According to a letter from the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry written to the European Commission in March, more than 500 trade shows have been canceled or postponed since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, causing estimated losses of $11.1 billion in Europe and $14.6 billion in Asia/Pacific. With no clear idea of when things can go back to normal, businesses are facing an existential crisis. If multinational organizations can survive without attending trade shows for one season, small to medium-sized companies were left without an important marketing platform.
But if the Coronavirus outbreak has proven something, it’s that there’s a digital equivalent for almost everything and that even in times of crisis technology can help you pivot and continue your road to success. All over the world, events are starting to go digital and in a matter of weeks virtual booths have turned from a “nice to have” feature to one that can completely change how the audience sees you.
At first, transferring the experience of a real-world trade show booth into digital format may seem impossible, but technology has come a long way. Digital experiences are more immersive than ever before and, thanks to virtual booths, you can maintain engagement and visibility even if you’re not interacting face to face.
What are virtual booths?
Virtual booths, or virtual stands, are the digital equivalent of your company’s booth during a trade show. They are interactive panorama tours that allow your online visitors to explore your products from the comfort of their own home or office.
Virtual booths can easily be uploaded to your website or social media and by adding interactive 3D features you can offer visitors immersive experiences that add value.
How can virtual booths help your business?
Virtual booths are a relatively new phenomenon and you may be tempted to think that their advantages apply only to the recent business landscape. But while it may be true that virtual booths can help you overcome the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, they can actually serve your business beyond that too.
During the pandemic, many businesses have put a halt to marketing efforts. Apart from trade shows getting canceled, they also stopped communicating with clients on social media and stopped all promotional efforts because of budget constraints. This approach might seem sensible in the short term, but when things get back to normal, those few months of radio silence can cost you. With virtual booths, you show your customers that you’re still there. That, even in a world of canceled exhibitions, you found a way to be present, adapt, and interact with them.
Virtual booths boost your exposure and, whether you choose to showcase them on your website or social media, they’ll help you stand out and leverage business opportunities, even in a sensitive time.
Virtual booths aren’t a simple presentation of your products and services. They feature a complex 3D-panoramic environment with many interactive and visual options that allow users to have a closer look at what you do in a way that mimics the real experience as much as possible.
At first, visitors see a virtual booth with stands, banners, and showcased products. Then, through interactive features, they can click on each element to learn more about each different product, watch 360 videos of them, read detailed product descriptions, and so on. It’s even possible to watch a webinar about a specific product or have immerse experiences that drive value.
Besides, studies show that 30% of people are more likely to engage with a person in a virtual booth, which means you can access a wider pool of qualified leads who prefer digital experiences.
Lead generation and conversion
For businesses, generating and converting leads remain a top priority, even if the landscape might not seem that favorable. Apart from social media and email marketing, virtual booths stand out as a modern, hybrid solution that combines the immersion of real-world trade shows with the convenience of digital solutions.
Virtual stands offer a user-friendly, lead-nurturing environment because virtual stands don’t just present your products – they allow users to interact with them, have their questions answered, and learn how the products work.
By going even further and including features such as live chat and shoppable buttons, you increase the chances of expanding the customer journey beyond the booth, so that visitors end up becoming paying customers soon after interacting with the booth.
Needless to say, every visitor who checks out your virtual booth becomes a lead you can later reach out to by email with an e-book or personalized offer.
For all their benefits, real-world trade shows can be expensive. They require thousands in travel, accommodation, company materials, and logistics, which may not always be feasible, especially for SMEs who aren’t sure how many people would attend anyway.
While some trade shows are still worth going to thanks to their networking opportunities, virtual booths and digital trade shows are a more affordable alternative. This way, you can continue to attend a couple of major exhibitions every year, and reap the benefits of virtual booths the rest of the time.
When can you use virtual booths?
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in virtual booths, so the first application that comes to mind is an alternative to canceled trade shows. Thanks to virtual booths, you can still be present and highlight your main services, but there are many other occasions where virtual stands can be useful.
For example, if you’re not sure about the visitor numbers to your exhibit booth or you’re having budget constraints, virtual booths can be a cost-effective alternative. Or, if you’re unable to get to an international exhibit for logistics reasons, you can always have these videos as a backup.
All in all, virtual booths are an excellent way to expand your trade show options. You can explore new markets and, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, they can help you reach out to an international customer base.