The outdoor industry faced many challenges brought on by Covid-19 and has emerged largely successful on the other side. Brands and retailers adjusted to virtual events, worked with digital sales tools, and overcame a variety of impactful issues. Through it all, we’ve been curious about what impact the last few years would have on industry trade shows. How important will they be? Will they maintain the same format? Will people attend?
Now that in-person business is happening again, we are starting to see how trade shows have changed.
We sat down with Nate Clark, National Sales Manager at Rumpl, and Patrick O’Neil, Rumpl’s Vice President of Revenue, to discuss the relevance of trade shows, talk about their value, and review how Envoy B2B helps to make them a more successful experience.
Are trade shows still relevant?
Yes, trade shows are 100% relevant. However, some of them might look a little different moving forward.
The big shows like Outdoor Retailer (OR) have shifted to being more of a marketing show for brands. These national shows have become an opportunity to showcase to the press, a chance for brands to generate interest, and a moment for retailers to find a few fresh lines to carry. They’re good marketing shows, but very few orders are getting written.
O’Neil sums it up nicely, “We’re making a brand statement at Outdoor Retailer. Our presence there is set up for PR, we’re not setting up for sales. We hardly even have a table for writing orders. There’s a different intent entering that show for us than maybe how other people approach it. Then you look at Grassroots Outdoor Alliance or WWSRA. Those are business shows. You’re there to do business.”
It’s those regional shows where retailers go to get work done. “I generally operate under the assumption that reps are going to go where the revenue is coming from.” says Clark. “We had two rep agencies at OR, and the retailers just weren’t there for our reps to be doing business. So yes, we’re seeing a movement towards more local shows from the retail side of things.”
Buyers want to show up, write as many orders as they can, and head home. For them it’s all about efficiency. And the in-person experience available at these regional shows helps make that happen. Virtual experiences or the big national shows just can’t match what happens at the regional level.
“We’ve all proven we can do the business digitally. We did that for two years, and we did it very, very well. We formed a lot of relationships. But, that in-person experience is more important now than it was before Covid.” Clark says. “Because now that we’ve figured out digital, we know that it is more efficient for the retailer to do that in person. So those in person interactions highlight the importance of trade shows, but for the retailers it’s really happening at the regional shows.”
Envoy B2B improves the experience
With the pressure of staff shortages and shipping delays, retailers need trade shows to be productive. Envoy B2B facilitates that experience so retailers can get in, get out, and get back to the store.
“We had a couple of buyers that couldn’t make it to our meetings because no one else was able to close their shop at night. It’s really hard for buyers to get away from their stores.” says O’Neil. “Retailers want to write orders, then get back to running their shop because there might be one other person there. The smaller regional shows like GOA are about doing business, and Envoy B2B allows efficiency in that process for both us, and our accounts. It reduces the friction for retailers that are under pressure.”
Brands use Envoy B2B to head into meetings prepped and ready for their retailers. “We’ll go into meetings ready with a pre-set assortment because we’ve done our homework.” Clark explains. “A lot of times we don’t have sell-through data for specialty accounts, but Envoy B2B allows us to go into those meetings prepared with an assortment, and then we can have a back and forth as we put together a solid order.”
Clark further explained how they use Envoy B2B at trade shows to drive efficiency and serve their retailer’s needs. “We will actually pull up Envoy B2B, write an order right there, and connect the dots for accounts on the spot. It’s a really efficient way to get that order written, because we all know that once the retailer goes back home that ‘retail happens.’ So Envoy B2B is a really effective tool to be able to facilitate that efficiency for retailers, and ensure the orders are written and placed for us.”
Different shows, different intents
Clearly, the trade show isn’t dead. In fact, it’s more important than ever. Clark elaborates, saying “That in-person experience is more important now than it was before Covid. Especially for those more business driven trade shows, because retailers don’t have the time to spend on more time consuming digital experiences. It sounds contradictory, but it’s not. If retailers can write all their orders for a season in 24-48 hours, that’s huge. And that just isn’t feasible with any other experience.”
As a brand, knowing your intent will determine what trade shows hold value for you. If you’re looking to attract interest and connect with your peers to grow brand-to-brand relationships, the big shows like OR are the place to be. If you want to go where the retailers are, write orders, and build the next season, you’ll want to prioritize being at the smaller, regional shows where business is getting done.
“We’re using fewer line sheets than before. Everyone has their laptop out and logs into Envoy B2B.” explained Clark. “Let’s look at the line, what do you like, add it, get to the minimum order value, and submit. Done! We actively use Envoy B2B live at those smaller shows where the intent is to do business.”