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The Future of B2B Trade Shows

by Alex Sayyah
30 October, 2020
In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, the in-person B2B trade show, wholesale showroom, and exhibition experience in 2020 has been turned on its ear.

From no-travel policies to local lockdown orders, organizers facing unprecedented disruption have had to postpone events till well into 2021, many canceling outright. This is no small loss. In 2019 alone there were 9,400 B2B trade shows and exhibitions held in the U.S., contributing a whopping $101B to our GDP. And according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s June survey, this flood of post-Covid cancelations and postponements created an alarming 52% loss of gross monthly revenue per organization.

But if you’ve ever walked the crowded aisles at a trade show or exhibition, then you know the live trade show experience isn’t just about revenues and transactions — it’s also a place to network, share ideas, make surprise discoveries, connect and reconnect. We know technology can improve efficiencies, create novel value propositions, and do it all at scale — but can it also support the intangible parts of the trade show sales experience which are less about tech and more about relationships


As large-scale gatherings remain canceled around the globe, the trade show is experiencing a kind of digital rebirth. Hybrid and virtual events are cropping up everywhere, while new technologies and workarounds continue to emerge to help bring the B2B trade show experience to buyers wherever they are. The world’s largest tech conference, CES, will be held virtually in 2021, ringing in the new year online rather than in Las Vegas.

And as trade shows and marts move online in droves, we are finding there are significant advantages to the new format. Unfettered by geography, all-digital trade shows can be attended by customers wherever they are (and now everyone gets a front row seat). Product showcases and live demos are happening via web conference with round tables and live interactions also moving online.

The silver linings are everywhere — suddenly organizers and brands can measure and track engagement, impact, and even rep performance with much more precision, making adjustments in real-time. In many ways, this is the kind of streamlined, personalized and smart trade show experience today’s savvy B2B buyer has been increasingly demanding.

At Aleran, we’ve created a wholesale marketplace builder to meet the moment. MarketPlace is a cloud-based, multi-agency, multi-vendor platform that gives you all the tools you need to recreate the wholesale showroom or trade show experience online. Whether you need to create a multi-agency marketplace to compensate for your now-shuttered wholesale showroom or you simply want a way to quickly and cost-effectively build a marketplace for a trade show, buyer day, or other special event or holiday, MarketPlace gets you up and running quickly — no cost-prohibitive builds, no months-long integration cycles, and no IT headaches.


Why Trade Show Organizers and Wholesale Showroom Managers Need MarketPlace…


  1. MarketPlace helps you preserve the variety of the B2B wholesale and trade show experience with easy to implement site management and governance features, so you can manage multiple agencies and/or brands with unique credentials and customize agency-specific or brand-specific landing pages.
  2. MarketPlace expands your reach, so you can sell more products to more diverse audiences, including out-of-territory customers, anywhere and anytime.
  3. MarketPlace allows you to grow your revenues while leveraging the enormous B2B e-commerce market opportunity that’s presenting itself right now (in the US alone, B2B sales will reach 1.2 trillion dollars by 2021).

The in-person trade show and wholesale showroom will return to us eventually, but the market and behavioral changes we are seeing today are here to stay (CES has already announced its intention to return in 2022, but this time with a hybrid physical and digital trade show). With 90% of B2Bs transitioning to online sales models during COVID-19, businesses still resisting the move to virtual and online sales need to get on board now or risk being left behind for good.

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