A summary of our research
For every 100 valuable visitor-exhibitor conversations that take place at exhibitions, another 65 fail to take place because of inefficiencies.
Around 30% of that total is due to poor navigation.
That means the value of a typical exhibition would be 20% higher if visitors had no problem finding everything they were looking for.
The cost of being lost
Crowd Connected works in multiple sectors, not just exhibitions. We’re increasingly providing solutions for healthcare, where, it turns out, poor wayfinding is costing billions of dollars every year.
There’s solid evidence for this. There has been quite a bit of research into just how much lost patients cost – in terms of missed appointments and wasted staff time giving directions.
And this set us thinking. Could we work out the cost to the exhibition industry when visitors can’t find what they’re looking for?
After a simple survey and a little analysis, we have an answer. And the numbers are even more impactful than I’d ever imagined they would be.
The economics of exhibitions
The value of an exhibition all arises in the moment when a visitor and an exhibitor have a valuable conversation. Those moments are why both the exhibitor and visitor get value from attending. Without them, the event has no value.
Some exhibitions might charge exhibitors. Some might charge visitors. Some might charge both. Whatever the business model, the exhibition organiser is attempting to extract some of that value that arises when visitor meets exhibitor.
If inefficiencies or friction prevent any of those conversations, they’re reducing the value of the event.
That’s exactly what we set out to measure - how much value is escaping because there were valuable visitor-exhibitor conversations that could have taken place, but didn’t.
Two key questions
In our survey for exhibition-goers, we looked to answer two central questions. How many valuable conversations did visitors have with exhibitors? That’s the baseline – it captures how many ‘value creation moments’ are taking place.
And then we looked at how many intended conversations failed to happen. They’re the ‘value creation moments’ that are escaping because of some inefficiency. And they’re bad for everyone – the exhibition, the exhibitors, and the visitors.
The results of this are simple, but astounding. For every 100 valuable conversations that happen, another 65 are failing to take place.
Look at that another way. If the inefficiencies were fixed, and if every visitor spoke to every exhibitor that they intended to, the value of a typical exhibition would increase by 65%.
Analysing the causes
We started this research believing that poor navigation might be behind some of this value loss. But it’s clearly not the only cause. So we also wanted to estimate the extent to which poor navigation is responsible.
Our survey considered a number of possible factors, including not being able to find exhibitors, running out of time, and exhibitors being too busy. It also gave respondents the opportunity to add additional factors.
So what percentage of that 65% value gap is down to poor navigation? Our best estimate is 30%.
The limited questions we asked mean there is more uncertainty here than for our other findings. The percentage contribution of wayfinding is 30% +/- 20%. In other words the true value is between 10% at the very lowest, and 50% at the highest. We’d love to see some more detailed research conducted, and we’re starting to talk to academics and trade bodies who might want to lead a future project.
What this means is that better wayfinding alone would increase the value of a typical exhibition by 20%. (30% of 65% is just under 20%.)
That’s the startling conclusion we came to. Despite the uncertainty, these are much, much more impactful numbers than we ever expected.
The true impact is even greater
Of course, it’s not just wayfinding that can be improved. Other factors can be addressed too. Visitors could be helped to make better use of their time. Exhibitors could be coached so that they’re less likely to be too busy to speak to promising leads.
Even more significantly, our survey only looked at the problem of intended conversations not taking place. There are also visitors who leave an exhibition unaware of the presence of an exhibitor, with whom they could and would have had a valuable conversation if only they’d discovered them.
Discovery is yet another issue that can be addressed. So the potential missed revenue opportunity could be considerably higher than 65%.
And finally – not all the value occurs when a visitor meets an exhibitor. What about meetings with other visitors, or attending content? If visitors are missing potentially interesting content, or catch-ups with colleagues, then even more value is escaping because they didn’t discover everything on offer, and find it quickly.
Where do we go from here?
- Focus on visitor-exhibitor conversations as value creation moments that should be maximised. Include questions in post-event surveys about the number of conversations that took place, and potential ones that didn’t take place. Track these metrics as KPIs.
- Start with quick wins. Implement digital navigation and wayfinding so visitors find every exhibitor they look for and waste less time getting lost.
- Use smartphone apps to deliver recommendations that aid the discovery of interesting stands or sessions.
- Add features to mobile apps like schedule planning, favourite stands, ‘where next’ features, and notifications to leave now to get to your meeting or content on time. They all help visitors make the best use of available time.
- Measure how effectively exhibitors convert passing footfall into engaged visitors. If they’re busy, or invisible, they’re part of the problem and need to be coached.