According to the results of our 2016 Marketing Technology Survey, the use of exhibit- and event-related tech has dipped slightly in the past two years. Still, marketers are employing everything from interactive touchscreens to augmented reality in hopes of boosting brand awareness, enhancing interactions,
and increasing sales.
There's no denying that technology is impacting our world. According to Gartner Inc., 92 percent of Americans age 18 to 34 own a smartphone, and more than 322 million wearable devices will be sold in 2017, including high-tech fitness monitors, smartwatches, and Bluetooth-enabled gadgets. As wearables and so-called "invisible technologies" such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Near-Field Communication (NFC) reach a critical mass, tech will undoubtedly continue its digital domination of our personal and professional lives. But how exactly has technology impacted the face-to-face marketing industry? To find out, EXHIBITOR fielded its 2016 Marketing Technology Survey, the fourth in a series of research efforts to track the adoption and application of exhibit- and event-related technologies.
This year's survey queried representatives from nearly 200 different companies about everything from which technologies they're currently incorporating into their exhibits and events to what objectives those technologies are helping them achieve. And when compared to benchmarks established via our 2010, 2012, and 2014 surveys, the results indicate that while tech usage might have taken a slight dip in recent years, marketers are still turning to technology to meet a host of corporate objectives.
The survey found that 91 percent of respondents are currently incorporating technology into their marketing efforts, with 79 percent using various technologies inside their trade show exhibits and 51 percent incorporating technology into their companies' corporate events. When compared to 2014, that marks a 7-percent decrease in the number of companies using technology to enhance their exhibits, whereas event usage has only decreased 2 percentage points since 2014.
Not surprisingly, two of the technologies that saw the most noticeable growth in exhibit- and event-related usage since 2014 include mobile apps and tablet PCs. The use of event-specific microsites, digital signage, interactive touchscreens, webinars/video conferencing, and augmented reality has also increased. However, other technologies appear to be on the decline, including Quick Response (QR) codes, virtual events, and text messaging (for the purposes of marketing communications). Projection-related technologies, RFID, and NFC, on the other hand, have plateaued, with their usage remaining statistically unchanged since 2014. Having said that, all three technologies on the aforementioned plateau appear poised to increase in popularity, as many respondents reported actively considering implementing them in 2017.
Respondents who have used various technologies in the context of their exhibit- and event-marketing efforts indicate that those technologies have led to increases in booth traffic, brand awareness, and sales leads, as well as improved relationships with clients and enhanced staffer/attendee interactions at trade shows and events. And while less than a third of exhibit managers who have used technology to enhance their trade show exhibits proactively set measurable goals to gauge the effectiveness of those applications, the vast majority (79 percent) report that the technologies they used met or exceeded expectations.
The few who are not currently harnessing the power of high-tech apps and elements claim that a shortage of internal resources (both in terms of manpower and budget), insufficient knowledge on available technologies, and lack of consensus among decision makers is holding them back from taking the techno plunge. Still, despite the reluctance of some, respondents almost uniformly understand the efficacy of high-tech trappings. When asked how they personally view technology in the context of exhibit and event marketing, a whopping 99 percent said that technology has "limitless" or "moderate" potential.
These statistics represent just a few of the highlights culled from the 2016 Marketing Technology Survey, which includes a handful of verbatim responses from survey participants regarding their experience with and opinions of marketing-related technologies. For more information on EXHIBITOR magazine's other ongoing research projects, visit www.ExhibitorOnline.com/research. E