The Future of Exhibitions Will Be Data-Driven

I was invited by UFI – the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry – to speak at its Jakarta Open Seminar recently. At my panel discussion about technology in Asia, the audience was concerned with how digital would impact the future of exhibition. Panelists were asked to predict what the exhibition industry would look like 10 years from now. I would like to share my views from the session below.

My prediction on the future of the exhibition industry? Online and offline integration will become mainstream for sure.

The exhibition business will integrate online marketing means with its standard practice. Exhibition, as an important face-to-face business channel, will greatly extend its reach to the even more targeted and relevant audience groups through integration with social media. And exhibition websites will evolve as vertical social webs, which takes advantage of social media open graph integration. In fact, this evolution will not only happen in exhibitions, but in conferences and events as well.

The Application of Data-Driven Marketing

In the next 10 years, the most important technological development in the exhibition industry will definitely be the application of data-driven marketing. All information collected over the years by event organizers will no longer be just sitting in the database. The data will be processed and classified into different profiles. The information that was collected via offline interactions will be matched against online analytics.

Exhibition organizers, particularly in B2B, will be able to track visitors’ intent more accurately. Aside from building events that will be highly relevant to the exhibitors’ business, this kind of data-driven marketing can also help organizers develop new revenue streams other than simply selling booth spaces.

At the same time, the development of data exchange technology such as NFC (near-field communication) and the application of AR (augmented reality) will bring better experiential marketing experience to traditional exhibition. I envision that the exhibition industry will adopt multi-format to support various data exchanges such as QR code, NFC, and Apple Passbook to collect data on the exhibition floors. There will be a universal data container developed to provide universal insight that is linked with different products and business personas, which makes the future exhibition a data-driven marketing channel.

Furthermore, according to Google, 71 percent of the business users use the search engine for making everyday purchase decisions. Today, we say the Internet is the new trade show.

Ten years from now, when the exhibition industry fully adopts online marketing intelligence to develop highly relevant events, exhibition will become a point of purchase rather than just a registration desk and a shelf for showcasing products.

Disclosure: I am the executive director of Milton Exhibits Group, which operates and supplies event-marketing services to exhibition and event organizers. I was invited to speak at UFI in Jakarta as an individual sharing my views as an integrated marketing practitioner for the development of the exhibition market. None of my views represent any business or financial interest of the products and services provided by Milton Exhibits Group.

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