Simon Clayton, chief ideas officer at RefTech on the customer journey and website experiences.
For around 362 days of the year, the only presence that an exhibition has is their website. So this means they must get it right? Sadly not.
I attended a well-known education exhibition a few weeks ago and their website was appalling for a first time visitor. It was inconsistent too – sometimes unbelievably slow and other times not so bad but page load time is critical to your user’s experience. Amazon conducted research that showed that for every one tenth of a second a page took to load, they lost sales.
I decided to check out the website before I attended in order to have a look at the exhibitor list, see who I wanted to meet, check out the education sessions and plan my day: Pretty classic visitor behaviour – especially as around 60 per cent of visitors to exhibitions are new each year (according to FaceTime research).
The exhibitor list was long and looked very pretty – a vast array of logos (that sometimes took an age to load) but I had no idea what any of the companies actually did. Ah, I realised that I had to click on each logo to read their blurb. If I had clicked on each of them in turn it would have taken me about two days to read about every exhibitor. They weren’t even divided into categories to help me narrow it down, and there wasn’t a way to review them in list form either. While I’m sure that some visitors may have known the companies from their logos, I didn’t and as a school governor I was actually a fairly typical visitor looking to learn and discover new companies at the show.
So I’m 10 minutes and many, many clicks in and I still don’t really have a clue about who I’m going to see. I decided to check out the seminar sessions. Again, I was greeted with a pretty row of photographs of the speakers – telling me their name but not giving anything useful away. I didn’t care who was speaking, I just wanted to know what they would be discussing and if it was relevant to me. But this information was yet another click away, and with each page taking half a minute to load, I would have lost the will to live.
I’m talking about one website and my experience of it, but unfortunately this is not a lone occurrence. As part of my work, I review a lot of exhibition websites and many of them simply feel that they aren’t actually designed – that they have just happened almost as an afterthought. Registration is always channelled to the website, so your potential visitors are getting a feel for your show before they even register. And your website may be putting people off visiting your show or at best – not encouraging them to make the most of your event.
Think about the customer journey, and plan your site around it. Walk a mile in your visitor’s shoes and visit the site as a (novice) visitor would. You may also like to consider your other clients too – and look at the exhibitor user experience because they’re often poor as well. Don’t assume anything, but if you do, assume that they don’t know your event or the industry too well and that your site is there to help them find their way.