CONTRACTORS’ VIEWS ON PHYSICAL VS VIRTUAL TRADE FAIRS

The start of a new year is an excellent moment for contractors to plan what trade fairs they will visit in the months to come. At the start of 2022, however, as Omicron still surges the world, it seems hard to make any solid plans. For two years now, the pandemic has been plaguing traditional physical trade fairs, often denying manufacturers of construction materials the opportunity to showcase their solutions. During the hardest lockdowns, virtual trade shows were set up as an alternative. The construction sector is a rather traditional one, however, and contractors usually prove that claim, but given the pressure of the pandemic, the choice for the traditional is not always present. All the more reason to gather contractors’ opinions on physical versus virtual trade fairs during and after the pandemic. That is what we asked 950 European contractors for the Q4 2021 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s Contractor monitor, which focuses on media orientation.

Physical trade fairs declined during the pandemic

As expected, the share of Contractors visiting physical trade shows declined. In 2019, about half of the European contractors were visiting trade shows, while in 2021 that share decreased to less than a third. Such a drop indeed shows the effect of the pandemic, but it also shows that quite a substantial share still managed to visit physical trade shows during that pandemic.

 The alternative, virtual trade shows, were ‘visited’ by about 15% of the contractors in 2021. That may not seem a very large share, but given the traditional-mindedness of the contractors in general, a rise of attendance to 15% in two years’ time is quite remarkable.

Virtual trade shows expected to stay

The above shows the disruptive effect of the pandemic, but given what we have all been through in the past two years, that is hardly surprising. What is more interesting is what will happen to trade shows in years to come, years hopefully absent the influence of a pandemic.

European contractors clearly expect to visit physical trade fairs more often again in the coming years. Four out of ten believe the usage of physical trade fairs will increase in the coming three years, while 44% think usage will remain at current levels.

 More interestingly, the virtual trade show is expected to retain some ground in the post-pandemic world. About two in ten contractors believe its usage will increase, the same share believes it will decrease, and a whopping 50% of European contractors expect usage of virtual trade shows to remain at current levels.

 If their expectations come true, the virtual trade show may become a solid and lucrative channel for manufacturers to reach contractors and showcase their brands’ solutions in the years to come. However, given the traditional-mindedness of contractors and the urge we all have to get back to normal, a rapid rise of virtual trade fairs is probably not going to happen. 

 The above shows the influence of the pandemic on trade fairs, which is only one of the many channels contractors use for information. To find out how all those media channels developed in the past two corona-infested years, we refer you to the Q4 2021 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s Contractor monitor.

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