Silke Hoersch, Director of Marketing, EMEA
In a world where everyone speaks about digitisation, the exhibition industry has come up with many questions, thoughts and discussions around the impact of this trend.
A few days ago, my colleague Holger Friesz spoke at the UFI Operations and Services Focus Meeting 2017 about the opportunity for venues to ensure customer centricity while still optimizing for profit. Exhibition venues that manage events in their facilities need to consider the different requirements and needs of exhibitors to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Two of the most important questions that exhibition venues should ask themselves are:
- To what extent can our organisation benefit from digitisation?
- How can digitisation improve our business?
As much as digitisation may change the industry, the exhibitor journey itself cannot be fully digitised. However, the exhibitor experience can benefit from the digitsation of several touchpoints. Wherever automation is an option, the service experience may be accelerated. Self-service is a good way of offering flexible, automated services while giving customers extended support on complex matters.
Digital experiences for changing expectations
A big part of the discussion about the “digital revamp” of the exhibition business comes from the changing needs of “Generation Y.” Today’s customers expect:
- Ease of use
Digital is part of the new generation’s mindset and therefore has to be incorporated in any service-oriented business. Flexibility and self-service are increasingly expected by younger customers. Let them do as much as possible on their own and online.
The first step to plan and shape your customer journey is to ensure you have enough knowledge about your customers. You need to know what they expect and put yourself in their shoes to shape their digital experiences and ensure continuity throughout the entire customer journey.
Automation & Personalisation
From an exhibition venue’s perspective, the automation of certain services allows their sales teams to dedicate more time to face-to-face or phone conversations. We are not experiencing a complete shift towards online self-service, but still, online portals can cover a great amount of services and items that do not require extensive explanation. And this may result in more quality time for exhibition sales professionals.
The individual needs of exhibitors are very diverse. B2B, B2C, regional, international – the list of exhibitor types is long. Top exhibition venues work with buyer personas to understand exhibitors’ needs and shape the exhibitor journey based on their buyer personas’ profiles. With this approach, exhibitors can be guided through the process and easily navigate through the exhibition, which is especially helpful for first-time exhibitors that do not have much experience in preparing a trade show presence.
An online portal allows you to manage buying behavior and influence exhibitors’ decisions. If all required items are ordered well in advance (work with a check list!), there is more time left for exhibitors to think about how to maximise the onsite presence to achieve a better event ROI (e.g. with additional marketing activities, welcome receptions or PR events, etc.). Furthermore, buyer personas allow a better personalisation of online portals with content that is relevant to the individual exhibitors.
Increased customer loyalty and satisfaction
Let’s face it: Exhibitions need to compete with lots of different marketing activities, especially with digital offers. Demonstrating exhibitor ROI therefore has become vital for exhibition organisers and venues to retain clients and improve exhibitor loyalty. The more time you invest in creating a nice exhibitor experience throughout the customer journey, the more likely it is to gain loyal, returning customers.
Customer loyalty is an important topic, not only for organisers. At the end of the day, only a close cooperation between organisers and venues can ensure long-term exhibition success and revenue growth. Exhibitor satisfaction should therefore be a mutual goal for both parties. Venues can make a great contribution to event success and exhibitor satisfaction by showing operational excellence across the entire exhibition.
More information on this topic can be found in the White Paper Mastering The Exhibition Journey: How Top Venues Are Using Technology to Succeed – Including RAI Amsterdam’s Case Study.