It is safe to say that every business and industry has felt the impact of COVID-19 since the pandemic first struck. Like other in-person events, trade shows have had to pivot, adjust, and rethink how business can be operated. From these efforts, we have seen the rise in digital conventions, virtual webinars, and other online alternatives that have attempted to fulfill the connective value trade shows have on business.
As vaccinations become more widespread and businesses begin to enter a new phase, brands and organizers are looking to see what will become of the future of trade shows. In this blog, we will dive into the important role trade shows serve for businesses and agencies, the changes happening with attendee values, and what to consider when entering the new age of trade shows.
Trade Shows Before the Pandemic
According to Shopify, a trade show is “an event held to bring together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services.” Dating as far back as 3000 BCE, businesses have used trade shows as collective events to facilitate commerce, educate consumers, and act as a hub for commercial and cultural exchange. The history of modern trade shows is one that, despite changing technology through time, has evolved and adapted in tandem with the business world.
Moving away from its origins simply focused on the transactional sale of goods, trade shows have become hubs for networking and connection. While the internet can digitally connect people across the globe, trade shows are one of the unique times when major players in specific markets come together face-to-face to showcase the latest innovations and share their products and offerings to the world. Whether you are a business looking for exposure or a distributor looking for your next client, trade shows bring together like-minded people under one roof for a chance to connect.
Still, everything has a tradeoff. In exchange for attending these magnetic events, they do come at a cost. From the ticket price of an event pass to the costs of travel and time, these are all valuable things to consider now more than ever. In a report by FTI Consulting analyzing sentiments around the post-pandemic trade show industry, 58% of respondents noted that their trade show budget had decreased compared to pre-COVID levels. While this is unsurprising, it is notable that when asked about their predictions for budgets in a post-lockdown world, “46% said there was an intent to increase their budget above pre-pandemic levels.” This is a promising outlook that notes respondent’s belief that there still is great value in in-person trade shows moving forward.
The Future of Trade Shows
Like many uncertainties today, the future of in-person trade shows is still in the air. Nevertheless, as vaccinations reduce the risk at in-person events, businesses are beginning to ease their way back into the trade show circuit.
While businesses are looking to get back into trade shows, attendee priorities have shifted with the changes in the world. According to the report, the top trade show objectives for smaller companies were networking, selling products/services, and showcasing products/services (in that order). Networking and selling products/services both have grown in post-pandemic importance while showcasing products and services has decreased in importance. For larger companies, the top three objectives were building brand awareness, networking, and showcasing products/services. With bigger companies, building brand awareness and networking have increased in importance in contrast to the decrease of importance with showcasing products/services. As a business reevaluates whether attending a trade show is worth the cost, it is important to understand the shift in priorities based on the needs of your business.
Still, commercial businesses are not the only attendees of trade shows. Additionally, these changes also impact agencies and other companies looking to connect and partner with vendors and brands. As the needs of businesses change, so will trade show attendance. Agencies and other third parties must reevaluate if the same trade shows they were attending pre-pandemic offer the same value and clientele that they aim to connect with today. Overall, as companies reenter the trade show world, they must be aware of the cultural shifts that may affect their bottom line.
Here is a quick checklist of questions to ask yourself when considering coming back to the trade show circuit:
- Is this tradeshow still worth the investment for your brand or agency? While certain trade shows may have been beneficial historically, do they still offer the same value given the shifts in attendee sentiment?
- What are the safety guidelines? This goes without saying, but it is more crucial than ever to understand and follow the safety guidelines set by event organizers. Additionally, during a pandemic, a trade show’s safety guidelines alone can be a big asset or determinant for attending.
- How can you take advantage of the moment? Having face-to-face interactions in today’s world has much more meaning and value than it did pre-pandemic. Going into these events, what are ways you can use this time to set your business or agency apart and create those connections and partnerships?
While the future is still uncertain, the new normal is being forged as we speak. Trade shows have reemerged and are ready to serve their purpose: to connect. Still, we must not forget the large cultural and industry changes that will impact the industry. Those who adjust and adapt to the changing environment will be the ones who are able to make the most of the new trade show world.
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Amidst the shifts by companies like Apple and Facebook toward preserving consumer privacy online, Amazon has made a move that has captivated e-commerce companies and marketers alike. In our previous blog, How Will Apple iOS 14 Change Digital Advertising, we discussed Apple’s shift away from default internet cookie monitoring toward engaging online users in giving consent for web-tracking. This major shift has forced big online players like Facebook to rethink how consumers can be identified, analyzed, and marketed. Similarly, these shifts have made marketers have to reconsider how they can reach specific audiences with targeted messaging.
On April 24th, 2021, days before Apple launched the notoriously awaited iOS 14.5 update regulating data tracking consent across its interface, CNBC first reported Amazon’s latest move to grant its third-party sellers the capability of marketing directly to the inboxes of their customers. Welcome Amazon’s “Manage Your Customer Engagement” tool. In this article, we’ll dive into what Amazon’s new tool is, why it’s significant, and how this affects both marketers and brands engaged in the ever-changing e-commerce space.
Amazon’s “Manage Your Customer Engagement” Tool
For quite some time, Amazon has been resolute in its efforts to prohibit third-party merchants from excessive contact with their consumers for solicitation. Aside from matters such as communicating order status and reviews, communication has remained fairly minimal from third-party Amazon sellers. All of that seems to be changing with Amazon’s new “Manage Your Customer Engagement” feature.
In short, this new feature allows third-party sellers that are members of Amazon’s Brand Registry to establish a social-media-like following of consenting customers who will receive email promotions directly from the business. These promotions include anything from new product announcements to the latest deals and offers. Think of it as email marketing via Amazon. This new feature allows a seller to market directly to Amazon customers who “follow” their brand, similar to the consented following of accounts on social media.
Why This Matters
This move by Amazon is said to aim at increasing retention, building relationships, and driving engagement. Key benefits of the “Manage Your Customer Engagement” tool include:
- Allowing direct relationship communication between sellers and customers
- Granting greater ability to announce new promotions and products
- Allowing consumers the ability to follow their favorite stores and establish brand loyalty
As previously mentioned, the post-cookie digital shift has made understanding consumer behavior more transparent for the user but harder to track for the business. In a move away from cookies, companies and marketers are needing to find new ways to gain insights into their audiences. Fostering direct, first-party relationships between consumers and brands lays the foundation for transparent, information-rich, and long-term potential as brands seek new ways to build authentic customer loyalty. Amazon’s latest tool appears to be a move toward facilitating this shift.
According to CNBC’s article, an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC that it is “committed to serving our shoppers by helping them engage with their favorite brands. With Manage Your Customer Engagement, brands will be able to initiate email campaigns about new product announcements and offers that Amazon will send to shoppers who choose to follow the brand.”
What About Consumer Privacy?
We must not forget that consumer trends show a more negative view of data collection by companies. Despite the new ways of contacting customers, Amazon’s new feature will continue to keep shoppers’ contact information private from the seller. According to the CNBC article, “Shoppers’ contact information will continue to remain private. Amazon will give companies aggregate data when they use the tool that shows them how many emails will go out when they decide to share marketing campaigns with their followers.”
For eCommerce Companies
Understanding the changes to the digital landscape is paramount for sellers looking to find the balance between where their audience is and where their brand is best able to communicate effectively and authentically. As the industry moves away from reliance on aggregated detailed data banks, companies will need to internally establish, utilize, and nurture their customer databases since that is where they will find the valuable, rich, and accurate understanding of their buyer. All of this better informs a company of the ways in which it can reach and interact with customers to grow long-term success.
Amazon’s move toward providing CRM tools like “Manage Your Customer Engagement” is beneficial in allowing their sellers greater ability to foster long-term consumer relationships. While companies must not forget to maintain transparency in collecting data of their customers, this moment offers companies a creative opportunity to expand their unique in-house customer knowledge. As we are embarking on the newly implemented cookie-consent era on platforms like iOS and Facebook, it will be interesting to see how tools like this will alter the business-consumer relationship.
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2020 was a difficult year for virtually every industry, including traditional advertising. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as we begin the New Year, as advertising spending in 2021 is projected to bounce back and show positive gains that lead the way for years to come.
A recent report from Magna shows that the U.S advertising market was one of the most resilient sectors from the downfall of COVID 19-related closures and budget decreases, showing just an average 1.5% decline in spend for 2020. Overall, spending is expected to rapidly increase in 2021 as many companies shift their focus to online commerce and retail efforts. According to Morningstar, online ad spending is expected to grow 20% in 2021 and a 14% average rate for 2022-24, outpacing the annual growth rates of 2017-19.
Looking at advertising trends by medium, the digital advertising outlook for 2021 is also quite optimistic. Magna forecasts an 8% year-on-year growth for digital spends of over $336 billion, bringing the medium’s share to 59% of total ad spending. In particular, increases in social media spending will be fueling this trend, as platforms gain more users and increase the lifetime value of each user. A study from eMarketer forecasts U.S. social media ad spending for 2021 to increase by 21.3%, reaching nearly $49 billion in overall spend.
These sizeable gains in online spending are in large attributed to online retailers increasing their advertising efforts to attract and retain long term customers and build brand reputation. According to research by Criteo, in recent months, 53% of consumers have discovered at least one form of online shopping that they plan to continue purchasing from.
Direct-response and digital advertising campaigns will remain at the forefront of marketing growth for 2021 and onwards, as first-party data gives brands useful insights into their customer’s behavior, identifying the path to maximize sales and recurring subscriptions. Social media platforms are also becoming much more efficient at targeted marketing and helping businesses integrate digital communications and robust payment systems that streamline purchases and customer experiences.
2021 will be the first year in history that digital advertising attracts more than 50% of global ad spend, a trend which is likely to only increase over time. Right now, it is more relevant than ever to ensure your business has an omnichannel marketing strategy that diversifies advertising spend to reach new customers and amplify sales. Contact us and see how we can positively impact your business for the New Year.
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At the beginning of September 2020, retail space vacancy rates hit a historic high of 9.8%, which is largely fueled by Covid-19 shutdowns and safety concerns across the nation. The demand for commercial retail space has been slowly decreasing over the past few years as retail transitions to digital, but now with Covid-19, there is a surplus of availability without enough customers to lease out this vacant space.
In response to this change in demand, mall operators are forced to roll up their sleeves and focus on actively finding new tenants, and developers are beginning to repurpose mall space for a number of businesses, including schools, doctor’s offices, long term storage facilities, and even residential housing. While some businesses are feeling the impact of reduced physical retail space, large direct to consumer sellers such as Amazon are racing to secure vacant mall spaces in proximity to urban areas and adjacent neighborhoods to meet the increasing demand of online order deliveries.
Currently, Amazon is aiming to convert several former JC Penny and Sears department store locations in micro-fulfillment warehouses, strategically located close to urban communities which will allow orders to be delivered quicker and at lower shipping costs. Some retail business owners speculate that the introduction of micro-fulfillment centers in conventional mall spaces will increase the rent for struggling businesses, yet many property managers are even negotiating discounted rates to find long-term tenants that can reliably cover overhead costs.
Amazon recently reported that it doubled its net profit to $5.2 billion in its 2020 Q2 earnings statement, which indicates that the ecommerce giant is not going anywhere. The future of vacant mall space may seem uncertain as many businesses and consumers alike are cautious about the upcoming holiday shopping season, however the bigger picture of retail is much brighter than it may appear. Overall, Amazon retail sales still only account for roughly 5% of all retail spend across the country, which goes to show that no single force is dominating the entire retail marketplace.
With the new changes in physical retail and online ecommerce, it’s more important than ever to establish a sound marketing plan and take advantage of an omni-channel advertising strategy to reach new customers. At River Direct, we offer a number of performance driven marketing solutions to help your retail business grow through linear television, Amazon listings, over-the-top/connected-tv, and social media marketing.
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