A large exhibition means an ecosystem of people working at different stages to ensure the exhibition and conference experience is a success. There is an extended ecosystem of hotels, travel companies, connectivity providers and the benefits accrued to a city. Things have changed now. The last two years have changed the exhibition experience and expectations. Visitors and exhibitors are rethinking their objectives and the way they connect, explore new trends and discuss with peers. If done well, new opportunities may emerge for the key stakeholders in the ecosystem or stakeholders may altogether change.
The brand experience for a participating company is multifaceted and has multiple contexts-
The time horizon for exhibition-related activity can broadly be summarised in 2 to 3 stages. The big change is in digital integration and the need for companies to build communities. In addition to big social media platforms, private communities like Whatsapp, Discord or Linkedin Groups play an important role. All this leads to recalibrating the 3 stages of the exhibition
Leading up to the exhibition
- Connecting the exhibition participation within the website, apps and more. It can be a lot more than a ‘see you’ there banner.
- An important part of the engagement is integrated updates on social media and private channels. Not just rehashing content for one platform and pasting it on others. Content that is developed for the platform and engages your community.
- Plus there is a regular focus on product collateral, mini-websites and a lot more.
- These days, people may not visit the actual exhibition due to many factors. To be effective, companies plan and communicate the day’s schedule, and activities on the website, social streams and product communities.
- Live streamed events, via brand sites, are planned with a re-broadcast for different time zones. These events could feature product experts, new products or even a 2-way interaction between on-site brand teams and remote audiences. This can be further supported with ongoing ‘listening’ and ongoing business engagement tools.
- The important thing is the authenticity of having the product leaders or domain experts being available in an integrated offline-digital experience.
Post the exhibition
- The need then is to build on the momentum of the exhibition with a continuous digital presence supported by community building, virtual stalls and events.
- This has become necessary because of the consent mechanism being built into data protection laws like GDPR, UK and others. The need for first-party data and the visitors’ consent to receive ongoing communication.
Space design, digital and engagement in the community
An exhibition booth consists of
- Networking areas, a place to sit etc
- Displays and product zone
- Branding and messaging areas on the booth walls
- Larger booths may have dedicated meeting areas
- Or Presentation zones with scheduled events
Most times stalls have digital interfaces. Kiosks, television screens and increasingly QR codes. The opportunity is to create connected experiences.
Projection mapping – Typically used to create a stunning visual spectacle in large spaces. 3D Projection mapping of products allows for showcasing products where it would otherwise not be possible ( or cost-prohibitive) to bring them to the stall.
Product walkthroughs – The conventional video walls / large screen televisions continue to have a role and would typically run videos and demos. These can now be linked back to Youtube and other social video channels. Some have been testing the idea of QR codes within the videos.
QR Codes – On-site QR codes allow visitors to get additional information (rich media or text), show interest in products or even activate their own experiences. The other benefit is the linked analytics that a brand can get from these scans
Kiosks or Large Screen Tablet panels either standalone or connected with the QR code experience
Webcast product launches from the space – These typically take the shape of pre-announced events on social media and getting people to follow / register. So when you start streaming, they would have access to it. If the team shares the link, the social footprint of the live stream is magnified.
Through a linked Q/A system, the questions can be answered live in the stream. Audiences in the physical space can also ask questions via a QR code.
Teams / Zoom Rooms Integrated experiences – Experiences that allow remote teams to participate in discussions. The canvas could include room-based experiences from simple meetings to assisted / XR devices-enabled product demos. A variant of this involves a simple ongoing stream that covers the topic end to end and seeks to answer questions from the audience. This has emerged as an important tactic because you are engaging with existing or potential customers. These formats tend to continue well after the exhibition.
AR or Mixed Reality Experiences – The exciting and emerging new option is the ability to add information to existing installations. So you point the camera at the machine and it opens a related video of that part or process. There are options to send high-fidelity and true-to-scale models via the website or on social. On the iOS platform that file may well be USDZ but other cross-platform options allow for the model to be delivered on the user’s phone or tablet. Imagine sending a link over Whatsapp Business to your contact and they can open the file on their phone or tablet to see a high-fidelity version of the product or equipment. A lot of manufacturing companies are exploring the Vuforia platform for their AR experiences. These may be relevant to the exhibition experience.
Virtual Stalls – A perpetual exhibition experience that is available for people who could not visit the exhibition. These exist eventually as part of an integrated outreach or in private subdomains and are available on access through the normal sales outreach process. The visitor can see and interact with the products because they are high-resolution renders and built using existing modelling products. Plus these can be supported via either VR or Teams / Zoom-based experiences.
Virbella and similar products have been used to create experiences. Custom experiences are being developed via engines such as Unity and Unreal Engine.
Relationship and Sales
Visualising and creating an integrated customer journey that links QRcodes, information modules and so on into one integrated experience can map questions, business queries and leads into an integrated CRM experience.
Scan to CRM
Straight forward card scan experience via a mobile app. However increasingly the visitor badge may have a QRcode or NFC tag. This can be read/scanned directly into the CRM database. More information QR codes will enable visitors to add their contact information.
Chatbot integrated on the site, social channels and website to get contact details and send product collateral. This would link back to Whatsapp for Business, Google Business and other tools and have a card-style metaphor with the usual questions. Customer responses will determine the content or link.
CRM – The entire customer engagement history from responses, engagement and requests can be available at the end of the exhibition.
Communication – The entire exhibition customer journey can be mapped into an existing marketing automation platform like Zoho Marketing Plus. In effect, everything here and more is fine-tuned and managed through one brand experience.
- Product Collateral
- On-site and digital events
Finally as the brand works on the exhibition or conference participation, there exists an opportunity to create a unique and tangible community for the future while being mindful of various sustainability goals of the organisation.
Explore ( Indicative solutions only )
Zoho Marketing Plus and Zoho Backstage
Unity and Unreal Engine
Zoom and Microsoft Teams
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