Virtual Trade Booths: 5 Insights from an Early Adopter

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly halted most press events, tradeshows, customer events and news conferences many communicators rely upon to share news, one of Bianchi PR’s clients took a bold step in the virtual revolution.

Global automotive supplier Freudenberg Sealing Technologies developed a virtual event platform to help it tackle its extensive calendar of industry and customer events.

According to Freudenberg’s communication team, this customizable virtual event space has the same look and function of a traditional event booth, but has the flexibility to be easily and cost effectively customized for various event types, themes and formats.

Sylca Kleiner

“We can adapt this virtual space precisely to the needs of each user. There are almost no limits to the technical possibilities,” Freudenberg Sealing Technologies Communication Manager Sylca Kleiner notes. “Another advantage is that – in contrast to onsite trade fairs – we can cover several trade fairs or topics at the same time. You can picture this by visualizing numerous other meeting rooms beyond the virtual lobby that we can open up as needed.”

According to Kleiner, a visitor enters a virtual lobby, which is designed based on Freudenberg’s familiar trade fair look. It contains large-scale images, video screens and colorfully lit tables. On a display board, the guest can see key topics, which can be a mix of downloadable product information, videos and 3D models.

Other possibilities for the virtual platform include interactive formats, such as virtual presentations, conferences, tech days or any other form of exchanges with customers and business partners.

Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer, Senior Vice President Corporate Communications, sees the virtual exhibitor space as a tool that can be utilized to increase sales and attract new customers.

“We offer the sales department a cutting-edge and high-quality presence. In this virtual space, our colleagues can meet customers and interested parties without being physically close to them. This is in line with our travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic and will also greatly reduce travel costs in the long run.”

For communication professionals interested in exploring a virtual trade booth for their company, Kleiner and Scheuer offered the following insight:

  • Take the time to evaluate the pros/cons of using an outside vendor for the virtual booth development versus using your company’s own existing tools to develop. The best solution depends on your company’s unique needs and existing capabilities. For Freudenberg, which recently completely a significant digitalization effort, hosting the platform internally made the most sense.
  • Focus on the customer journey. What do you want customers to see? How do you want them to feel? How do you want to engage them? For Freudenberg, a sophisticated technical organization, a key benefit of the virtual space is the ability for its engineers to demonstrate complex product designs. They can rotate the product images to show different angles or zoom in or out to demonstrate a key feature. Then, with the click of a button, you can show the product in its application.
  • Booth training and preparation needs to adapt, but not by much. The Freudenberg team noticed that the training process for those experts “working” the booth doesn’t differ as much as initially expected. The same goes for booth preparation in advance of the event. They were able to utilize existing processes, guidelines, eLearning and training materials, but just with a digital focus. To help with the transition to the virtual environment, Freudenberg created a guide to explain how much time and what was expected from the sales team to prepare a virtual event. The guide also included virtual meeting etiquette as meeting online differs a bit from in-person meetings.
  • The new capabilities that result from pursuing digital system solutions may resolve a long-standing issue for sales reps: how to centralize and access disparate forms of information that are collected about customers. For Freudenberg, this was a key benefit, but one that comes with a learning curve. According to Freudenberg communication’s team, this is a new way to sell and the company’s salesforce needs to understand the process and all of the new options it can offer.
  • In the future, customized content will be more important than square-feet of trade booth space. Get creative! The best benefit of developing a virtual platform is its many capabilities and the flexibility for all kinds of events and uses. This could offer huge potential for communication pros looking to host media events, to conduct smaller, more targeted product launches or to introduce a new executive. The possibilities are endless … and, just as important, more cost effective and usually more convenient than live events.

Freudenberg currently has eight requests for virtual event preparation. Further, according to Kleiner, some segment directors are considering creating a specific room to use throughout the whole year to invite customers and present updated information about different products and applications.

“Facing a persistent unsecure future in regard of in-person events and live meetings I assume requests will increase for 2021,” Kleiner believes.

Have a tip to share? Post it in the comments section to help progress the virtual trade booth evolution!

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