Digital exhibition? Go a step further.


28 July 2020

An opinion piece by Morten Schmelzer.

Due to the COVID19 situation, barely any face-to-face exhibitions are taking place. Manufacturers are therefore looking for alternative sales channels, including so-called “digital exhibitions”. Such solutions are being offered by a multitude of providers, quite often for impressive sums, as these providers know how much a decent exhibition presence usually costs. But is it really worth the investment? While it’s surely not all bad, there are justifiable doubts – and better solutions.

First of all: What are digital exhibitions?

To put it simply: The replication of a physical exhibition concept into the digital space. Instead of having offline booths, you move them online in some way or other. Common offers we have come across in the past months include:

  • A virtual stand (often 2D or a simplified 3D rendering).
  • Different packages depending on the virtual size of the booth or the elements added to it (for example 3 links to YouTube videos instead of 1, downloadable leaflets, chat function).
  • Design and content management through a backend content management system (CMS), to which virtual exhibitors receive a login.
  • Additionally: Possibility of hosting a seminar during virtual conferences.

Most of these offers require dedicated external support to implement and are charged per day the exhibition is online.

Is it worth it?

A mistake often made in many sectors is trying to replicate an established concept one-on-one into the digital world. Take an old-school telephone dial pad, for example. Would you want to attach it to your smartphone? Most certainly not, unless you love retro stuff.

Now let’s take this example to exhibitions. In the physical world, exhibitions have, without a doubt, a raison d’être. This is not only because of all the products exhibited but also because of the social aspects. It gives you the chance to catch up with your industry network, get to know suppliers, or learn what the competition is up to.

Given the many solutions we’ve come across and exhibitions we’ve participated in, both the social and sales aspects fall short with digital exhibitions. Let me name three of many possible reasons:

  • The level of customisation of your booth or sponsor package tends to be limited. Not only due to the online exhibition platforms themselves, but limitations of the web browser or computer.
  • Products and solutions simply don’t have the same feel as at a “real” exhibition. Complex technologies cannot be explained and presented with a couple of videos and leaflets.
  • The level of social interaction is limited as people can hide behind their cameras. You can’t really sit down and have a beer (where many of us usually make a deal).

Furthermore, sustainable and wide-spread usage is not a given. Digital exhibitions are often a one-off event with limited long-term sales effects.

While successful startups tend to “disrupt” industries to reinvent a product, it is, perceivably, not really the case with digital exhibition solutions. I thus recommend manufacturers to think ahead, and go a step further.

What alternatives do I have?

In the end, what you should be looking for is what we call a“Virtual Showroom”. An all-encompassing solution that meets your global sales and technical training needs while providing a user experience similar to successful exhibitions in real life.

MRstudios - Virtual Showroom - Guentner - VR Welt

MRstudios – Virtual Showroom – Guentner – VR Welt

A true virtual (reality) showroom or digital showroom puts your products, systems and solutions into an interactive 3D environment which users can interact with in real-time. For example, it enables you to:

  • Experience complex functionalities in an easy to understand, playful manner (e.g. automation controller functions).
  • Showcase solutions nearly photo-realistically in a fully virtual and/or augmented reality environment, flexibly adapting depending on the device used, creating a wow effect.
  • Have your showroom always at your fingertips. Cross-platform, and both mobile or stand-alone.
    Easily and cost-effectively expand it over time while making use of it across multiple departments, markets, and exhibitions.
    Manage your content independently of the software supplier, quickly reacting to global market needs.

In addition, a high-end virtual showroom can adapt to your enterprise needs and integrates seamlessly with your existing systems such as SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce and the like. Even better systems apply WebRTC, enabling you to stream your virtual showroom to any device – no matter how low in performance.

This does sound more of a “disruption” than a digital exhibition, doesn’t it? It goes one step further, fully utilising the possibilities of digital transformation.

MRstudios - Virtual Showroom - Systemair - HVAC SOLUTIONS

MRstudios – Virtual Showroom – Systemair – HVAC SOLUTIONS

Very nice, how much does it cost? And how can I get it?

Service providers such as MRstudios – Industrial VR are leaders in this field and look back at years of experience in realising high-end virtual showrooms for manufacturers across the globe.

As for the costs. What do you tend to pay for a 4-minute corporate product animation video? What would you pay for 3-4 static full-page advertisements in a good quality trade magazine? Well, a virtual showroom costs roughly the same. Once you have your first basic platform ready, you can easily expand it to include more products or features, with limited financial resources.

Last but not least, do not forget about your existing sales channels and improving them. Many manufacturers tend to invest in multiple directions without doing the groundwork and creating customer-friendly websites, online advertisements, SEO optimisation or social media – which often leads to more sales. Many also forget about the interoperability of all platforms, which is an important aspect to maximise usage and productivity.

You can always reach out to me on LinkedIn for further information on this subject. I’d be happy to support you.

Morten Schmelzer

Morten is a leading European visionary in the field of Virtual and Augmented Reality. He is co-founder of the 3D company MRstudios in Prague, Technical Marketing Director of the Swedish Systemair Group, and supports leading industry players with their digital endeavours.