact, less than 17% rated digital marketing as being very effective over the past couple of years. Interestingly, only 8% said they relied on customer calls — something 44% of attendees said they relied on — and another 20% of exhibitors said they used direct mail, which was popular with 33% of attendees.

Related. New Research: Demand Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels

That heavy reliance on the digital marketing channel may have something to do with exhibitors’ eagerness to return to the show floor, something 94% of those surveyed said they plan to do in the coming year, with an average booth size of 200 net square feet.

As to why they can’t wait to get back to working the trade show floor, 40% said B2B exhibitions are the best way to help them meet their marketing objectives, while another 31% said it topped their list for helping them achieve their sales objectives.

“Exhibitors are intent on returning to exhibiting,” CEIR Vice President of Research Nancy Drapeau, IPC, said. “The high value in using the channel to help achieve their high-priority marketing and sales objectives is the catalyst driving their return to events.”

Related. Industry to Fully Rebound by 2023, Says CEIR 2021 Index Report

The 26-page report delves into much more detail and provides insights into the marketing channels exhibitors used versus what attendees relied on during the pandemic, as well as exhibitors’ current high-priority marketing and sales objectives and budgeting outlook for the remainder of 2021 into 2022. It also provides an inside look at how exhibitors perceive the B2B exhibition marketing channel in terms of Net Promoter Scores (NPS), the unique value of exhibiting over other marketing channels, and the importance of face-to-face interactions at exhibitions during the various stages of the purchasing process.

The report also probes B2B exhibition activity levels, from the volume of exhibitions and typical booth sizes from 2019 through 2022 to near-term booth staffing plans as compared to pre-pandemic levels. CEIR also asked those 94% who are planning to come back to F2F shows in 2022 how in-person exhibiting helps them meet their marketing goals, how they plan to handle COVID resurgences, and their level of interest in integrating digital options into their event lifecycles over the next two years.

This is the first of three reports CEIR is publishing based on survey research done with attendees and exhibitors. The complete Omnichannel Marketing Insights series will include six reports in total, including: Business Information Channel Mix During Pandemic and Outlook Moving Forward for Business Professionals That Attend B2B Exhibitions; Mining for Expanding and Deepening Engagement Opportunities Among Those Shifting to Using Other Channels; Who to Target for Attendee Acquisition; Who to Target for Exhibit Sales; and Attendee Generational Differences in Channel Preferences.


The report is free to CEIR members and available for $99 for non-members. Learn more and purchase the first report in this series at the CEIR website.


Reach Cathy Breden at (972) 687-9201 or; Nancy Drapeau at (972) 687-9242 or


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