By Jacinthe Moreau, President of World Pet Association
In today’s tech-savvy society—where no matter what you need, there’s likely an app for that—there are few things you can’t do online. Why, then, do trade shows still matter, at a time when you can search, shop, connect and learn all at your fingertips? Put simply, trade shows matter because they are the only place where you can do all of the above with the added bonus of being side by side with thousands of your industry peers, leaders and suppliers—all participating in the same immersive experience.
Today’s trade shows have evolved from those of years past. Rather than talking at attendees, show organizers are involving attendees in active, hands-on learning and experiences that engage them and build an emotional connection to the show, creating new industry advocates with every event. In fact, roughly 70 percent of B2B marketers have stated that experiential and event marketing are their top strategies for creating a memorable brand experience with their target audience—especially knowing that millennials crave experiences over “things” and that consumers are more likely to make purchases based on personal experiences or the word-of- mouth experience of family, friends or social media influencers.
So what does experiential or engagement marketing look like at a trade show? At SuperZoo—and WPA’s other major trade shows, Atlanta Pet Fair & Conference, Aquatic Experience and America’s Family Pet Expo—the experiential approach is evident through many innovative efforts to engage our audience of pet professionals in active and interactive learning and networking. In fact, WPA has established a reputation for implementing fresh ideas to engage audiences and build new relationships with attendees. The 2018 show will be no different, thanks to a host of new elements designed to immerse attendees in the experience of SuperZoo.
For example, in addition to longer-form education sessions, SuperZoo offers quick show floor pop-up talks designed to provide useful information in a short burst of time, with the added convenience of being where attendees are on the show floor. Tapping into consumers’ desire to see, touch and test products before purchase, we have added two new showcases—the Pet Tech Center and the Made in the USA Showcase—to appeal to tech and locally made trends as well as buyers’ tactile nature. In an effort to engage attendees in hands-on learning, SuperZoo will host aquatic demonstrations in the Critter Alley Lounge. And, finally, in one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve yet to offer, SuperZoo will feature a Dog Petting Lounge to not only inspire the “Awwww” factor, but to provide a respite for tired show attendees and support a local dog rescue that provides temporary boarding for pets of domestic violence survivors. It’s truly a win-win-win experience for all!
The value of SuperZoo and other experiential trade shows for independent retailers stretches beyond onsite learning to provide inspiration for business owners to implement a variety of experiential marketing tactics in their own retail stores—to engage loyal customers and attract new ones. A GPShopper study found that 86 percent of shoppers like “experience stores” where they can interact with products and also create a digitally-shareable moment. From offering hands-on product testing and “genius” service staff, similar to electronics stores, to hosting pop-up educational seminars or local pet expert meet-and- greets, in-store experiences can mean all the difference between making a sale or losing it to an online retailer.
These are just a few of the many ways trade shows can create an attendee journey that offers a complementary mix of old and new—blending traditional trade show learning with clever new ways to attract attention and build a memorable experience that leaves attendees eager to return. You simply cannot do that online; that kind of relationship building must be done in person. I hope you’ll join me at SuperZoo to experience it for yourself.