Exhibitions and digitalization: future hybrid events?

Exhibitions and trade shows are indispensable events for businesses and the players of the sectors they bring to life. However, in order for a professional event to help increase a business’s profits, it’s important to constantly innovate and take into account any new constraints. What role will digitalization play in the events of tomorrow? 

Heading towards more digitized events 

The digital transformation of trade shows has already begun. For several years now, exhibitors have been able to register via online platforms. Also, visitors can access exhibitors’ catalogs and all of the information they need to plan their visit. 

Many dramatic changes have accelerated the digitalization of these events.

  • The coronavirus epidemic and health crisis that accompany it have disrupted the scheduling and organization of professional events. Certain exhibitors and visitors are unwilling or unable to travel. Although some exhibitions have been maintained, in accordance with sanitary regulations, many have been postponed or cancelled. 
  • Ecological awareness is increasingly present. It not only changes the organization of professionals and companies, but also their communication strategy. Sending a team to travel, sometimes by plane, for an event that only lasts a few days may not be well-conceived for a brand’s image.

What is the solution? The answer may be: by organizing hybrid events. These “phygital” events allow those who want to physically gather to attend an exhibition, while offering a virtual version of the event to others. Some events can even be 100% virtual.

Discover SOLUTRANS Digital Show

Exhibitions and digitalization: new core event opportunities

This technology is not merely an alternative for maintaining professional exhibitions. The digitalization of these events, which significantly contribute to the influence of companies and even sectors of activity as a whole, is an important opportunity. 

Digitalization can be intelligently integrated into global strategies. In order to be beneficial, it must serve all parties: exhibitors, visitors, partners, experts, journalists and students. 

For example, a virtual exhibition can help a company attain a new target by reaching people who would otherwise not have attended the event. Digital and new technologies can also complement exhibitions by offering new and more immersive experiences, such as hosting a virtual reality activity. 

Technological developments allow us to go increasingly further beyond existing tools and practices.

Digitalization improves event communication 

Exhibition applications: essential and holistic 

Many trade shows already have mobile applications. These are becoming increasingly comprehensive and offer a multitude of possibilities to their users. 

Let’s use the example of the hybrid Paris Retail Week. On the exhibition’s mobile application, visitors can: 

  • participate in virtual one-on-one meetings;
  • send meeting requests
  • chat
  • provide an electronic signature
  • attend conferences in real time or on-demand 

The Paris Retail Week app also includes two innovations: 

  • Matchmaking: an innovative web and mobile app that takes exhibitors’ catalogs and products and intelligently connects them with visitors. Made possible by artificial intelligence, this process is a huge help to exhibitors who see the most relevant visitors, can chat with them, and set up meetings (during the exhibition or virtually). 
  • Intelligent sourcing: an asset for visitors, who can search for what best suits their needs. Depending on their queries, smart filters and suggestions can add businesses to their favorites and help them prepare for a physical or virtual visit.

From online catalogs to the marketplace 

Online catalogs bring exhibitors and their products together and offer great freedom. Exhibitors can upload as many products as they would like. As in any online store, the catalog is dynamic and generates traffic. Thanks to smart filters and improved ergonomics, user experience is thus optimized.

Some trade fairs and exhibitions will soon have their own online marketplace. This goes a step further than the catalog by giving visitors the option to directly buy products presented at the events. Purchases can be made during the event, but also at any other time throughout the year. This opportunity represents long-term added value for professionals.

Digital content published and updated year-round 

In addition to having an app and a marketplace, some professional events now offer very powerful websites. These information and resource platforms for subscribed exhibitors offer many features. 

  • Relevant content can be published before, during and after the event. This content improves the natural referencing and visibility of trade exhibitors at the shows. 
  • The organization of webinars year-round for exhibitors and visitors makes it possible to train and inform continuously. 
  • Creating events directly on the platform allows you to present a new product or even share video of a live interview. 
  • Community engagement is possible over a longer period of time than the duration of an event. This is also a significant advantage when an event is cancelled or postponed.

Stay open to innovation

Technology is constantly evolving. Like all businesses, professional events must remain open to new possibilities such as virtual reality, avatars or webinars. The solution is to always self-evaluate to be sure that the value brought to exhibitors and visitors remains the focus of events. The key for organizers of these events is “continuous improvement of the customer experience.”

Hybrid or phygital events add value 

Physical events will always be organized and appreciated. These venues of life, meetings and exchanges are essential and contribute to the sustainability of businesses. We should not fear digital transformation because it is not replacing everything

At a wine show or a gourmet food fair, for example, visitors can smell and taste the products offered. In these events, technology plays a different role. It can be exploited to optimize communication quality, but not to replace holding the physical event, as it is impossible! In this way, we have a complementary tool which will help improve the event, not replace it. 

Someone watching the SOLUTRANS exhibition on the phone

The hybrid or “phygital” event is a new concept which offers a digital experience before, during, and after the exhibition. Those who wish can exhibit and enjoy the conviviality of a traditional event, while those who cannot or do not want to travel can enjoy a virtual meeting and information space. Of course, the entry fees are also different. 

The hybrid event provides an opening to another method of operating. Digitalization allows for continuous digital content creation and permanent access to an online marketplace. The event thus engages itself in a more comprehensive promotion strategy. It is no longer the focal point!

The digitalization of professional events does not mean that physical events will disappear. Digital innovations offer many business opportunities for exhibitors and visitors all year round, while bringing new value to exhibitions. Want to know the hybrid solutions offered by your events? Contact your advisor and they will be glad to assist you!

Become an exhibitor at SOLUTRANS