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RAI Insights 2018: Enabling companies to excel in their participation at exhibitions

What’s the best way for companies to ensure they make the most of their participation in exhibitions? RAI Amsterdam has studied the customer journey experienced by exhibitors and formulated tips for every phase of that journey in the second RAI Insights report, part of a trilogy on the subject. The information contained in the new report will help exhibitors at trade shows and other events increase the impact of their brand, while also enabling organisers to provide better support.

Exhibitors are the driving force behind every event. The manner in which they participate, the products they showcase and the effectiveness of their performance are the major determinant of visitor customer satisfaction and the success of any event. Despite the importance of their role, however, exhibitors can struggle to excel on all these fronts.

As most only take part in trade events a few times a year, it can take quite some time to build up the required experience. At the same time, exhibitors need to make the most of rapid changes in the market and technology. This means that organisers who wish to ensure that their event is influential would do well to provide the best possible support to their exhibitors.

The study
Based on these insights, RAI Amsterdam has undertaken a major research project into the exhibitor customer journey. This study has been led by the RAI’s customer marketing manager Joost van Eupen and market researcher Sanne Jolles, who worked together with a team of RAI specialists and research agency Unplugged, a subsidiary of Makerstreet.

“We started by mapping the most decisive moments in the customer journey,” explains Van Eupen. “Next, we used observation and interview techniques based on design thinking to study exhibitors from the Netherlands and abroad and gain a clear picture of their expectations and experiences for each phase. Based on this input, we can provide targeted advice to exhibitors at each phase, enabling them to improve their ROI from an event.”

Important insights
The five phases in the exhibitor customer journey are:

  • Orientation: deciding whether to exhibit in an event, with which objectives and how
  • Preparation: from exhibiting concept to invitations
  • Leading up to the exhibition: physical transport and build-up
  • During the exhibition: physical and digital encounters
  • After the exhibition: a proper follow-up of contacts and measurement of results

The report includes specific tips for exhibitors at each phase as well as a number of overall observations. For example, it underlines the ongoing need to find the balance between urgent practical matters and strategic issues which may seem less pressing but have at least as much impact on the success of the participation. In addition, while all exhibitors are looking to maximise their ROI, they often find it difficult to measure. Agreeing on clear KPIs and setting up the back office well in advance makes it easier to determine afterwards whether an event was worth the effort. Another key insight is that many exhibitors still think in terms of stands, while organising or participating in other ways or activities, including online, often also offers a lot of added value.

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