“It brings the product to life. It helps close sales, it helps close bookings; it’s a very big differentiator when you go to a big show.” // Leroy Bridges, Media and Interactive Director at Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater

You’re walking down an endless alley of trade show booths, each displaying an array of products and pamphlets. The commercial lighting is starting to give you a headache, and the noise within the convention space is overwhelming. You can’t even remember what the last booth was promoting. You see an oasis: a jar of free candy, which might as well have a “Take at Your Own Risk” sign hanging from it. Still you know a little sugar will put that step back into your aching feet, so you make the reach. Instantly, there’s a badge scanner in your face asking you to give up your contact details in exchange for a free pen, translation, an inbox inundated with product reviews and coupons in which you likely won’t be able to find an unsubscribe button. A feeling of impending doom looms over you. You try to look up to identify which booth you’re standing in but the brand name is unfamiliar, and you’re struggling to make sense of what they do by the hodgepodge of messaging around you.

As you pivot to make your grand escape, you ask yourself, “Is this what trade shows are really made of?”

We work with our clients to ensure no attendee has this reaction to their trade show booth. Instead, we create brand-relevant engagements to drive better brand-to-consumer connections.

Imagine instead, you walk into a trade show booth and are welcomed into a comfortable chair and fitted with a VR headset. (Sitting for three minutes sounds good after walking around all day, anyway.) You are immersed into a different place, away from the busy trade show floor.

You are quickly engaged in a scenario where you are experiencing a new product, understanding its value in a first-person simulation. You may even be able to interact with it or make selections that vary the outcome of your virtual experience. Wouldn’t that be memorable? Wouldn’t that be persuasive?

virtual reality at a trade show

There’s a lot of buzz around virtual reality. And for good reason. Here, VP National Accounts Shari Maher plays virtual beer pong at a recent trade show.

How To Use Virtual Reality at Trade Shows

We recently posted an article about virtual reality for travel brands, which makes a whole lotta sense, especially when 74% of us are interested in travel and adventure VR use cases and 59% of us show the greatest interest in VR ads from travel or adventure brands. But, trade shows are another great location to incorporate VR.

B2B brands can use virtual reality to:

  • give product demos
  • demonstrate the benefits of a particular service in a first-person simulation
  • give an off-site tour of a facility (or other destination)
  • introduce staff or service crew not in attendance
  • provide views of products in real-life settings
  • offer a visualization of the inner-workings of a product or process that is often not visible to the eye

A popular type of VR application is a ‘try before you buy’ offer, putting products that may be harder to showcase at a trade show in the hands of decision makers, at the same time as they’re being engaged by in-person brand representatives. When incorporated properly, VR is an immersive tool that complements the messaging of the booth and booth personnel. It helps to reinforce the brand positioning by engaging multiple senses of the booth visitor.

GE uses VR to tour their sub-sea factory, part of a deep sea research center. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim used it at a cardiology summit to animate what it is like to be a healing agent within the bloodstream, which drew long lines at their booth. Heavy equipment operators use VR to give buyers a test spin on their excavators or front loaders. And Wessels transports booth visitors to their warehouse to see products too large to bring to the trade show floor.

The emotional reactions trigger a lasting memory. This can be the reason a trade show attendee remembers your booth, your brand over the other thousands of exhibitors.

Why Trade Show Engagements Matter

You’ve made the decision that this show is a good sales opportunity for you, so maximize your investment and results with engagements that matter. These statistics support the advantage trade shows offer:

  • 81% of trade show attendees have buying power (Center for Exhibition Industry Research)
  • 92% of trade show attendees come to see what’s new (Center for Exhibition Industry Research)
  • 51% of trade show attendees plan to buy exhibited products or services (Statista)
  • 83% of exhibitors agreed that building and expanding brand awareness is a high-priority objective for attending trade shows (Event Marketing Institute)
  • The top 3 sales-related objectives at trade shows are related to relationship management and engagement (Center for Exhibition Industry Research)

Every marketer considers what it is like to be in their audience’s shoes. If you’re struggling to find ways to help your buyer visualize the benefits, demonstrate the product or understand what your brand stands for, a virtual reality experience just may help you bridge those connections.

Virtual Reality By the Numbers

As reported by AdWeek, Greenlight VR recently released results from a study about the perception of virtual reality in today’s market.

  • 71% of us feel VR makes a brand seem ‘forward-thinking and modern’
  • 53% say they’d be more likely to purchase from a brand that uses VR than from one that doesn’t
  • 91% of non-users reported feeling positive feelings after watching an informational video about VR
  • 67% are interested in VR for live events and 59% are interested in VR for meetings
  • 62% agree they’d feel engaged with a brand that sponsors a VR experience
  • 52% would like to be associated with a brand that uses VR

Brands who are investing in virtual reality probably aren’t doing it for a one-off campaign. That’s why we recommend wrapping your entire trade show marketing strategy for the year around this engagement model. VR produces amazing content that can be leveraged across multiple channels and for varying applications. We’re confident that once you have a virtual reality mindset, you’ll want as many people as possible to engage with your brand in this way.

If you’re ready to create a virtual existence, please contact us. We also recommend our trade show exhibitor guide; just click the button below!