Trade Show 101
Trade shows are an eCommerce industry standard. The NRF’s Big Show, the IRCE, and Shoptalk are just a few shows that bring retailers and eCommerce partners together to learn about new product offerings, attend breakout sessions on relevant industry trends, and display their products or services. These exhibitions are an excellent way to introduce an offering to your target market, meet with industry partners, and create brand awareness.
Never been to a trade show? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Trade shows can be a great source of information, but remember to carefully consider the sources and inspect all information for a hidden agenda. Trade show educational content is rarely 100% objective as it's often sponsored by a vendor whose goal is to sell you a product. That doesn't mean that there isn't a great deal you can learn from the educational sessions, but as a retailer it's important to take grand claims with a grain of salt. Cross-check the information across multiple sources and, whenever possible, follow up with other retailers on their experiences or metrics.
Schedule your time wisely. There is a lot to do at a trade show: educational sessions, the trade show floor, face to face meetings, and more. You will get the most from the experience if you come in with a plan of attack. Consider what you want to get from this trade show. Is this a learning opportunity, a vendor hunt, or a networking event? The best experiences tend to be a mix of all three.
When planning the learning elements, review the agenda in advance and assess which educational sessions are most likely to yield objective and relevant information. Schedule the most important sessions first and work the rest of your time around those top items. If you have open time between sessions, don't be afraid to step out of your typical learning tracks and explore something new. You can often get inspiration or new ideas from sources outside of the “usual.” Take the time to explore.
If you are researching a vendor at a trade show, consider more than just their booth or event. While trade shows can be a good place to get an overview of some of the players in a particular space, it won't be a comprehensive look. A trade shows attracts very specific types of companies, so consider it one way to explore options—but don't make the trade show your only source. Otherwise, you will miss out on many providers who could be exactly what you need.
Remember that you don't need to spend all your time in sessions or on the trade show floor; there's a wealth of information outside of formal channels. Meet up with that vendor you've been talking with and assess them face to face. Schedule time with other retailers and learn directly from each other. This is a great way to learn from others' experiences, and you may be surprised how many people are open to networking. They can give you behind-the-scenes info about a vendor you're considering, or relay pitfalls they’ve experienced on an initiative similar to one you are getting ready to kick off—and you can do the same.
Trade shows have great potential, but it's important you stay in control of your own experience. Make sure that you're getting what you need, when you need it, from the right people. With the right approach and mindset, trade shows can be an invaluable resource.
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