TRADE FAIRS IN THE POST-COVID ERA09/09/2022
Covid-19 has had an impact on every aspect of our personal and professional lives. On a larger scale, the whole world economy changed and so did the global exhibition industry. According to the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, in 2020 the sector contracted by 68%, which equalled to $330 billion in missed trade between exhibitors. Two years down the line, the trade fairs scenario is reshaping in a rather interesting way.
Always regarded as fundamental in the process of internationalization of any company, in-person fairs surely provided an excellent opportunity to showcase a company’s range of products and services, meet new buyers and potentially penetrate new markets. They were also an occasion to get a live update about the latest trends and market opportunities and to have a sneak peak of the competitors’ new activities.
If Covid-19 made it impossible for trade shows to take place, the exhibition industry did not give in: to fill the void, many event organizers switched to the virtual world, offering online shows which allowed vendors to showcase their products and interact with attendees online. Quite predictably, the impossibility of connecting on a more personal level was a lack felt and reported by everybody in the business; yet the online trade shows kept the relationships going, nurturing hope for the future.
Now that the future has arrived and the pandemic seems to have lost its dramatic force, the desire for face-to-fact events is stronger than ever. According to a recent survey published by Display Wizard, in-person events are still preferred by 95% of regular exhibitors therefore many of them are indeed about to return in their usual venues. Some organizers though – because of the uncertainty we are still experiencing – have decided to continue with the online model instead of in-person events, thus aligning with all those businesses which have shifted more to online marketing during the pandemic or have implemented other significant changes in their business practice.
Considering the complexity of organizing large events where tighter safety measures are now required as a standard, and taking into account the huge progress made by digital solutions, what is expecting us in the near future may well be a combination of online and in-person activities. A hybrid event model that reinforces the use of dedicated digital platforms for trade registration and access to events, while combining them with AI applications to facilitate virtual matchmaking between buyers and sellers. It is not even remote anymore to envisage an important role of the augmented reality, where virtual worlds will be used for socializing and will complement the irreplaceable in-person experience.