Exhibition World Issue 3 – 2021 | Page 13

Stateside with Stephanie

If you build digital marketplaces , will they come ?

Stephanie Selesnick takes a look at exhibition organiser-owned industry marketplaces as a new trend in digital offerings
n pre-pandemic 2019 , Forrester ’ s VP of research Allan Bonde noted B2B marketplaces were on the uptick . He said : “[ with ] marketplace selling , how you get started depends on where you sell today , what types of products you sell , who you are selling to , and the frequency and size of the purchase . You also need to consider the value of existing relationships and effort needed to change behaviour internally ( e . g ., in your sales team ) and externally ( e . g ., among your key accounts )”.
In April 2021 , Bonde updated this topic : “ Two-thirds of global B2C e-commerce sales are now captured by marketplaces . On the business front , we are tracking the growing options for B2B sellers , with the emergence of over 200 funded marketplace operators across multiple sectors , from aircraft parts ( ePlane ) to life sciences staffing ( Science Exchange ) to general business services ( Upwork ).”
The top two most common exhibition industry-based proprietary e-commerce portals set up are either integrated into a show ’ s website , or set up as a stand-alone platform with links to the show website .
When done correctly , digital marketplaces are data rich , and can expand a three-day in-person exhibition into a vibrant 24-7 / 365 digital experience transforming the platform or website into an active community and commerce hub – driving innovation , new content , personalisation , engagement and sales . The digital data gathered may also be used to drive more buyers and sellers to in-person shows .
When done poorly , standalone marketplaces are unused and expensive reminders of a digital strategy gone awry .
I spoke with Ms . Brandy Alexander , managing partner at Spaceshop . com - an e-commerce service company which recently jumped into the exhibition and events pool . The company , she said , builds marketplaces on known platforms including Adobe Magento and Shopify , so upgrades and data security are built in for delivery directly to the client .
“ Marketplaces drive information and sales for products . Organisers can use their show brand equity to increase market awareness and expand their audience . They can offer sponsorships on many levels – product launches , category placement or highlights , etc ,” she said .
Suppliers ( exhibitors ) are in charge of uploading products and updating their storefronts ( stands ). Buyers pay the sellers directly through Shopify or whatever service provider the show chooses .
Other organisations have chosen to go with dedicated marketplaces and have an affiliation to the tradeshow . ShopVISION from the US-based Vision Council / Reed Exhibitions is one such e-commerce platform . Launching 3 June in conjunction with Vision Expo East , it will operate as a year-round , 24 / 7 virtual marketplace .
Fran Pannella , vice-president , Vision Expo at Reed Exhibitions said : “ The past year and a half has demonstrated the importance of
“ Digital marketplaces are data rich , and can expand a three-day in-person exhibition into a vibrant 24- 7 / 365 digital experience .” keeping the community and industry connected . ShopVISION extends our sourcing offerings and introduces a content-focused resource that amplifies the marketplace ’ s value . ShopVISION will live side-by-side with Vision Expo , providing a modern and global way to conduct business year-round and ondemand .”
She added : “ Vision Expo East 2021 exhibitors have been given complimentary access to ShopVISION and will have showrooms available to buyers .”
Regardless of the e-commerce model an organiser chooses , proprietary digital marketplaces may provide an enormous amount of data capture for use in machine learning ( AI ), segmented and personalised marketing , educational session recommendations , all the while driving new exhibitors and visitors to in-person expos .
Visualise an exhibitor launching a new product via the expo ’ s digital marketplace prior to the in-person event . A buyer sees the product promotion and books an appointment to see it at the in-person expo , then uses the marketplace portal to place an order . Imagine the opportunities .
If your expo wants to be successful with expanding into the e-commerce world , do your homework . Research what your attendees and potential attendees will require to be successful in today ’ s world . Provide good content to keep visitors engaged with your site . It should be more substantial than show updates or an advert for your next webinar .
As Alexander said , “ There are two internets : Amazon and The Internet .” When I began researching the digital marketplace trend , my primary thought was would buyers regularly visit business sites to stay informed and purchase products ? My conclusion : If you build it right , make it engaging , informative , and keep after your exhibitors , the buyers will come .
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