The Future of the Trade Show Industry

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Alan Cross and Grant Furlane are co-hosts on TheSmartCity.Blog, a podcast that looks at how buildings, cities, and communities are becoming smarter, more efficient, and more connected. Earlier this year they sat down with kubik’s very own COO, Elliot Kohn, to discuss the evolution of trade shows during a pandemic, and how kubik has adapted to thrive despite the challenges of the past 19 months.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Trade Shows

Like many industries, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the trade show and experiential marketing industry hard. With sudden and widespread lockdowns sweeping the globe, the classic trade show model quickly disappeared as an option for companies looking to showcase their products in a unique and interactive manner. As public interaction quickly came to a halt, it became clear that the industry would need to adapt in order to survive.

That’s where kubik comes in. As an omni-channel experiential marketing agency adept at employing physical, digital, and hybrid platforms that build experiences and create connections with a wider audience, we are well-positioned to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances. We find solutions to help clients thrive, even with the challenges posed by the sudden pandemic.

A key to our success was closely monitoring the rapid progression of the virus and its effects on the industry, which allowed us to react quickly to the widespread pandemic and newfound regulations. Thanks to a nimble and adaptive team, kubik was able to effectively strategize, develop, and activate virtual product launches, demonstrations, and digital exhibits for newly formed virtual events.

Confronting Challenges

Despite our success in adapting to the sudden changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic, there are some products that simply aren’t successful in virtual events, for a variety of reasons.

Consider clients who create “O rings” – a mechanical gasket used to create a seal between two or more parts. Despite being a necessary product and garnering high success with in-person booths, the O ring severely struggles in a virtual booth setting due to its inherently physical nature and the desire for clients to see it first-hand, working in tandem with other components.

Another area which has struggled with the switch to an online-based trade show setup is the medical field, a result of extensive legal requirements. At classic trade shows it’s common for lawyers to scan booths before attendees arrive in order to ensure that the verbiage and legal requirements are all up to par. At a virtual event however, this becomes more difficult to achieve.

What’s Next for the Industry?

The pandemic has changed the world, prompting a ripple effect that will be felt for many years to come. So, what does it mean for the trade show industry?

Many in the industry assumed that certain demographics would be more hesitant to embrace virtual events, especially older adults who are used to having a physical interaction with a product prior to purchasing it. This assumption posed a challenge for companies who relied on in-person events. The pandemic has forced everyone out of their comfort zone, though, and we are now finding that virtual events, product launches and other consumer experiences are in fact being embraced by all generations, including baby boomers.

As in-person events continue to evolve, we can expect an augmented, virtual component from many companies looking to expand their reach to a wider audience. The drastic changes prompted by the pandemic have shown us that it’s possible to effectively and creatively build brand experiences that immerse consumers and audiences. Doing so gives brands a place to tell their story and create product awareness, ultimately building connections with consumers. We now know that it is possible to digitally reach all demographics, even those who were thought to be hesitant with virtual media.  This new reality presents an opportunity for companies to further enhance their brand experience.

The kubik team adapted and others have followed suit, as these predictions are being echoed across the industry. Just as we adapted to the suddenly virtual nature of marketing and commerce, so too will we adjust to the newfound post-pandemic reality. With extensive experience with in-person tactics and virtual strategy, we expect to see companies use a joint approach moving forward to maximize their reach and interact with potential customers regardless of their preferred shopping methods.


Contact kubik for your next product launch, in-person, or virtual event. We have the knowledge and expertise to provide a thoughtful strategy that’s sure to produce results whether it’s in-person, virtual, or a hybrid solution.

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