Shifting Spend: Exhibit Marketers Face Budget Challenges Amid Global Inflation

July 10, 2023

Exhibitions remain a valued sales and marketing channel among event teams and their senior leadership, but global inflation — along with increasing exhibit costs — is changing the way budgets are distributed between events or decreasing per-event spend on in-person events in 2023, according to a Exhibit Leader Insights 2023 report released in June. Budget cuts for exhibit-related activities may be looming for those who are struggling to demonstrate exhibit ROI against business and commercial objectives. 

Findings from the report shed light on the dynamic nature of exhibit marketing in 2023. Key statistics include: 

  • 70% exhibitors agree that their organization’s leadership sees exhibits as a “valuable, irreplaceable” part of the marketing mix.
  • 94% of the exhibitors surveyed expect some level of change to their exhibit programs in the next three years. 
  • 82% of those planning to exhibit at fewer in-person shows said exhibit-related costs were a factor in their decision. 
  • 61% of exhibitors said previous experience at a show is a key factor in their decision to exhibit. 
  • Exhibitors’ inability to demonstrate event ROI to senior leadership is the greatest internal challenge after budget pressures.
  • While many senior leaders view exhibits as a valuable marketing channel, 30% are now unconvinced they are essential.

“Our clients are shifting their strategy towards prioritizing quality over quantity,” said Jay Menashe, senior vice president sales and marketing for EDE, an exhibit design firm that produced a 17,000-square-foot booth for DN Solutions at IMTS. “Instead of participating in more than 25 trade shows annually, one client has decided to allocate a larger budget towards seven carefully selected trade shows, aiming to optimize their return by reaching a more specific and targeted audience.”

Conducted by Explori in collaboration with The Exhibitor Advocate and Exhibitor Group, the report is the culmination of quantitative research and represents findings from 255 exhibit marketers currently running event programs for organizations of all sizes covering a range of industries. 

“Many of our clients amongst both exhibition organizers and corporate event teams have expressed real concerns over the current inflationary conditions,” said Mark Brewster, CEO for Explori, a feedback platform and full-service research agency. “There is little doubt that the demand for in-person is high, and trade shows have bounced back with a vengeance. However, the research identifies a friction between the spiraling costs of exhibit programs and pressures on budgets with the absence of measurement data on the real value exhibitions have on achieving business objectives.” 

Jessica Sibila, executive director of The Exhibitor Advocate, an association dedicated to supporting exhibit marketers, added, "This report is a game-changer for the exhibit marketing industry. It offers a comprehensive view of the challenges and opportunities faced by exhibit marketers and provides actionable recommendations to drive success."

Download the report here.

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