Trade Shows are Changing Too

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Trade Shows are Changing Too

By John Stanley In a world of constant change every organisation has to think outside the box and come up with new ideas to attract their cliental. As far as trade shows are concerned, in the modern world the retailer does not need to go to the show to discover new products or to place an order, that can be done by a number of different channels in this computerised world. As one of my retail clients said to me recently, �I now only go to have a chat to my friends that I have not seen for sometime.� The trade show has become a meeting place for him, not a place to do trade, that was achieved weeks before via his computer. Therefore we have to ask what is the role of the trade show in the new world. Talking to retailers they are saying that the big thing is to go to the show to find new ideas. Many exhibitors still have not realized that and still continue to put up booths that are product related and uninspiring. Some shows have introduced retail conferences as a means to draw the crowds, but this often takes the target audience away from the trade show area and suppliers want people on the floor. The North Cal Trade Show in San Mateo, California, came up with the same dilemma and solved it with a unique solution that could be adapted and adopted by other trade show organisers. The team in California were aware that the key to getting delegates was to provide them with an offer they could not refuse. California like other parts of the world is facing a situation where the retailers realise they need to attract the various generational segments of the market, but were unsure how to go about it. The organisers looked at the delegate profile and asked themselves what was one of the biggest challenges their client faced and how they could create a win:win scenario, where they could help the delegates solve their problems and attract more people to the trade show. The challenges in Northern California are the same as in many other parts of the world. The retail industry was aware that it had to attract different generations into their garden centre, but was unsure how to do it in their own business. If the organisers could help in this area they should be able to attract more delegates to the trade show. They organised a conference at which I spoke on generational marketing and the trends taking place in gardening both in the USA and around the world. The key was the next stage. Three garden designers were invited to build small display gardens based on specific generations that could then be build in a garden centre. After my formal talk I then went on the trade show floor and critiqued the gardens with the delegates. This proved to be a very popular attraction to the trade show. John Vitale, Heather Wissink and Tracy Dunn were the local designers invited to take part. John was asked to create a generation X garden, Heather a generation Y garden, Tracy a Jones generation garden and then they combined forces to build a Baby Boomers garden. The team were given a carefully worded brief. They were to build the garden within a 10 foot x 10 foot area and at least 50% of the product must come from vendors at the show. A minimum of one third of the products they used must be plant material. The display must be free standing and be able to be viewed from all sides. The designers were also told a theme color they were to use based on the colour trends in each generation. Generation Y Heather had the most difficult challenge, having to design a garden for this generational group, the 15 to 25 year olds. Her brief was that this generation is the Red Bull, IPOD and Artic Monkey generation. They need constant mental stimulation, are socially aware and enjoy electronic gadgets. She was told she had to build her display based on the colours Opal Grey, Tarragon, Caf Crme and Sky Blue in the Pantone paint range. I was intrigued to see how she would put this together as this is the most difficult market sector to get into a garden centre. She included the computer gadetry as props and even a can of Red Bull, except the show cleaner removed it thinking it was rubbish! I enjoyed the fact that she had identified that the key to getting this group to buy was to offer quirky products. A gong and a container of a face with plants as the hair were the key elements in this display. What was a difficult subject ended up with a very effective display. Generation X John had the 25 to 35 year old group to deal with, the major potential spenders in the garden market. Often called the IKEA Generation, these guys have taken Starbucks, Chai tea and Choc Latte as their own. They have a high affinity with technology and �Fall in Love� with everything relatively easily. A group that has now furnished their indoor room and are looking to furnish their outdoor room. John was given Opal Gray, Green Sheen, Grapemist and Strawberry Ice colours in the Pantone Paint range to work with. I enjoyed the fact that he split his garden in two and did an outdoor and indoor setting with a dividing wall. This enabled him to create an indoor room and an outdoor room that reflected two different styles. He caught the theme that this market sector is not price driven, it is looking for the look. He even included the Croc sandals, detail is retail. The Jones Generation Tracy had the 35 to 50 year old age group to attract. The latte market and the Nordstom shopper in America. A group that is hyper critical of customer service and needs to be told what is new to encourage them to buy. Tracy was given Sky Blue, Silver Peony, Opal Gray and Golden Apricot out of the pantone range to work with. He used his props very cleverly and included dead birch branches to provide a very effective eye catching display. He caught the theme well where he had to provide a modern look with a little of nostalgia in the display. The garden was well colour themed and I could see a potential customer asking if they could purchase the whole package. The Baby Boomer Generation The whole group joined forces on the Baby Boomer garden. Those 50 to 65 year olds who were responsible for building the industry and are now sourcing other ways to spend their leisure money. They are the �Do It For Me� market and we need to be told what is new, we are less intune with trends than the other sectors of the market. Grand children have now become part of the scene and we are redefining retirement. The colours selected for this group were Hollyhock, Golden Apricot and Opal Gray out of the pantone range. This turned out to be the most difficult garden for the group, which surprised me, but that may be because I�m a baby boomer and the designers were not. The garden reflected a nostalgic look with a few modern elements which is what this clientel is looking for, but the inclusion of the Croc sandals was a big mistake in this garden. A group of consumers joined the retailer for the session and after the garden critique they were involved in a panel meeting with the retailers where the ideas and concepts were discussed. The whole concept proved to be an excellent and novel idea that rejuvenated the trade show and encouraged the retailers to look at the way they do things in a new way. This is an idea I would recommend to any trade show organiser who is looking to make a difference.