The War Between Brick and Mortar and eCommerce Retailers – Your Resource for Ideas on How to Enhance the Attendee Trade Show Experience

The War Between Brick and Mortar and eCommerce Retailers – Your Resource for Ideas on How to Enhance the Attendee Trade Show Experience

Enhance your attendees' experience at your show with these ideas from the retail industry and Amazon.

by Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Senior Research Director, CEIR

Retail Evolution

For organizers and exhibitors struggling to figure out how to integrate digital in a way that helps enhance the attendee experience and drive the bottom line, please, look to retail for ideas on how to ramp up your game! The pace of change in retail is tremendous, and the array of tools that make it easier than ever to shop is larger than ever.

The National Retail Federation Show that concluded recently in New York City highlights these innovations and major challenges to avoid, to help retailers, long-standing and new, evolve with peoples’ fast-changing shopping habits. This is not a game for the lighthearted. Retailers need to innovate or perish. And there are many opportunities to evolve with shopping behaviors.  There is too much to list here, though if you want to find key takeaways, go here.

Amazon yet again affirms the reality that in-person shopping has a place. Though the shopping experience is mutating, at least it is at its newest category of retail outlet, Amazon Go. This brick and mortar store is in addition to Amazon bookstores and Whole Foods. Amazon Go is an urban convenience food store. Check it out.

Use Digital to Enhance the Convenience of Attending Your Trade Show

In 2015, CEIR began to urge organizers and exhibitors alike to think about the Staples’ Easy Button when thinking about how to enhance the attendee experience through use of digital tools and techniques. The Digital Toolkit Study Series offers ideas and opportunities to do this at each stage of the attendee journey – pre-event, on-site and post-show. If you look at Amazon Go, it is all about taking the hassle out of shopping, it is all about convenience, the easy button.

Most recently, the need for digital elements to enhance attendee engagement is again identified in the Attendee Engagement Study series. Digital tactics are highly effectively in helping attendees sign up, plan, identify exhibitors to visit, engage with and collect exhibitor product information, schedule appointments and so many other ways that ultimately reduce the hassle of attending and ultimately achieving more goals for those taking advantage of these resources. End result? A more valuable attendee experience. Which of course, can translate to attendee retention and sales conversions for exhibitors.

The days of ignoring the fact that most attendees are digitally engaged, and most bring a digital device with them are over. If they are not, they should be. So many new digital mechanisms are mainstreaming, e.g. AI (Siri, Alexa, etc.) that a contingent of consumers are integrating into their everyday shopping behaviors. These new shopping tactics will find their way to the trade show floor. Organizers and exhibitors that take heed and experiment with how to leverage these new practices into their events stand poised to evolve and win the amazing evolution we have the privilege of experiencing.

Here is a suggestion for trade show organizers and exhibitors to consider. At your next strategic planning or brainstorming session, select several examples you find from the Retail Federation Big Show website and/or Amazon brick and mortar stores, and ask your team:

  • What about these examples are similar to what we do at our trade show/in our exhibit booth?
  • What about these examples are different than what we do at our trade show/in our exhibit booth?
  • Is there a way that this example can be applied to our trade show/exhibit booth? If so, how? If not, why not?

Nancy Drapeau, PRC, is Senior Research Director of CEIR. Opinions are her own. You can reach her at

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