Thanks to research that a number of leading groups conducted in 2016, exhibition organizers should feel pretty good about the coming year. As Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the U.S. rises, the trade show industry is expected to grow with it. Spending on event technology will increase as more technology companies enter the market to address organizers’ ongoing challenges. Here’s a look at the growth numbers, operational obstacles, and what types of apps, platforms, and devices show producers are likely to have their eye on in 2017.
Good News On Growth
The most recent CEIR Index Report compiled by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) released in November summarized the industry’s trajectory. The industry grew 1.9% during the third quarter of 2016 (just below the 2.0% recorded for the same period in 2015). The gain marked the 25th consecutive quarter of overall growth for the CEIR Total Index.[i] Those numbers set the stage for 2017 during which CEIR predicts the trade show industry could rise by another 2 to 3 percent.[ii]
Organizers Identify Challenges
Despite the respectable growth picture, organizers will still have their work cut out for them in the coming twelve months. The ECEF 2016 Pulse report[iii] listed the ongoing challenges named by trade show executives. “In keeping with a lower expectation for attendee growth, the top challenge named by more than half of executives is growing attendance. Proving exhibitor return on investment (ROI) (39%) and attracting millennials (35%) followed. While the ratings for most challenges remained similar to last year, the challenge of how to handle event analytics (e.g. Big Data) was rated significantly higher this year (34%) than last year (25% in 2015).”
Leveraging Technology to Close the Gap
Seventy-six percent of large show organizers plan to increase digital marketing, and forty-two percent plan to increase the use of social media[iv]. Show producers will also be looking for solutions in specific categories.
- Attendance Marketing—More than ever, the attendee marketing buzzwords are Targeting and Personalization. Data will play a big role and tools, such as Crystal, which tracks a person’s social media feed and creates a personality profile, will be in demand. In addition, Feathr, the first event marketing cloud, will help trade show marketers execute targeted campaigns designed specifically around events. Organizers should also keep an eye on Marketo, the marketing automation platform that was recently acquired by Vista Equity Partners (which also owns Cvent and Lanyon). It’s likely to become more event-centric as it gets folded into Vista’s portfolio.
- Exhibitor ROI Measurement—After decades of having a conversation about exhibitor ROI, technology developers have stepped up to chip away at the problem. Lead retrieval apps that send collateral to attendees and leads directly to the exhibitors’ CRM platform will become the norm. Solutions that aid exhibitors in discovering matches and setting up appointments with attendees, including Pathable and Connect powered by a2z, will give organizers more visibility into show-floor activity. Wearable beacons will deliver overviews (heat maps and detailed reports) of attendee interaction with exhibitors so organizers can have ROI discussions with them.
- Millennial Magnets—To get the next-gen workforce in the door, organizers will have to market to them on the channels they use like Facebook and Instagram. They will have to use messages that describe value, authenticity, the promise of an “experience,” and social proof. Referral marketing tools, such as GleanIn and InGo, will help organizers leverage the social media graphs of registrants to attract other registrants. In-show rich media delivered via social walls and high-resolution displays as well as stable and secure WiFi will upgrade the experience for young attendees. Gamification (especially with virtual reality elements) will also prove to be impactful for this audience in 2017.
- Event Analytics—Data-based decision-making has finally hit its stride, and event technology developers are greeting it with enthusiasm. Recently, THE major selling point of any app, platform, or device has been its ability to generate data. Now that the data is here, organizers are looking for ways to understand the data and put it to work. Many event management platforms now have built-in data dashboards that surface real-time metrics. Platforms like Germin8 and ScoreAssured will help organizations parse through the social media conversations of stakeholders and take action.[v]
Planning For 2017
Industry reports are great for understanding where an industry has succeeded and failed. They are a de facto roadmap for what needs to be done to keep stakeholders competitive in the year ahead. While event technology can provide the tactics for the roadmap, a solid strategy and trusted partners are also essential. If you’re wondering how to address your exhibition challenges with technology solutions, talk to the experts at SmartSource®.