In early June, George P. Johnson and Center for Exhibition Industry Research published their Digital + Exhibiting Marketing Insights 2009 (Disclosure: InXpo is a strategic partner with GPJ). This report seeks to analyze the influence of digital media on the exhibition industry. The survey was based on 287 respondents.
“Smart marketers are beginning to realize that more than incorporating digital media for digital’s sake, what really matters is how events and digital tactics converge to build and foster relationships with audiences. While exhibitions and digital media are indeed useful tools on their own, combining the two creates a potent strategy in the battle for customer acquisition, loyalty, and everything in between.”
Summary of Stats Related to Virtual Events
In reviewing the reports finding, there were certain stats that stood out as they relate to virtual events, including (as excerpted from the published report):
- 49% of respondents use digital marketing to extend the reach of their event promotion efforts with digital marketing most often used in pre-event outreach (87%).
- 40% of corporate brand marketers and 31% of exhibition production marketers report using virtual events; 71% of respondents use virtual events to accommodate geographically widespread workforces and customers.
- 51% of exhibition production respondents report always integrating digital marketing tactics in the promotion of events; 37% of corporate brand marketers characterize their use of digital marketing as frequent.
- 46% of respondents measure the effectiveness of their digital marketing efforts; 50% of respondents measure ROI for virtual events
- 72% of respondents feel that the integration of digital marketing into the promotion of exhibition programs increases the effectiveness of the overall effort.
Delving Deeper: Social Media & Digital Media Usage
When looking at the breakdown of digital marketing, corporate brand respondents tended to use virtual complements to live events and webcasts more while exhibition management respondents used social media significantly more. According to the report, this discrepancy in social media usage may be tied back to exhibition managers’ aggressive use of social media “to make a specific event the centerpiece”:
“Sixty percent of exhibition management respondents use digital tactics primarily as a means to extend reach and build community around the event. Conversely, corporate brand side executives’ integration of digital is focused on improving audience engagement and brand perception.”
In terms of when and how to use digital media, corporate brand and exhibition management respondents agreed. Digital marketing is a powerful tool for pre-event, during and after the event communications.
Virtual Media Gaining Traction
Virtual media is defined broadly within the report, encompassing webinars to virtual trade shows and exhibitions. Per the study, virtual media usage is just beginning among respondents. Of those who use virtual media, most use webinars. Interestingly, when you combine the percentages of proprietary exhibitions (assuming that these are private, invitation-only virtual events) with that of virtual exhibitions and third-party exhibitions, then one or more of these tactics would be used by 64% of corporate brand respondents and 55% of exhibition management respondents.
“Despite the increasing use of virtual media, less than half of respondents can quantify how it is benefiting their organizations. Because of the relative newness of digital marketing in most exhibiting programs, measurement “best practices” have yet to emerge.”
With the incredible amount of tracking that accompanies virtual trade shows and exhibitions, it was interesting to read this. Unlike a physical event, a virtual event has very in-depth data that can help people glean intelligence not only about an attendee’s actions within a virtual event but also an attendee’s intent. Like a physical event, there needs to be upfront strategy and objectives so one can accurately map results to these and determine ROI.
Maybe this is partially due to virtual media/events being so new, that the focus is on doing the event, with results secondary. From an industry perspective, as my colleague Dennis Shiao wrote, establishing data standards for aggregate event data will enable organizations to compare ROI on an apples to apples level.
Overall, this inaugural report validates what we’re seeing in the marketplace, the use of virtual media is gaining traction with corporate brands and exhibition management. And within virtual media, it seems that virtual tradeshow and exhibitions are being considered favorably by this audience.
This is an exciting time for the virtual events industry.
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Summary of CEIR/GPJ study regarding digital and exhibitions by @InXpoLive: http://bit.ly/28LIBI.