Exhibition World Issue 3 – 2021 | Page 35


Reaching for platforms where the sky ’ s the limit

hile physical exhibition business is still on hold in most of the world , with some exceptions , digital business solutions continue to fill the vacuum . In numerous events and discussion sessions we keep hearing about digitalisation , hybrid events , virtual events , event platforms , digital networking , MessePlus , FutureX , etc - you name it . Our industry has been busy trying out new tech products like never before .
So , over a year into the pandemic , let me try to summarise what happened with various experiments :
In China , Tencent and other groups announced virtual shows for spring / summer 2020 . After just one or two editions many companies realised that they weren ’ t really successful and started to push full speed for the return of physical meetings . The situation was similar in other Asian nations where virtual and hybrid show launches were celebrated in 2020 , but a changing tide was now very much in evidence in 2021 . In China , ITB only welcomed 30 % of its original attendance virtually and the major organisers were reporting similar attendances of around 20-30 % of their physical tradeshows .
Often real B2B transactions are not made because the culture demands that people see face to face and shake hands with their clients before signing any deal .
Quite often this 30 % ‘ rump ’ of ‘ virtual ’ exhibitors and visitors are most interested in simply finding out what is going on within the industry , and catching up on the innovations and trends .
Hybrid and virtual events have become very educational and networking focused , but they are not really providing platforms for real transactions . Organisers of physical events should therefore be expecting a very quick return of the old glory as audiences become desperate to meet again in person and pent up demand is at a high level .
On the event platform side , we have seen a mushrooming of companies all over the globe . The list of names that have been the longest in this market includes Grip , Swapcard and Jublia . Grip is headquartered in London , Swapcard in France and Jublia in Singapore and they all had a head start around eight years ago , going from small start ups to become global players .
While Grip and Swapcard historically came from an event app , Jublia started from a web-based solution . All three of them work with a sophisticated AI algorithm allowing them to grow their clientele not only among event organisers , but also in the association community , among PR companies , corporations , and in universities and schools . Grip and Swapcard attracted venture capital to boost their global outreach and engagement .
Venture capital was the reason why event platforms ’ valuations have skyrocketed .
There are at least 10 global event platforms with an annual turnover between $ 2.5m and $ 12.5m . Altogether we are talking about a market size of roughly $ 100m turnover .
It is expected that we will see some consolidation of the market . Some large exhibition organisers might opt to work with one of these platforms exclusively , while others might use different platforms for different events .
We have also seen cases , particular in Germany and Italy , where readymade AI from market leaders are of less interest and where exhibition organisers ’ IT divisions partner with start ups and developers .
In particular Corussoft - a small software programmer from Berlin - has been very successful in attracting German Messe companies to host their shows .
The obvious attraction for many publicly owned exhibition companies in Europe is they can combine programming houses with their own heavy IT infrastructure . Whether this will be a promising avenue rather than a dead end is something only time will tell .
The return of physical events may mean that , within three years or so , we will have two or three globally consolidated large players , each of them able to achieve $ 50m turnover by 2025 . The question is , will organisers be reaching for a slice of that digital pie ?
Björn Kempe , CEO ExposAsia
“ The question is , will organisers be reaching for a slice of that digital pie ?”
www . exhibitionworld . co . uk Issue 3 2021 35