You could be forgiven for thinking that in this digital age where everything is available online, exhibitions would be on the way out. But you would be wrong.
In fact, quite the opposite is true: the number and size of exhibitions, particularly in the B2B sector, are growing at a massive rate worldwide as more businesses realise the central role face-to-face interaction can play within their marketing mix.
The total amount of exhibition space sold in the Asia/Pacific region increased by 9% to 21.6 million square metres between 2008 and 2012, according to UFI, the global exhibition industry association. Overall, widespread investment in expanding venue capacity will push global trade shows revenue to US$39.99 billion by 2019, up from US$31.83 billion in 2014, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, Auckland-based events company North Port Events reports similar growth patterns within the local market. “As an event company we’ve experienced steady growth in our consumer shows portfolio in 2015 with increases in exhibitors and visitors numbers. However, we’ve had a far bigger jump in our B2B trade show offerings,” says Dona White, CEO of North Port Events.
Fine Food New Zealand, the leading trade show for the NZ food service, food retail, and hospitality sectors, has outstripped its stand sales and visitor registration targets. The majority of exhibitors from the previous event have already signed up for stands at the 2016 show, along with 65 new companies. But the bigger success story in 2015 has been the launch of Facilities Integrate, a new trade show for the facilities management and system integration industries.
“The show exceeded our expectations for a launch event and is now more than 50% sold out for the 2016 event – plus we have all the support associations from the industry enthusiastically back on board. That’s an incredible result for a completely new trade event,” she says.
So what is driving the growth of trade shows? The answer lies in the power of face-to-face events to provide first-hand experience of your product or service. That experience is impossible to replicate online or through other media. Additionally, trade shows attract big crowds of pre-qualified visitors so your marketing dollars are much better spent.
“Face-to-face marketing is a no-brainer,” says White. “Especially when the audience delivery is matched perfectly to the vendor – and that’s what we do best.”
In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, events enable advertisers to accurately target significant concentrations of people already interested in their product category, according to Dale Spencer, Managing Director of Intermedia New Zealand, which publishes Hospitality Business and FMCG Business magazines. “Events provide meaningful support for our magazines. The world of publishing is undergoing change and we need to provide greater opportunities for our advertisers and partners,” says Spencer.
The Intermedia Group now holds more than 15 events per year across a wide variety of industry sectors, including niche events such as Top Shelf, a dedicated trade liquor event in June this year, and The Chocolate and Coffee Show, a consumer show in September.
“The ability to test, trial, and improve awareness of brands in a face-to-face environment is critical to building the overall picture, along with retail, digital, advertising, and all the other elements required to build a successful product,” says Spencer. “Everything internationally tells us that events are in a rapid growth phase. New Zealand businesses are truly embracing the great new event opportunities out there.”