ccording to Red Bank, NJ-based Exhibit Surveys Inc., the exhibition industry saw meaningful upticks in 2012, which is a welcome change considering the statistical stagnation experienced in 2011, when the industry held steady but failed to demonstrate any noticeable growth. Each year, the exhibit- and event-research firm polls attendees from more than 30 U.S. trade shows to determine the effectiveness of exhibit marketing and identify industry benchmarks. The company's 2012 Trade Show Trends report includes valuable information about exhibit performance, show-floor traffic, and attendees – their buying power, purchase plans, and attendance habits.
Traffic density, the average number of attendees per square foot of exhibition space, was up across the board in 2012. When that metric dropped during the Great Recession, some theorized that it created a concentrated audience of more qualified attendees. They believed the tire kickers were staying home, but the real buyers were still making the trip to their industries' respective shows. But as traffic density is inching back up again, audience quality appears to be improving right along with it.
The survey determined that 84 percent of trade show attendees have the power to recommend, specify, and/or make final purchasing decisions. Perhaps more importantly, 49 percent came to 2012 shows with real purchasing intent. While those statistics represent just 3- and 2-percent increases respectively, they compare favorably to long-term industry averages, meaning we may have finally returned to some semblance of business as usual. In fact, 2012's all-show average for Net Buying Influence tied the 10-year high not seen since 2006.
Additionally, the 2012 report determined that 38 percent of attendees, on average, are first timers, and 45 percent of audience members at any given trade show attend no other exhibitions in their respective industries. Moreover, less than three out of 10 attendees can be considered "regulars" at a typical show, meaning they've walked the aisles at three or more of the past four events. That translates into a vital show-floor marketplace full of new buyers that exhibitors wouldn't otherwise interact with if they had not chosen to participate.
Finally, 32 percent of attendees reported that their purchase intentions were more favorable after visiting companies' exhibits on the show floor. Considering that most exhibitors are looking to inch attendees toward a purchase, this metric proves that trade shows have the potential to deliver measurable bottom-line results companies are after.
The following information represents some of the highlights from this year's report, along with a listing of last year's top trade shows.E