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Are Trade Shows Heading for Extinction?


Jan 18, 2012

Consumer Electronics Show 2012 helps make the point that shoppers are headed to the Internet instead of the convention hall

The new year’s biggest trade show event — the Consumer Electronics Show that convened January 11-13 in Las Vegas — had the unmistakable aura of the dinosaurs.  While organizers reported that it drew the largest crowd in its history, close to 140,000 attendees, there were definite signs that it is no longer “the source” for all that’s shiny and new and exciting to consumers.

The biggest players aren’t playing that game anymore

For one thing, the biggest name in the business and the universally recognized leader in innovation both signaled that they don’t consider the trade show the place to be.  For the last 15 years, Microsoft has supplied the keynote speaker for CES, but the company says this is the last year in that run. And they aren’t going to have a booth at next year’s show, either. As for Microsoft’s longtime rival, Apple, well, they don’t do trade shows at all. And that policy hasn’t seemed to hurt them one bit.  What products generate more buzz than Apple’s?

Pros and cons of in-person conferences, and trade and consumer events

There are two basic kinds of these events — professional conferences and trade shows. Dotcomweavers recently participated in the first kind at the November 2011 Web 2.0 Expo conference, joining big names like Microsoft and a select group of cutting-edge web developers. New York’s Sheraton Hotel and Towers provided a relatively intimate setting where we had the opportunity to network with our peers and make them aware of exciting developments from our new Jersey based website design company right in the conference’s back yard.

Traditionally, trade shows have been regarded as the premier marketing vehicles for all kinds of products, ranging from esoteric scientific equipment to manufacturing materials and cars and boats. Vendors spend anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to rent exhibit space, develop elaborate presentations, deploy custom-designed booths, and transport and pay personnel to man them — all for the opportunity to showcase their wares to and answer questions for a group of current customers and potential buyers who are usually more interested in where they are going to eat after attending the day’s events and whether they should go to a nightclub or hit the slots tonight. Is it worth it to exhibit at trade shows today?

A modest proposal — Web-centric marketing can be more effective at a fraction of the cost

One thing our Dotcomweavers’ web designers team has learned over the years in working with hundreds of companies is that today’s consumers and business people are looking for convenience in evaluating and buying products and services. Sure, if they go to a trade show, they can see a lot of products in one place, which is, arguably, convenient. But why travel all the way to a show and spend hours walking past booths for other products that are of no use to you, just so you can see and maybe handle half a dozen versions of the thing you’re looking for? And, in particular, why do that when you can type a few words into a search engine and instantly access all the information you could want about virtually every version of that product category that’s available anywhere in the world?

From a vendor’s point of view, it just makes a lot more sense to spend a fraction of what exhibiting at a single trade show might cost you to transform your website into a search-engine optimized “booth” that attracts unlimited numbers of visitors, turns them on to your products with engaging content and visuals, and actually helps them buy from you (which often isn’t possible at a trade show). Smart businesses of all kinds have been turning to our website design company in New Jersey for help to accomplish these lofty goals, and we see every day as an opportunity to come up with new ways to make marketing more efficient and cost-effective.

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