The impact of visitor loyalty: consumer and trade exhibitions

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Any trade show or consumer exhibition past its first year has a visitor audience made up of new and previous visitors and it is critical for success to monitor these two groups. New attendees are vitally important because organisers do not have repeat visitors without them. It’s a statement of the obvious, but in developing event marketing and editorial content organisers must both sell their brand and experience, and a trade show’s business benefits to new visitors, while also providing previous visitors with reasons to ‘come back’. The importance of this can be seen in data from the Vivid Event Performance Indices (below). In the case of trade shows, we can see 43 per cent of visitors are new on average and 57 per cent attended previously. The index also shows that of those previous visitors, only around half were at the event the year before.Therefore, for the average trade show, only about 30 per cent of visitors attended the year before. On average, 45 per cent of visitors at consumer shows are attending for the first time, while 55 per cent have been previously. On average, only half the previous visitors were at the event the year before, meaning up to 70 per cent of visitors in any year were not at the event the previous year. In seeking to understand the behaviour of previous visitors, we defined a ‘loyalists’ category. A loyalist is as a visitor that has attended an event every year for three years (that is, the three most recent events). For consumer exhibitions, loyalists represent 23 per cent of the visitor base on average (below). The minimum we’ve recorded is 15 per cent of the visitor base, while the highest is 43 per cent. For trade shows, the position is less clear because there is a difference between a repeat visitor as a person and a repeat visitor from a company, but a similar picture applies. Graph 2 also illustrates one example from a successful peripatetic trade show where 37 per cent of the visitor base is loyalists. The same is true for other established trade shows.Why does this matter? Shows need to understand their most loyal customers well. The consumer event organiser that has 43 per cent loyalists, and the trade show organiser with 37 per cent loyalists, command strong positions. They know if they get the event right for loyalists, then nearly half their visitor audience is guaranteed. They can then focus on attracting new visitors and encouraging others to return. Our experience tells us loyal visitors engage more with event features and spend more with exhibitors both at-show and post-show. Loyalists are also more likely to promote the show for organisers (below) and as word-of-mouth is almost always the most important means of marketing communications for any trade show or consumer exhibition, loyalists are key visitors. Finally, it reassuring to know loyal visitors are the most likely to say they will return to the event. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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