Study: Quality Interactions Drive Exhibition Attendee Loyalty
Study from CEIR suggests organizers don't pay enough attention to attendees' desire for new product showcase areas.
Nine out of ten repeat exhibition attendees say face-to-face interaction with vendors and the ability to ask questions on the spot is important to them. In fact, it is the most important exhibition floor offering for attendees. A new study from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) finds that, for the most part, organizers understand that face-to-face interaction is the most important element of attendee retention.
CEIR surveyed a total of 6,584 repeat attendees to gain insight into what factors drive attendees to become loyal exhibition alumni. Seventy-five exhibition organizers completed an online survey and eleven in-depth phone interviews in which they shared their organization’s approach to maximizing attendee retention.
Attendees ranked the importance of sixteen exhibition features, and the survey compared attendees’ importance rankings of each feature to what exhibition organizers think is important to their alumni.
Organizers were largely in line with attendees’ beliefs regarding the importance of interaction with exhibitors, as mentioned above. Eighty-seven percent of attendees believe interacting with product experts or designers in booths is important, and 91 percent of organizers think attendees feel that way. Likewise, 75 percent of attendees believe interaction with product users in booths or common areas is important, and 84 percent of organizers predicted this.
In light of the importance of such interactions, the study recommends offering exhibitor training. Considering that the industry is seeing changes in media consumption due to the mobile revolution, CEIR further recommends exhibitors integrate digital appropriately into their booths.
Moreover, when it comes to the importance of product demonstrations in booths and an exhibition product demonstration area, the study found organizers’ beliefs largely correlated with those of attendees. Seventy-eight percent of attendees find the former important and 72 percent of organizers shared that sentiment. Meanwhile, 69 percent of attendees value the latter, compared to 60 percent of organizers.
Organizers also seem to have a good understanding of the importance of education offerings on the show floor and digital, interactive features in exhibit booths and exhibition organizer areas. Fifty-one percent of attendees found education offerings important, while 57 percent of organizers predicted this would be significant.
However, the survey reveals some shocking disparities when it comes to product interaction and information gathering.
CEIR’s research suggests that organizers aren’t using repeat attendee’s desire for new product showcase areas to their advantage. Three out of four attendees value a new product showcase area, but less than half (48 percent to be exact) of organizers think attendees feel that way.
This is one of the main areas in which exhibit organizers could improve, either by adding new product showcases or by enhancing current ones. Once again, digital is a potential mechanism through which organizers or exhibitors can improve. By incorporating digital interactivity, not only are showcases improved, but access to product information is also made easier.
Such discrepancies also manifest in terms of smaller show size: 32 percent of attendees find this important, in comparison to 20 percent of organizers. In contrast, organizers over-emphasize the importance of a larger show size, at 91 percent, while only 74 percent of attendees find it important.
Likewise, 89 percent of exhibition organizers believe the participation of specific exhibitors is very significant to attendees, but this sentiment is only shared by 73 percent of attendees.
Interestingly, these disparities change quite a bit when it comes to unique groups of attendees. When it comes to interacting with exhibitors, the gap between organizers’ sentiments and those of attendees widens. For example, only 67 percent of attendees at events less than 223,000 net square feet (NSF) placed importance on face-to-face interactions with product users in booths or common areas, in comparison to 75 percent of total attendees. In contrast, 84 percent of organizers believe this is valuable.
But in regards to product interaction, the gap narrowed in many instances. Sixty-two percent of attendees at events smaller than 223,000 NSF find an exhibition product demonstration area important, as opposed to 69 percent of all attendees. Meanwhile, 60 percent of organizers think attendees value this feature.
Likewise, only 48 percent of attendees at exhibitions smaller than 223,000 square feet found collecting paper literature on exhibitor products/services important, which is more in line with organizers’ sentiments (33 percent). Conversely, attendees in general found this feature much more important, at 61 percent. As such, it seems that organizers are more in line with smaller-sized exhibition attendees’ sentiments.
In contrast, the gap between organizers’ beliefs and those of attendees widens with regards to attendees from mid-sized to larger organizations. Despite organizers’ belief that 41 percent of attendees find digital interactivity in exhibitor booths important, more than 50 percent of attendees with 500+ employees found this important. Forty-four percent of all attendees found this feature important. The study found similar discrepancies with digital interactivity in exhibition organizer areas, as 47 percent of attendees with 500+ employees found it significant, as opposed to 42 percent of all attendees and 36 percent of organizers.