Running a Successful Event Amidst The E-commerce Boom

With the massive popularity of e-commerce sites and online marketing, it’s no surprise that trade shows are facing stiffer competition for time and mind share among professionals and decision makers across multiple sectors. 

But in key industries like pets and pet services, the trade show remains strong. Last year’s Global Pet Expo, a premier industry event, drew in approximately 1,087 exhibitors and 3,218 trade show booths. Total buyer attendance was pegged at 6,170 attendees coming from more than 70 countries, a slight increase from the 5,500 total buyers in 2014

The challenge is to show your attendees and exhibitors the value of your trade show, highlighting opportunities such as show floor sales, promotions, networking with like-mind professionals, and education through engaging seminars among many others.

Here are 5 techniques to make your next trade show stand out in an increasingly digital world.

1. Focus on Smart Event Commerce

Trade shows in the pet industry can be a great magnet for retailers to come in and sell their products and services, or at the very least, offer previews to attendees in the hopes of driving them to make in-store purchases. Trade shows typically offer the best ROI to companies looking for new customers, or suppliers who want to condense much of their sales efforts into an event.

You can help retailers generate sales by making it easy to track and retrieve leads. One solution is to create a lead retrieval process by providing portable scanners or card readers, which can scan buyer/supplier information and upload it to a CRM system. 

An even better option is to use a commerce system that lets attendees place orders directly with exhibitors. This allows exhibitors to get more value for their money, generating actual sales instead of just leads. 

2. Offer Show Day Discounts

Another way to attract buyers is to encourage exhibitors to offer exclusive show day offers and other special promotions. As with any marketing effort, you need to offer attendees an incentive to visit your trade show—the best way to do that is if organizers and exhibitors can agree to sweeten the pot together.

Organizers and exhibitors can agree to sweeten the pot together.

It can be something as simple as offering free pet food samples, free testers for grooming products, coupons for grooming and other pet services, and limited-time offers with suppliers. P3, an annual trade show in Chicago, uses this strategy effectively, with exhibitors and retailers offering giveaways, a buyer rewards program, and even cash. Many of our events offer a blanket discount for all transactions placed at the event, which exhibitors having the choice of adding their own discounts.

3. Emphasize Human Connection

Besides the obvious commercial aspect of trade shows in the pet industry, these events also offer countless opportunities for networking and exchanging information. While attendees are always eager to make new connections, when left alone, they will most likely spend their time talking to a few people they already know. 

Trade show organizers can make their events more satisfying by creating an environment and offering tools to encourage genuine interaction between strangers. For example, you can offer matchmaking tools to jumpstart networking between attendees and other attendees, as well as attendees and buyers with similar interests and needs. 

You can push this even further by incentivizing new connections through a drawing based on new people whom attendees have already met. In any case, whatever matchmaking solution you use, make sure it actually helps in creating human connections, instead of just getting in the way, as many clunky applications are wont to do. 

4. Highlight the Educational Value of Your Event

One of the biggest reasons pet trade shows continue to be popular is because they can be great resources for industry news, best practices, and information about new products and services. This is especially true if you go as far as offering training or certifications to really drive up your event value. 

Offering training or certifications can really drive up your event value.

SuperZoo (presented by the World Pet Association) is one such pet trade show with a special focus on industry education, claiming to have twice the number of education-centered events compared other trade shows. Held annually in Las Vegas, SuperZoo offers a wide range of educational activities, which include grooming workshops and a host of other seminars. 

If your trade show has similar activities, highlight these when marketing your event. You could also track year-over-year attendance and feedback of your event seminars to get a good idea of your most successful content and activities. 

5. Capture and Use Event Data

As mentioned earlier, lead retrieval tools are an immense help to exhibitors looking to generate sales leads at your event. In the old days, keeping and retrieving leads were done with sheets of paper and business cards, but thanks to lead tools like card readers and apps, keeping a record of your event’s exhibitors and attendees has never been easier. And the fact that you can keep your lead information on a CRM like Salesforce makes sharing your captured information more convenient than ever. 

Crucial KPIs to capture and track include: 
•    On-floor sales
•    Leads captured
•    Seminar attendance
•    Floor heat mapping
•    Participant feedback


These 5 techniques should help you make your trade show relevant and exciting, adding value a unique kind of value and experience that attendees and exhibitors can’t get online. If you focus on doing this, you can generate enough interest for your trade show to have a great return on your investment.

Written by Tabitha Jean Naylor

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