Although the COVID-19 crisis has affected the way businesses use exhibition marketing, that doesn’t mean businesses were left without options. Thanks to technology, exhibition experiences can be successfully transposed into the online world, and you can achieve the benefits of a physical trade show, perhaps even more, by migrating your booth into a virtual format. However, as every exhibitor knows, drawing and maintaining the audience’s attention isn’t easy – not in a brick-and-mortar venue, and not online either.
If you want to make an impact and be remembered, you have to take all the great features that made your physical booth effective, and successfully migrate them into a digital format. But what format is the right for your business, and how can you make sure your booth doesn’t get ignored?
Virtual booths or virtual events – which one is better?
After the first trade shows were cancelled in Q1 of 2020, virtual events were the initial response to the cancellations. In every way they could, trade show organizers tried to replicate their event as much as possible, and create an exact mirror of it online.
However, as we soon discovered after the first virtual events, this format wasn’t exactly effective or worth the money for exhibitors. If a physical trade show is exciting and bustling with energy, virtual events didn’t have the same charm. For audiences, the user experience often left much to be desired, and exhibitors found that the layout suggested by organizers didn’t correspond to their brand identity.
But there’s also an alternative to virtual events, one that offers a higher return on investment and a better user experience: virtual booths. These booths can be customized according to the exhibitor’s requirements; this means they can include everything from basic features such as 3D tours and product displays to more advanced ones, such as webinars and live chat integration. Virtual booths aren’t part of events, but you can host them on your website or on a third-party website, and you can keep them up for however long you see fit, and use them whenever you want to draw attention to your products and services in a creative way.
In terms of ROI and user experience, virtual booths are the safest choice. If you want to successfully transform the real-world exhibition environment, they allow the most flexibility. But, if you know for sure that participating in a certain virtual event is the right call for your business, you can take part in it, and in addition to that, you can also have a virtual booth on the side. This strategy is unbeatable and gives you the best of both worlds.
Good graphics are essential
When it comes to transferring the hustle and bustle of a trade show into digital format, exhibitors wonder what innovative features they should include to wow audiences and make exploring the booth worth their time. But, before getting to all those fancy features, first you have to make sure that the booth itself lives up to the highest quality standards in terms of graphics and user experience.
Remember that users explore virtual booths from their computers, which means that they will be much more distracted compared to when they’re visiting a physical trade show. Plus, if they don’t like what they see, they can close the tab at any time.
With that in mind, if you want to make the most out of your booth, you need to ensure that:
- The graphics look as good as possible and that they’re preferably realistic. The closer the objects are to real life, the better. In addition to 3D models of people and objects, you might also want to add realistic panoramas. For example, your virtual booth can have a window or balcony from where the visitor can see the skyline of the city where the booth should be. Let’s say that if your company is based in Paris, you can have a charming 360 view with the Eiffel Tower. Apart from wowing visitors, this also adds a bit of local flavor – you can remind visitors where you’re from and give them, at least for a bit, the illusion of attending a physical trade show.
- The user experience should be seamless and smooth. Before the booth goes live, make sure you test it for bugs (for example, make sure all the product specs sheets load and all the buttons work), and that a non-experienced user can find their way around the booth. To be extra safe, you can add a map of the booth or a small desk where the visitor can go for help. Not all people who will visit your virtual booth are tech savvy, so think of their experience too. And don’t forget that the booth should work perfectly on all devices – desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
Make your booth engaging
Once you’ve made sure that your booth looks amazing and that exploring it feels like second nature, it’s time to sprinkle a bit of magic into it. We’re talking about those extra features that keep audiences interested and that set you apart from competitors.
In real life, the average attention span is between 10 and 20 minutes, but online, the attention span drops to a staggering eight seconds, simply because Internet users are presented with an abundance of information. Your virtual booth needs to stand out from the noise and keep the guest entertained even when they receive one notification after another.
Here are three ideas you can’t go wrong with:
- Live chat. This enables visitors to get in touch with your team in case they need help. To reduce waiting time, you can implement several live chat options, depending on the visitor’s time zone.
- Webinars. Webinars are convenient not only for attendees, but for businesses too, because they’re much cheaper to organize compared to a physical event. Webinars are one of the best ways of generating high-quality leads and establishing yourself as a thought leader.
- Games. When appropriate, gamification can make your business look more human and create a playful personality. What’s more, games keep visitors engaged, especially when they have prizes.