Get A Head Start: Four Big Exhibition Trends For 2019

Get ahead of your competition and start putting these trends into profitable practice.

learn more about Omar Rahman

By Omar Rahman


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Other exhibition marketers will wait until 2019 to think about 2019. Not you. Because you already discovered the crucial exhibition marketing trends for 2019, months before anyone else.

So you can get ahead of your competition and start putting these trends into profitable practice. Let's break it down.

Exhibition Trend #1: Customer-centric design

Look through the customer-centric lens so your exhibitions resonate more deeply with your audience.

Technology has fundamentally changed your customers' expectations. They live an everyday life where they can find, compare, buy and review products at a swipe. Where they can use their phone to turn on their kettle, or their voice to turn off the lights.

That matters because it means they have higher expectations when they come into contact with you. Including the exhibition channel. There's no point having an awesome customer journey through your website, for instance, if you don't replicate that when you exhibit.

Creating a memorable experience for visitors

It's about customer-centric design. Which means every exhibition decision is guided by putting your visitors first. What do they want? How do they want it? How can you better serve their needs?

As McKinsey & Company puts it: "Leading companies understand that they are in the customer-experience business' and they must "train [their] organization to see the world through the customer's eyes [to] redesign functions to create value in a customer centric way."

So your major aim for 2019 should be to explicitly link your product or service to customer needs. To prove you solve a problem for them.

That means you stop thinking in terms of square footage and number of demo stations, and start thinking about what your visitors need to know and feel in order for them to get to the next step and make a purchase.

Exhibition Trend #2: Multi-sensory experience

Create a multi-sensory world for customers, to stand out from the noise.

In 2019, your customers will continue to be bombarded by endless information. Which means you'll need to work hard to cut through the noise.

A fantastic way to do this will be multi-sensory experience. That is, an experience your visitors can live. Something they can feel. Hear. Interact with. Even smell.

That sort of experience can be powerful. So powerful, in fact, that 98% of customers are more likely to buy a product marketed through an experiential campaign.

Are your attendees getting a rich experience?

The great news is that exhibitions are the perfect place for multi-sensory experience. Exhibitors have been leveraging the likes of VR and AR for a while now, but in 2019 expect these to become even more commonplace. If you want to get ahead, combine these technologies with other multi-sensory opportunities to create a fully-realised experience.

For example, the Sense of Smell Institute found that people remember what they smell to 65% accuracy, even after 12 months. That's vastly above visual recall, which sits around 50% accuracy after three months.

So look for experiential approaches –such as using scent– to help build true multi-sensory experiences that drive engagement.

Exhibition Trend #3: Extreme personalisation

Use personalisation to build exhibition experiences that boost engagement.

Personalisation has been a big topic for a couple of years, with 97% of event planners believing personalisation can change an attendee's perception of an event.

Because it's worth it: according to the Harvard Business Review, personalisation delivers five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can boost sales by 10%.

Overcoming the barriers to personalisation

But there are hurdles to implementation. Nearly everyone recognises the potential of personalisation but only 27% use personalisation consistently. An EventsForce study reports that the main barriers are lack of time and resources (60%), cost (49%), lack of technology (38%) and inaccurate data on their delegates (31%).

These hurdles won't evaporate in 2019. But the case for personalisation will continue to grow ever-stronger as customer expectations change.

We'll see more businesses investing in the technology needed to power personalisation. We'll get better at applying insights across business streams, to inform and structure our exhibitions and the content around them.

Making it personal

One size no longer fits all. Visitors instead will get product demos and brand experiences based around their interests.

Exhibitions in 2019 will look more like events and conferences, with structured sessions marketed to segments of your audience. Personalised pre-exhibition marketing will help you build a user-generated exhibition agenda that is more engaging, and attracts more leads on the day.

Exhibition Trend #4: AI everywhere

Embrace the potential of AI to transform every aspect of exhibiting.

Reports suggest the UAE has been investing heavily in AI over the past few years. And we're moving towards a future where AI isn't an add-on, but integral to the experience you give visitors.

For instance, deep learning algorithms can power intelligent facial recognition software so your reps instantly know who's who and what they care about. So you can deliver a smoother, more streamlined, more personal experience that's much more likely to convert.

How AI can solve exhibition challenges– and reduce costs

Intelligent screens are a great way to serve customers who would rather engage on their own terms. This would answer your fears about understaffing, save costs on the number of employees you bring to the event, and ensure visitors can self-serve the right information at the right time for them. So they're much more likely to convert.

AI will also transform the back-end. Look for ways to embed AI into your exhibition processes, from logistics to lead segmentation. Leverage intelligent technology to improve your exhibition reporting and lead follow-up and you'll boost overall ROI.

Get your exhibitions thriving in 2019

The possibilities are endless- and impossible to predict in entirety. To thrive in 2019, you need to be open to new ideas and investment in new areas. Legacy attitudes will hamstring exhibition ROI.

While these four exhibition trends aren't new ideas, they have revolutionary potential. Explore ways to embed all four into your own exhibition strategy, to unlock greater returns from the exhibition channel.

By acting now, you can seize the competitive advantage ahead of other businesses in your space.

Related: Four Ways To Avoid Exhibition Marketing Disasters

Omar Rahman

Co-founder, TGP

Omar Rahman moved to the UAE from the UK in 1991 to take a business development position in the sales department of EMA Lubricants, a joint-venture with Exxon Mobil. In 1995, he teamed up with Alexander Maddock to launch Top Gear Promotions LLC – now known simply as TGP – an exhibitions and events solution provider, having executed over 2,000 successfully delivered projects locally, regionally and internationally, for organisations including Etihad, Dubai Holding, General Electric, Dubai Tourism, IPIC, Masdar, Qatar Airlines, Emaar, Expo 2020, and many more. Rahman studied Civil Engineering at the United Kingdom’s North East Surrey College of Technology.

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