What is the future of trade shows in the digital age?

Champion of Filipino design talent Pauline Suaco-Juan talks about how technology can disrupt trade exhibitions

Digital marketing, the fastest yet cost-efficient way to reach one’s target audience anywhere in the world, has truly disrupted traditional business promotion practices and challenged certain industries in recent years. This, then, begs the question: Does digital render trade exhibitions irrelevant?

If this is proven true, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, (CITEM), the export trade promotions arm of the Department of Trade and Industry

(DTI) and organizer of local and international sourcing events for export quality products, might be one of the first to feel the challenge.

Turning threats into advantage

Opportunely, as CITEM recently named publishing and fashion icon Pauline Suaco-Juan as its Executive Director, the agency also announced that they are facing the threat headstrong by following the course of the digital front.

“Instead of worrying that the digital landscape will soon take over, CITEM will embrace the transition and use this to our advantage. Expect a reinvigorated digital experience at the 68th edition of Manila FAME this October,” shared Suaco-Juan as she details the direction of CITEM and its signature events moving forward.

According to Suaco-Juan, CITEM will have a renewed presence in social media especially for the upcoming Manila FAME edition to be held at the World Trade Center from October 19-21. “Manila FAME will have a new look that will be emblematic of how we like to brand Manila FAME as the preeminent trade show for furniture, houseware, fashion, gifts and health and wellness,” she enthused.

“Imagine the intricate patterns, the timeless and sophisticated designs of Philippine-made masterpieces at Manila FAME highlighted in different social media channels. This is definitely one of the ways we can champion the creativity and skills of our export manufacturers,” described Suaco-Juan.

Image sharing app Instagram (@manilafame) is one of the tools that the company will frequently utilize in its digital expansion campaign.

When asked about how she envisions Manila FAME, Suaco-Juan noted that she would like to see the Manila FAME community come together. “Come back

home and show to the world the force of Filipino home design industries. Manila FAME will further be strengthened as a collection of world-class talents and products. We are hoping to develop and then launch within 2019 a digital version of the Manila FAME show. The service, I think, will go a long way in helping our exporters be within their buyer’s awareness 24/7, 365 days a year. This move will establish a closer connection between buyer and exhibitor,” she said.

Executive Director Suaco-Juan also urges the Filipino people, all 67 million of them who are frequent social media users to share and highlight the craftsmanship of our local artisans. “Stay tuned to all CITEM and Manila FAME social media channels because we will proudly showcase Filipino ingenuity in all our messages to increase global appreciation for Filipino talent.” she added.

Are we seeing the end of trade shows?

According to a study by Research and Tech Lab, (RTL) a Filipino-owned social media analytics company, it is interesting to note that despite the growing popularity of digital commerce, many still prefer traditional buying. Technology has changed the shopper’s journey by blurring lines and creating new stages where buyers can easily switch channels from online to offline— searching online to buy offline and vice versa. The use of more than one channel has given investors more opportunities that go beyond the traditional.

Likewise, in an article released by The Huffington Post last year, it was reiterated that even after 25 years into the digital tech revolution, face-to-face meeting is still the most effective way to conduct business. Classic trade shows where people gather in giant exhibition halls are still enjoying increasing popularity.  

“Our edge now lies in the stories that we share. By heavily pushing our digital initiatives we will be able to excite our clients and buyers to come here and really experience the actual fair,” explained Suaco-Juan.

“At the end of the day, there is no way we can replace true human interaction. Sparking conversations and seeing products up close are still the best ways to experience Filipino flair. By interchangeably harnessing both online and offline marketing activities, we can ensure that our exhibitors will be where the market is, real time and all the time,” she ended.

Before joining public service, Pauline served as the editor-in-chief of Preview Magazine from 2001 to 2016 and Style Bible (now called Preview.ph) from 2008 to 2016. Through Preview and Style Bible, Pauline championed Filipino design talents and told stories of local industry and artistry alongside the world’s.

The Manila FAME is slated on October 19-21, 2018, at the World Trade Center Metro Manila, Pasay City.

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