The Web Won't ReplaceAny Time Soon, Study Says Face-to-face trade shows are here to stay. At least that's the word from the Incomm Center for Research & Sales Training, a Chicago-based firm that recently conducted a survey of 250 executives on the subject of virtual expositions vs. the real thing.
A full 91 percent of respondents affirmed the belief that the traditional trade show is here to stay. "I want to be able to see, hear, taste, or handle whatever it is that I'm going to be dealing with, and you can't do that on a computer screen," says Sharon Clower, a Dallas-based corporate security manager for Kimberly Clark.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said that expositions are needed for personal contact; 35 percent said they provide the required ability to see and discuss a service or product; and 10 percent said that their questions are better answered when visiting an exhibit.
The 9 percent of respondents who disagreed stated four advantages to the Internet: convenience, cost savings through reduced travel, new technology that allows for better online communication, and the ability to gather information 24/7.
"I was actually a little surprised," says Dr. Allen Konopacki, president of Incomm. "There's a lot of buzz about the Internet right now, but you have to separate the hype from reality. And the reality is that even though people are buying more over the Internet, they still want to be able to look at the actual item first."
He also points out that while attendees continue to visit trade shows in person, more and more are using the Internet for virtual visits prior to the show. Research conducted by Incomm in March indicated that 60 percent of all trade show attendees visit a convention or exhibitor Web site before hitting the road--up from 22 percent in 1997.
A separate study conducted by online event company PNBC found that top corporate executives most frequently use these trade show sites. Among the respondents, 27 percent of company presidents, 15 percent of business owners, and 7 percent of CEOs use online services to pre-schedule trade show meetings. --Joan Lang