The trade show industry hasn’t changed much since it first originated. Companies come, and they show off their products and services in the hope that people will be excited enough to purchase them. Not only that but in recent years they’ve been getting more press coverage than ever, and that makes trade shows an ideal place to show off your latest inventions. But with virtual reality becoming more accessible than ever it threatens to change the trade show industry forever irreversibly.
Virtual reality is a computer-generated experience that you view through a headset, which allows you to interact with the immersive environment as if you were there. On the high-end, this can mean incredibly detailed and lifelike objects, and at the lower end of the market is can be a 360-degree video with an immersive headset.
At a trade show, the goal is to draw the biggest crowd possible. That’s why companies bring lifelike sculptures and artwork, why they employ beautiful staff and bring TV’s to show off their latest videos. Companies are constantly battling for attention with the latest and greatest technologies that will draw in a crowd. And virtual reality is the current market leader, by far. If you go to any major trade show in the world, you can guarantee that at least one company is using virtual reality to show their customers what they have to offer.
Although the virtual reality is as accessible as it has ever been the vast majority of the public has never used it. That makes it incredibly easy to bring people to a stand, especially when it’s a company that sells products or services in an industry that they already care about. One-upping the competition is the name of the game, and nothing is better than VR, except better VR. With so many different VR headsets on the market, companies are battling with each other to let their customers experience the best that the industry has to offer.
While tactile products and high-quality videos are still a great way to interact with your audience and bring in new customers, they struggle to leave a lasting impression like VR. This lasting impression is simply because it’s an experience that most people have never had. Not only that, but it’s not comparable to anything else. It’s a new frontier of technology, and to the average person, it can be mind-blowing.
One VR tool that the trade show industry has been using to great effect is Google Cardboard. This is a simple cardboard box that has been designed to hold your smartphone as a VR headset. Alongside the physical headset, Google has developed a VR toolkit that allows developers to create their virtual realities for viewers. All in all, this makes it cheap and easy for companies to develop their virtual reality for trade shows.
But what’s even better is that the cardboard headsets are cheap enough that the company can afford to give them away at trade shows. Talk about a lasting impression. You’re giving customers something to take away that they are inevitably going to show to their friends and family who have never experienced trade show virtual reality before. And you can be confident that you’ll be the first company that they think of when they are ready to make a purchase.
Perhaps greatest of all is the ability for trade show virtual reality to give stalls more space. Most trade shows are characterized by small booths that are crammed full of a company’s products, but VR allows you to create a much more significant, virtual space for your visitors.
Rather than having to bring everything physically with you to explain your products or services to visitors, you can let them experience it in an immersive trade show virtual reality.
This cuts down on the space that you need and allows visitors to experience the product just as if it was right in front of them. For companies with bulky or expensive products, this is ideal, especially if the product is difficult to explain.
NASA has used this exceptionally in the past at their trade shows. They created a VR environment that explained how their technologies work while allowing the visitor to walk around and interact with them, all virtually of course.
This enabled them to show viewers their rockets and other technologies that were far too big to bring to trade shows in person, but that wasn’t given justice through a simple video.
Although the Google Cardboard is an innovative way to bring trade show virtual reality to the masses, it’s certainly not the only option. Companies like Oculus and HTC also have their headsets, which are far more technologically advanced than the Cardboard.
As VR becomes more and more common at trade shows companies will inevitably try to outdo their competition by offering better, more immersive and more exciting virtual realities.
Perhaps in the future, we might experience trade shows entirely virtually, walking around events with headsets on which interact with each of the booths. It might seem unrealistic, but entire presentations have been done by Intel and Facebook using VR.
The most significant challenge that companies using VR currently face at trade shows is the correct implementation of that technology. By drawing in massive groups the wait times can often be hours long, just to experience a short five-minute clip.
If virtual reality is genuinely going to transform the trade show industry, then the companies implementing it need to ensure that they manage the experience carefully.
This means shorter experiences to avoid massive queues, content that is specially designed for the platform and adequate training of the staff manning the booths.
The companies that can achieve this will be rewarded by levels of brand awareness that they have never seen before and resulting increases in revenue. Virtual reality certainly can transform the trade show industry, and the shift has already begun.