Blogger: Henric Uherek, Coordinator Messe Frankfurt

Trade fairs are increasingly connecting the digital and the real world. Henric Uherek, Coordinator Messe Frankfurt, explains the challenges that this development poses for exhibitors and trade fair organizers and what’s up next for digital trade fair marketing in 2017 and beyond.

Artificial intelligence, big data and automation – many exciting technologies continued to develop rapidly in 2016. Which digital marketing trends do you foresee for 2017?

In general, the trend toward real-time communication of the past two years will continue to play an important role within digital trade fair marketing. Especially the large agencies will be the primary drivers behind this development. Medium-sized German industrial companies, which make up our primary target group, adapt to such trends much more slowly. Digital advertising and social media have just recently become established in this area. Trends like personalization, real-time market places, marketing automation and better segmentation of target groups are still just a dream for most, but will reach the broad masses of these companies in the coming year.

Which of these trends play an important role in the trade fair environment?

What we used to refer to as event communication is now called live communication and this will be a big trend in 2017. A growing number of companies is realizing that they need topics for their digital communication and that they have to make their brands tangible. To achieve this, companies have to interact with their target groups in real spaces – regardless of whether at trade fairs, events, pop-up stores or showrooms. Some digital brands like Zalando have engaged in a targeted search for spaces and are opening outlet stores. We also offer this type of real space with our trade fairs. What’s more, we provide the ideal platform for connecting the real and the digital world. Companies that succeed in making this connection are currently gaining a clear competitive advantage.

However, many exhibitors still don’t realize the potential of this connection. Our task therefore consists of providing our customers with information about how to ideally use our digital services to gain the attention of the target groups we bring together. After all, preparation and the actual trade fair visit are now already largely carried out in the digital sphere. Based on our usage statistics, we can see that all our trade fair visitors also visit us online. In other words, the target groups that the exhibitors want to reach first visit our event website and are also increasingly using our apps. We adorn the path from the trade fair website to the exhibitor search and then to the company’s own website or trade fair stand with numerous measures. In doing so, we serve as a catalyst for strengthening the marketing of our exhibitors. Several exhibitors have understood this trend and are presenting themselves with small stands, but a huge digital presence.

What big trends do you see for the future beyond 2017?

The most exciting new developments include the use of augmented and virtual reality. This represents a challenge for our core business, which we are responding to by considering future trade fair concepts within the framework of our Digital Transformation initiative. Two aspects will play an important role here – personal communication and digital product presentation. Trade fair stands will therefore be divided into two focus areas. One area will consist of exhibits and seating for personal meetings, which remains a strength of trade fairs, and a second area will consist of product presentations using digital screens and VR headsets. Both trends will become more focussed and professionalized: an authentic, emotional brand experience on the one hand and efficient, comprehensive communication of information, on the other, which also provides for an intensely emotional brand experience in virtual spaces. And once again both worlds are connected in digital trade fair marketing. But I only see this truly reaching the masses in the next five to ten years.

For more information about Digital Marketing Trends 2017 also read our articles The customer era: ten marketing trends for 2017.