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January 19 2021Exhibition industry

Digital events: No permanent alternative for most exhibitors in Germany

  • Digital events currently have an important substitute function, but significantly less benefit than real trade fairs

  • Survey among members of three major German industry associations

For most exhibiting companies in Germany digital events are currently no or no permanent alternative to real trade fairs: 17 % of the companies are currently using digital events due to the numerous trade fair cancellations, but want to give up on this commitment when physical trade fairs can be held again. 48% want to continue to rely on real trade fairs in the future, but continue to use digital supplements. And as many as 14% do not see purely digital events as an alternative even if no real trade fairs can take place. Only 21% regard virtual presentations as serious alternatives to real trade fairs, even in the long term.

This is the result of a survey of 427 exhibiting German companies in the mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and electronics, optics, photonics and medical technology sectors in the 4th quarter of 2020, with the participation of the VDMA, ZVEI, SPECTARIS and AUMA – Association of the German Trade Fair Industry.

It is remarkable that more than half of the companies surveyed have already tested digital formats. In total, almost 50 digital events have taken place in Germany in 2020 as a replacement for cancelled trade fairs. At the same time, the concrete business results are obviously rather modest: Exhibitors have achieved on average a quarter of the benefits of a real trade fair participation with such format. 30% even achieved a maximum of only 10%, while peak values of 70% and more were achieved by only 3% of the companies surveyed.

Jörn Holtmeier, Managing Director of AUMA - Association of the German Trade Fair Industry, comments: “Certainly, the relatively limited experience of those involved with digital business events also plays a role here. There is no doubt that they currently have an important function in maintaining customer contacts and providing information. However, given the very different assessment of the benefits of digital and real events, it is hardly conceivable that purely digital variants can become a fully-fledged alternative to physical trade fairs”. This is because the lack of business success at digital events would then have to be achieved through the additional use of other instruments.

In addition, the survey showed that personal contact, the live presentation of innovations and the acquisition of new customers were the most important arguments for companies to participate in real trade fairs. The physical presence of people and products obviously makes the difference in business success.

Picture material

Digital trade fairs: Streamed lectures and product presentations - Photo: © Digital Days 2020 - Deutsche Messe AG

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