Farewell to expos as we knew them

The empty passages of the numerous expos due to the COVID-19 could define the definitive extinction of this marketing model. Fewer traditional fairs, more space for vitality and events for the public relations, slowly crossing to a new dimension.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis might hopefully be over, but some of its effects are still to be seen in the present and the near future. And evolutions have to be also expected in the World of sports. 

At Vitesse, we have been working in cycling for roughly 30 years as Press Office, PR, Media Relations, event organizers, and digital strategists. Our substantial background enabled us to give a wide-angle look at the two-wheels World and spot ten remarkable trends that might establish themselves in the coming months or years. 

Our predictions will come in different blogs. Some of those might sound bold, but we believe they all have chances to become a reality, sooner rather than later. 

Here is the sixth episode: 

Farewell to expos as we knew them

We can hear the objection: this trend was there well before COVID. It's true. But skipping a year due to Covid-19 might be the factor that extinguishes for good the traditional expo model in the World of cycling and possibly outdoor in general, after the unsatisfying results of the latest editions of ISPO. 

For years, companies and operators have complained about the absence of top-level players, fewer media, and few new product presentations. Nowadays, the majority of the market leaders make their dedicated events for their target audiences, setting themselves free of the traditional "launch" season that is progressively disappearing in every branch. Even in the World of fashion, so fond of its seasons and its canonical meetings, brands such as Yves Saint-Laurent and Gucci are breaking free from the fashion show calendar to implement more manageable and sustainable choices and "take back control of the fashion schedule."

Trade expos cost too much, cause too many transfers (also from an environmental point of view), and do not generate value. So why were companies still attending them?

A first argument, very realistic, is that not all the companies have the budget (and often the capacity) to create one or more presentation events on their own, in-house or not, for their sales network, distributors, and media. However expensive they may be, trade expos require a reasonably determined effort, giving companies a chance to meet potential contacts that they might not have been able to collect on their own. 

A second topic, which is not just about companies, is networking. It's hard to deny that expos allow holding a large number of meetings with industry stakeholders in the space of 2 or 3 days, that might require long transfers otherwise. This dynamic applies to all categories: press, sales, marketing managers, and the dealers, the main target of the traditional expo model.

Reality often tells a different story, though. First of all, the evolution of retail is increasingly moving towards online at the expense of physical, and direct sales by the companies are getting more and more space, whether through owned channels or marketplaces. In recent years, trade expos have been less and less popular among dealers, and few deals eventually take place in the boots: such function might be outdated.

This pandemic has indisputably taught us that it is possible to meet without being in the same place. There are ways to know and get known even from a distance, and the opportunity to re-think exhibition spaces in a digital form, keeping a sort of exclusivity while not being affected by the time factor: digital showrooms can be open all year, day and night.

The flip side of the scenario is that companies will have to activate themselves strategically in other to earn a spot in the buyer's consideration, thinking further than the purchase of the expo space, the booking of hotel rooms, and less-than-original booth designs. Strategy and vision are needed all year round. It starts with a wise management of the digital channels, the development of smart and performing web platforms, and a competent and focused content marketing action. Those who are unable to compete in this field could fade to irrelevancy. In such a crowded market, the consequences are easily understood.

Strategy and competence are also key in the media work, both on the owned channels and media relationships. The "social proof" is more crucial than ever to get in the customer's spotlight. Brands need to understand the consumer and its needs before activating the communication processes, keeping in mind that users are nowadays used to getting reached by content rather than looking for it. 

While the traditional expos' perspective might be short-lived, there's a lot of space and vitality in the World of cycling events for the public, particularly the experiential ones: lean, cheaper, and designed for the customer. And in the end, it's the customer who chooses – also based on his perceived relationship with the brands. 

In the previous blog we talked about: 

Urban cycling as legitimate product branch

(Click on the image to read more)

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