Listowel, Ont.-based Ideal Supply will hold a virtual trade show June 10 and 11.
The online event is being designed to replicate the feel and opportunities of a physical show, from “Reward Bucks” and special pricing, to technical training and interaction with vendors.
“We like to be leaders in the industries that we serve,” said marketing coordinator Peter Mackie. “Obviously we love our physical show but given the environment that we’re all living in these days, we had to do something a bit different to support our customers and still have a little fun along the way.”
It will all take place on a specially developed website, with landing pages that direct attendees to the reward program, videos, training, vendors, and other features.
“I’m sure other companies have done variations of this, but this is our creation. We built this from the ground up, to replicate the journey that attendees would have at a physical show,” said Mackie. “When you come to the landing page, the first thing you’ll see is the rewards plan, where you can create your wish list, just like you would when you come through the physical doors at our trade show.”
From there, you can follow your own path to browse new products, learn about vendor companies, watch instructional videos, or live training webinars.
A live-chat is being planned to allow attendees to ask vendors direct questions about the products and equipment they’re interested in.
“Obviously there won’t be free food and beverages,” said Mackie. “It’s too bad we can’t send those to you digitally.”
The company normally holds two spring trade shows – two weeks apart in Barrie, Ont., and Stratford, Ont. – which draw a total of about 3,000 people. This year’s events were cancelled in mid-March, due to concerns about spreading coronavirus.
“We started to make a contingency plan right away because the trade shows are a very big part of our marketing year,” he said. “As soon as we saw some confidence in the market, we set a date and let our vendors know.”
Mackie said the response from the industry has been “phenomenal.”
“Everybody who was signed up to be part of the physical show has signed up to do the virtual show,” he said.
Keeping to normal trade show schedule was deemed to be an important part of the plan.
“We still want to create that sense of urgency,” he explained. “We’re not going to run it for a couple of weeks. It is confined to two days just like our physical show would be. At the same time though we want to build in some flexibility. If you’re a mechanic and you’re pulling wrenches all day, you can still log in in the evening and see what we have to offer.
If the event goes well, Ideal Supply may incorporate elements of the virtual show into future physical shows.
“Maybe in the fall we could do a combination of a physical show with some of these online features,” Mackie said. “We wouldn’t want to move away from physical shows. There’s so much value in a live event. A trade show is a great time to strengthen industry relationship. But I wouldn’t rule out some online features to supplement a live show.”