Should you consider attending virtual trade shows? For many businesses, the answer is a definite yes. Just like their live counterparts, a virtual trade show exhibit is an effective marketing tool that can help you attract potential customers, generate leads, and make sales. Surprisingly, they’re not only useful at virtual trade shows—a virtual trade show exhibit can boost your event success when you attend live events too. Read on to find out how.
What Is a Virtual Trade Show?
Like their live counterparts, virtual trade shows are places for businesses to showcase their products and services to a large number of attendees. The main difference is, while live events happen at physical venues, virtual events happen entirely online on virtual event platforms.
At some virtual trade shows, this means attendees log into a web-based virtual events platform to interact with event content and with other attendees. Some virtual trade shows are more elaborate, with 3D virtual environments that attendees explore as if they were at an in-person trade show.
Then there are hybrid events, which are a mixture of both virtual and physical events. Hybrid events differ in terms of how much event content is available to online attendees. What they all have in common is that both physical and digital content is on offer.
Find a Virtual Trade Show That Fits Your Needs
The process of finding virtual shows to attend is much the same as the process you’d go through to find suitable live shows. Depending on the show, the live and virtual versions might even be part of the same hybrid event, making your selection job easier. If you’ve previously had success at the live version of a trade show, then the virtual version is a good prospect.
Some other ways to evaluate a virtual event include:
Attendees: Many annual meetings provide event data on attendee demographics to help exhibitors decide whether they should attend. Another option is to send a survey out to your client or customer list. Ask them what shows they’re attending, and what kinds of event experiences they find valuable.
Competitors: What shows are your direct competitors attending? Does it make sense for you to attend those shows too? It’s often—but not always—the case and may depend on what your specific marketing goals are at the time.
Marketing Goals: How do your overall goals align with each event? For instance, if you’re planning to launch a new product, a virtual trade show that showcases new products could help you get more booth visitors.
Timing: If your sales cycle is seasonal, then timing may be important too. Shows that connect you with your customers during or just before your busy season are likely to pay off more than shows held during your off-season.
Opportunities: Depending on the show and your specific goals, it might make sense to do more than just exhibit. Many trade shows offer sponsorship opportunities, sometimes including the chance to speak or give a presentation. Focus on content that keeps your audience engaged and interested, and these kinds of sponsor and exhibitor opportunities can really pay off.
7 Benefits of Virtual Trade Show Exhibits
1. More Marketing Channels Means More Exposure
Providing you go where your audience is, adding another channel to your marketing plan can only benefit your bottom line. Once you find those virtual trade shows that have attendees you want to market to, there’s absolutely no reason not to give it a try, especially when you consider all the other benefits of being a virtual exhibitor.
2. Find Qualified Leads Without Leaving the Office
One of the biggest benefits of attending virtual trade shows is that you can do it from anywhere you like. While your exhibit is up and running at the virtual show, you can interact via computer with booth visitors and meet your appointments online. Do it all from your office, or even from home.
3. Extend Your Marketing Reach
Another major pro of the virtual event format is that there are fewer barriers to entry for attendees. It costs less to attend, and it’s much easier to log into a virtual event platform than travel to a physical event. This increased accessibility means that many people who won’t attend a live event will attend if it’s online.
That means the attendee pool and the pool of potential leads generated at a digital event can be larger and more diverse. You may find you can reach more people from much further afield, giving you national or even global reach.
4. Virtual Trade Show Exhibits Are Affordable
There are some start-up costs associated with your first virtual trade show, of course. The main one is the cost of designing and developing a digital booth, which varies depending on the amount of content you want to include. And you’ll still pay a fee to exhibit at shows, although often that fee is less than what you’d pay for booth space in an exhibit hall.
Even with those costs, your virtual exhibit will start paying for itself from the very first show. When you attend a virtual trade show, you save. You don’t need to travel or book accommodations, or pay for a team of booth staff to travel. Plus, there’s no need for other expenses, such as printed marketing materials or swag to incentivize booth visits. And with an online trade show exhibit, there are no storage or transportation costs to worry about either.
5. It’s Easy to Update and Maintain a Virtual Trade Show Exhibit
The trade show booth you take to physical events suffers wear-and-tear damage at every show you attend. No matter how careful you are, the average booth has a shelf-life of around five years before it starts to need repairs. The periodic updates you do to keep your exhibit looking fresh and modern add to the expense too.
These issues don’t have the same impact on a virtual booth. Naturally, a virtual exhibit does need to be updated and refreshed to keep it relevant and informative. But it’s so much easier to switch out new text, video clips, or graphics files than it is to replace old physical components or furnishings. Those virtual components don’t suffer from wear-and-tear damage and only need replacing when you want to update the content. Plus, you can easily switch out content for different event types. The content you use for a product launch isn’t the same as you’d use for a virtual job fair or a virtual conference. With a digital booth, it’s easy to mix-and-match content to customize the experience for different events and audiences.
6. Virtual Shows Give You Access to Detailed Attendee Data
There are lots of differences between live shows and virtual ones, but one of the most significant differences is simple: data. The fact that virtual shows happen online means they have the ability to generate huge amounts of very detailed and extremely useful attendee data.
When attendees log into a virtual trade show platform, every interaction they have on that virtual platform can be tracked and reported. When they enter a 3D virtual environment, every click and keystroke can be recorded. And since each attendee has a unique identifier and their own profile, that interaction data is useful both on an individual level and when aggregated with other user data.
7. A Virtual Trade Show Exhibit Is Useful Between Shows
For most businesses that exhibit at live trade shows, the booth they use sits gathering dust in between shows. With a virtual trade show exhibit, that doesn’t have to happen. There are lots of ways to use a digital exhibit after the show is over, making it even more cost-effective to attend online trade shows. Here are a few ways you can keep your trade show booth working for you during its downtime:
- Make the virtual booth experience available on your company website; for instance, as part of an executive briefing center.
- Repurpose exhibit content on your website – If you don’t want to host the entire exhibit as-is, you can still use its components for other purposes. Some of your exhibit content could be reused as, for instance:
- A product showcase with virtual product demos
- Part of a training hub virtual environment for new employees or virtual booth staff
- The basis for blog posts or articles to help draw more site traffic
- Social media content to publicize future virtual trade shows you attend
- Exclusive “gated” content made available to email subscribers only
Attending Live Shows? A Digital Twin of Your Live Exhibit Can Boost Your Event Success
Virtual trade show booths are highly versatile. In fact, you don’t need to exhibit at virtual or hybrid events in order to make use of a virtual booth! Even if you attend only live events, a virtual trade show booth can add value in a variety of ways. This is achieved by creating a digital twin of your physical trade show booth. You can use this digital twin to enhance your live exhibit before, during, and after the event.
Before: Attendees can visit your digital booth to set up meetings for the show, review product offerings, and find out where your live booth will be situated. This can be an effective way to boost pre-show interest and invite attendees to visit you at the live event.
During: People who don’t attend the live event can visit the digital booth to schedule virtual meetings or request demos. They can even message with you or your booth staff from within the digital booth interface.
After: Attendees can view your product demos, review product specs and other information, and request follow-up meetings. Your digital twin can serve as a hub that lets you keep in touch with people as they move through your sales cycle.
Creating a Digital Twin with ProExhibits
The best time to create a digital twin is when you’re ready to design a new custom trade show booth. And ProExhibits together with our digital experience platform XtendLive can design and build both a live trade show booth and its digital twin.
Just as a live trade show exhibit seeks to engage and inform in-person booth visitors, when we create a digital twin, we include features that let people interact with the virtual exhibit. This can even include digital features that are similar to the features that the live booth offers. For instance, we might add pre-recorded product demonstrations, along with virtual displays that let virtual visitors closely inspect your company’s products.
Virtual Trade Shows Are Worth It
Whether you’re attending your first event or have a few under your belt already, a virtual trade show can be a great place to make contacts and find lots of new leads. Virtual trade show exhibits are also useful additions to your live event toolkit. A digital twin of your live booth can help you boost your event success, before, during, and after the event.