CEIR Launches Optimistic First Report in Omnichannel Marketing Insights Series

December 27, 2021

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) recently released Report One: Marketing Channel Mix During Pandemic and Outlook Moving Forward for Brand Marketers That Exhibit at B2B Exhibitions from its newest research series, Omnichannel Marketing Insights. The series details omnichannel marketing practices while the pandemic shut down the business-to-business (B2B) exhibition industry in mid-March 2020 and anticipated plans moving forward through 2022.

Along with benchmarks on the marketing channel mix used during the pandemic, it assesses the extent by which participants will return to B2B exhibitions and whether needs and preferences will shift in any way. Report One summarizes overall findings from the exhibitor perspective. Results indicate the outlook for the B2B exhibition industry is strong among exhibiting companies that have used the channel pre-COVID-19.

“This report is a must-have for organizers looking for benchmarks and insights to help position their in-person B2B exhibitions for 2022,” said Nancy Drapeau, vice president of research for CEIR. “Exhibitors are intent on returning to exhibiting. The high value in using the channel to help achieve their high-priority marketing and sales objectives is the catalyst driving their return to events.”

“This report speaks to the importance of face-to-face marketing to brand marketers and buyers who attend,” added Cathy Breden, CEO of CEIR. “Digital and other channels have helped exhibiting companies and attendees meet their needs during the pandemic, though study results point to their limitations. For companies that exhibit, face-to-face marketing is an essential part of their marketing mix. They are looking forward to getting back to business in person.”

The 26-page report provides benchmarks and insights on the following:

  • Marketing channels used by exhibitors compared to what attendees relied upon during the pandemic
  • Current high-priority marketing and sales objectives of exhibiting company organizations
  • Effectiveness of channels used during the pandemic in helping achieve marketing and sales objectives
  • Marketing budget outlook for 2021 and 2022
  • B2B exhibition channel overall image/perceptions
    • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • Unique values of exhibiting not furnished by other marketing channels
    • Importance of face-to-face interactions at exhibitions at purchase process stages
  • B2B exhibition activity
    • Volume of exhibitions and typical booth sizes from 2019 through 2022
    • Booth staff in 2019 and plans for 2021/2022
    • Commentary on reasons for participation levels
  • Among those exhibiting in 2021 through 2022
    • Value of exhibiting to help achieve high-priority marketing and sales objectives
    • Planned use of in-person representation at international B2B exhibitions if COVID-19 persists
    • Exhibitor interest in integrating digital options into event lifecycle in next two years

Meeting Business Needs During the Pandemic

The report pointed to the following industry insights:

  • Digital dominated, with multiple digital tactics used by 87% of attendees and 94% of exhibitors.
  • Other channels used included supplier phone calls (44% of attendees and 8% of exhibitors) and direct mail (33% of attendees and 20% of exhibitors)
  • The majority of exhibitors rate channels used as effective in helping achieve most high-priority marketing and sales goals, but few assigned the highest effectiveness score.
  • The outlook for exhibiting through 2022 is strong, with 94% planning to exhibit, an expected typical booth size of 200 net square feet (NSF) and the volume of exhibiting events expected to rebound to five.

B2B exhibitions are highly valued in helping to meet marketing and sales objectives, with more than 40% assigning the highest value for helping achieve most popular high-priority marketing objectives and more than 31% assigning the highest value for helping achieve most popular high-priority sales objectives.

Report One: Marketing Channel Mix During Pandemic and Outlook Moving Forward for Brand Marketers That Exhibit at B2B Exhibitions is the first of a series of reports that CEIR is publishing based on survey research done with attendees and exhibitors. The complete Omnichannel Marketing Insights series will include:

Methodology

CEIR’s Research Council commissioned this study. To generate attendee and exhibitor samples, CEIR identified top-ranked U.S.-based exhibitions, those with at least 45,000 NSF of paid space or larger from its CEIR database, with a goal of recruiting at least one exhibition per CEIR industry sector. The end result was the recruitment of 20 B2B exhibitions, which gave CEIR permission to poll their attendees and exhibitors from the 2019 edition of their events. For the exhibitor sample, a list was also purchased from Exhibitracs’ top 250 U.S. trade show list for 2019 events.

Online surveys were fielded from July to early August 2021 generating samples of 1,799 attendee surveys and 316 exhibitor surveys. The response rate for each audience is one percent. To project results to attendees and exhibitors in general, results of each sample have been weighted to the distribution of number of attendees and number of exhibiting companies in 2019, as defined by the 2021 CEIR Index.

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