Adapting to a Socially-Distant World Without Trade Shows

July 16, 2020 Chris Dennen

“Woah, look at all this cool stuff!” is something that we at igus® have grown used to hearing when an engineer, designer, or machine builder approaches one of our trade show booths. Unfortunately, that opportunity was crushed this year due to COVID-19, and people missed out on feeling and experiencing the unique advantages of our products. This loss, coupled with the inability of our salespeople to visit our customers on-site and face-to-face, created a significant contact gap.

But, we found ways to adapt. Read on to learn about how we transformed our physical trade show booth into a virtual experience and how these changes could have a positive impact on the future of trade shows. 

The igus® Virtual Trade Show Booth

Many of our best opportunities to assist designers and explain the "how's" and "why’s" of our components are created on trade show floors. We are well known for bringing every type of component that we make to these shows, including highly engineered plastic plain bearings, linear bearings, flexible cables and plastic cable carriers, oftentimes using two or more 18-wheelers to ship it all!

However, once the coronavirus hit, we watched as each of our 94 scheduled shows worldwide dropped into uncertainty, with the majority getting canceled. In North America alone, we lost IMTS, IWF, USITT, OTC, MMTS and many more.

This triggered a wide range of decisions that had to be made from the reallocation of staffing to dealing with refunds, but our most important objective of meeting and helping engineers and designers could no longer be accomplished. 

Our first course of action was to ensure that our customers knew we were still here for them. So, our leadership team in Germany decided to take igus® trade shows digital and create an in-house virtual and interactive trade show. This virtual show allows engineers to explore more than 100 new products designed to help reduce costs and increase the technological advantage of their machines.

The user can even dig deeper by watching videos, clicking over to product specification webpages, and seeing prices in the web shop. This kind of versatility is not yet possible at a physical trade show booth. 

Plus, the viewer can explore the show based on their industry. This digital capability is particularly interesting because it allows the user to customize the experience even more than they would be able to at an actual trade show since generally our layouts are set up by product line groupings and not industries.

Virtual Innovations in the USA

At our North American headquarters in East Providence, Rhode Island, we've set up our own "at-home" trade show to film product demonstrations and overviews that answer frequently asked questions.

Engineers can also schedule a virtual video conference with any of our product managers if they have specific questions or require specific product demonstrations from our booth, or they can request a custom, one-on-one booth tour where an igus® expert will cater the experience to the engineer's needs. 

This has greatly increased the quality of the channels of communication that our experts have with our customers. 

What We Learned from This Experience

Not only did this virtual experience give our salespeople something to get excited to present to our customers, it gave us a novel platform for our customers to explore and experience our new products.

Now, let’s be real—I don’t think the digital trade show will replace the feeling and excitement at a true show or the power that being able to touch and feel a product wields, but in times like this it gives us a glimpse of how we can provide better access to information and new products away from show season.

It also presents interesting opportunities to use what we learned about our customers’ preferences this year and explore bringing more customizations to our physical booths in the future, such as AR and more advanced concierge or exploration services.

It’s our job as innovators not just to endure these times of crisis but learn from them and pioneer new ways to delight our current and future customers. The changes we make now will be the baseline for what designers and engineers will come to expect in the future.

In addition to our virtual trade show booth, igus® offers virtual meetings/visits via web conference with our sales and customer service staff and a LiveChat function on our website. Contact us today, we’d be more than happy to help you find a solution for your moving application.

About the Author

Chris Dennen

Marketing Manager

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