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Will virtual trade shows replace traditional ones?

In the past year, COVID-19 caused pretty much all physical events to be cancelled, including traditional trade shows. Even at this moment, it is still uncertain when it is possible to visit trade shows again. The gap left by cancelled physical events was filled by virtualising those events. Virtual meetings became and will remain to be crucial in many business processes, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over and done with. But how about virtual trade shows? Will they replace the traditional trade shows? The results of the European Electrical Engineering Monitor Q1 2021 give a very clear answer to that question.

Most of the electrical installers from the seven countries that were researched intend to visit traditional trade shows after the pandemic. Even in the UK, the country where the smallest share of installers reported to intend to go back to traditional shows, that share was still 80% of the total installer population. Electrical installers are most enthusiastic to go back to the traditional trade shows in The Netherlands, where 94% intend to visit them when it is possible again.

Can virtual trade shows replace traditional ones?
European Electrical Installation Monitor Q1 2021


Little participation in virtual trade shows

The electrical installers were also asked about their participation in virtual trade shows during the pandemic. The results turned out to be quite surprising. Even though traditional trade shows are the main orientation channel, the percentage of participation in virtual trade shows is very low in all seven conducted European countries. Participation in Germany was the highest with 18%. Electrical installers in France participated the least in virtual trade shows, only 5%. Even where electrical installers turn out to be fairly adapted to online orientation and online purchasing, like in Germany and The Netherlands, only a very low percentage of them participated in virtual trade shows.

Conclusion

Even if electrical installers are used to using online media, they probably miss the personal interaction, handshaking and chitchatting that is lacking at a virtual trade show. European electrical installers are waiting for the moment they can meet manufacturers, wholesalers and other suppliers and customers in person at the traditional trade shows again. So it seems unlikely that virtual trade shows will replace the traditional ones any time soon. As soon as traditional trade shows are popping up in the exhibition halls again, installers will be there.