Don’t you love articles that look a year ahead and claim to know which trends you should and shouldn’t follow? We understand why these types of blogs are popular, retailers and brands eager to know which trends will materialize into engaging customers more, and more uniquely. So, this is our take on what’s going to be hot in 2019. Connect with us to start a conversation – Happy New Year!
Tech Trends vs. The Customer Journey
Many exhibit planners only think about the customer and conference goer right before conference check-in or worse yet, when attendees gather around their booth. That’s a mistake. By thinking through the journey of the customer starting at the airport, hotel, or parking lot brands have path towards more effective customer interactions often resulting in higher event KPI’s. Our approach at VOXX combines a mix of strategy, audience insights, research, trends and good ol’ fashion creative collaboration.
Our approach requires spending time addressing the needs and of customers before trade shows/conferences/events as well as during and after it.
Here are the Top 3 Exhibit Trends for 2019. Not only will we give you the trending lowdown we’ll also offer ways you can implement them into your upcoming exhibit before, during, and after your event.
Trend One: It’s Purely “Phygital”
We predict that 2019 will be a “Phygital” year. That’s not a misspelling nor a new kind of Gumbo; it is indeed P-h-y-g-i-t-a-l. “Phygital” is new-fangled experiential marketing term means mixing the digital and physical worlds into your next trade show, event, retail or festival. Why should you mix these two worlds together? On the one hand, most of your attendees have accessibility to technologies, services, and experiences that provide convenience not available before like Amazon Prime, Uber, and Airbnb. This aligns well with retailers implementing Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), or Mixed Reality (MR) into their exhibits to make them stand out—if this is news to you dig into Our Voice post here.
On the other hand, many of your customers long for tactile and retro experiences in the increasingly connected world, and it’s important that you don’t abandon them as the need to create interactive, immersive, and digital experiences. This is where Phygital comes in.
What this could look like
Pre-Trade Show: Give your audience the power to interact with your brand online, and growing loyalty rewards against user accounts. Using this data, you can elevate participating members most likely to convert against the event goals. Behaviorally driving loyalty through thoughtfully providing exclusivity on discounts, events, and deals to incentivize event conversion behavior is what consumers expect. Give them something to look forward to by providing snippets of smart, curated content – or maybe a story drawing them into your exhibit vs your competitors.
During The Trade Show: Taking a Phygital approach, invites attendees to touch & interact with physical objects through a mix of tactile, digital, and immersive experiences. It’s all about the right use as part of telling the right event or brand story. Maybe it includes interactive tactics like projection mapping, augmented reality, brand – or social activations, or maybe the best approach leverages proximity triggers to target key trade show booths, product offers or break-out sessions. Inviting natural, human interactions is a key focus.
Post-Trade Show: Offer customers the freedom to interact or use your product in real time but let them learn more about it in the digital world on their schedule. Be thoughtful in what kind of follow up will reflect what event attendees have expressed or shared they want from your brand.
This means investing in quality content creation for attendees post-event like interactive infographics, contests, freebies, white-papers, social campaigns, online quizzes, polls, and surveys. It’s not just about leads anymore, it’s about thoughtful interactions with consumers.
Trend Two: Voice and Visual Search, Contextual Commerce
We know what you may be thinking, “I’ve heard of this stuff already. A.I and Machine learning are so, like 2017. How is this a new trend?” but hear us out. We’re talking about leveraging the right search technology (text, voice and visual searches) at your 2019 event—not just text based search.
We use text based searches every day on Google and Bing with queries like, “What Are The Top 3 Exhibit Trends for 2019?” Boom! You get results. No brainer, right? Since a big chunk of trade show or event attendees already the power of Voice Search* with voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana on a daily basis. Some obvious challenges exist incorporating voice in overly noisy areas, each experience is different.
Visual Search** is the newest kid on the block with more and more people conducting their online queries this way—a particularly effective interactive opportunity. Kiosks, multi-touch product catalogues give users the ability to self navigate the products or services most relevant to their needs at that time.
Contextual Commerce*** is the idea of precisely capturing a sale or a customer in the moment of discovery on any platform through the seamless integration into everyday activities, content or natural environments. Brands able to successfully integrate Contextual Commerce solutions into their trade show will provide the ability for a personalized product for individuals at the precise time they’ll be most likely to convert.
This powerful search combo should also allow attendees to interact with your brand using their preferred device and way of communicating throughout their trade show journey.
* Voice searches are the result of conducting a search based on an image you submit.
** Visual searches are the result of conducting a search based on an image you submit or select. Image searches are the result of typing in a query and getting an image result.
*** Contextual Commerce provides the most relevant product of offer at the precise time through insights, AI, and other tools.
What this could look like
Pre- Trade Show: You could offer future attendees endless Contextual Search possibilities—they type in searches and get relevant info. Personalized Chatbots can be useful in making sure prospective attendees are well informed about your product and service before they engage with you. Or, a curated feed of products that change from person to person via interactive commerce video wall. Voice Search is great for interacting with curious attendees who have no intention of buying but who love to ask questions—LOTS of questions. Think of it as an interactive WIKI.
During The Trade Show: Who has time to type with a chatbot in the middle of a trade show? Few, if any. Like we said, Voice Search can fire off answers to FAQs faster and more efficiently than you or your staff ever could (sad but true). Plus, the right solution will increasingly learn and become more helpful to humans the more people interact with it. Don’t forget about Visual Search – say an attendee who’s an interior designer visits exhibit booth #1 looking at new floor tiles and materials to implement into her future designs. She can capture a pic of a tile product she’s interested in displayed in your booth, do a quick search, and find out all about it and products like it online. Another great thing about each of these search tools is that they provide an excellent way for the curious but shy attendee to interact with your exhibit while still finding what they seek.
Post-Trade Show: In the past, hundreds to thousands of visitors would flow in and out of exhibits, but retailers couldn’t gather data on all of them. Chatbots are great for collecting information from future customers and leads as they interact with your chatbot. Not only does this streamline follows ups but it gives exhibitors the option to gather even more customer information through things like exit surveys. Voice can provide quick and easy answers for attendees, “What was the location of that service again?” or “Tell me more about the Acme Corporation.” And Visual Searches let attendees search for any of the exhibit images they’ve captured so they can find out more and make comparisons.
Another reason to consider which search solutions to keep in mind in 2019 & 2020. Some folks need a visual, some are auditory and need to talk things out, while others want to communicate and search using the written word. It’s in your best interest to implement the right search solution for your exhibit or trade show.
Trend Three: Go Beyond The Booth
With all this talk of using technology to create memorable audience experiences, let’s not forget about the exhibit design itself—we mean everything from the booth to the show venue. Gone are the days where exhibit audiences played the role of passive spectators while a presenter demonstrated the way their product or service worked. 2019 is the year of making your exhibit experience interactive and memorable. Tell a story or create an experience, don’t sell features.
Pre-Exhibit: Consider producing your event in an unexpected exhibit space such as attics, warehouses, banks, and other creative locations to help you make your brand stand out. You could also take over a large venue like a theater or golf-course and host your exhibition there. The immersion or experience design needs to be rooted in a credible story and should leverage the right interactive or emerging tech solution.Maybe projection mapping for a building takeover, AR integration into a mobile app or compelling to immerse patrons in a brand story.
Hosting an unexpected event? Here are some likely or unlikely elements:
• Virtual Reality (VR)
• Augmented Reality (AR)
• Mixed Reality (MR)
• 3D printers, 3D maps, 3D projection mapping
• Physical model design, build, fabrication
• Large format (4K, 8K) video, LED’s, content display & creation
• Voice, sound/music, camera, authentication, security
Mobile apps or microsites might be worth exploring to create something that‘s specific to your brand look and message while helping spectators interact, register, and share data.
During The Exhibit: Consider integrating a powerful storyteller into your exhibit, someone whose message aligns with your creative approach. Everyone loves a good story and hosting an engaging speaker, expert, or real-life industry influencer can engage a crowd just as much, if not more than AR or VR technology can.
By engaging speaker, DJ or MC your exhibit is alive with activity, content, social amplification opportunities. Explore hosting a branded series of TED-type Talks, and vlogs through building sessions around a well-known storyteller integrated into your exhibit. And we don’t mean a PowerPoint presentation from ‘Pat in the Sales department’—although we have nothing against Pat.
Naturally, many exhibits focus on the people attending the conference in person, but what about the people who can’t? Consider leveraging Tech like immersive, spherical, and 360-degree video to open up a full view of your exhibit that you can share with a whole new remote audience. We’ve even played around with Virtual Reality Trade Shows using existing tech – have you?
Post-Exhibit: Encouraging your audience to share images and insights about your brand on their social media platforms is table stakes but how and why are key questions unique to each brand. What about having attendees post and give reviews on your site via video instead of printed quotes? A customer review or testimonial means more new consumer purchase intent than a company’s ad campaign—no matter how well it’s executed. Our apologies to your marketing department or ad agency, but it’s true.
Find out more about tricking out your booth here.
Now That You Have The Attention Of Your Intended Audience
There are so many inventions, innovations, and advancements in exhibit technology that it would take a year’s worth of Our Voice posts to cover them all. In spite of all this, exhibitors face the same challenge every year: finding fresh ways of attracting attendees to visit their booths, provide them something unique or valuable, then keeping them interacting with your brand post-trade show.
Keep your customer’s journey in mind first, then tech trends, and we predict you’ll have a successful trade show 365 days out of the year—well, give or take.