ITC Shares

Trade fairs, will they ever be the same?

1 April 2021
Frederine Derlot, International Trade Centre

Will the post-pandemic world accept 80,000 visitors over three days in a single venue?


The answer is probably no. The COVID-19 crisis has turned the world of exporters and trade support institutions upside down, especially in the way they do business and participate in traditional activities such as trade fairs.

Nowadays, as a buyer, you can connect to suppliers globally from the comfort of your home, without spending time or money travelling. Each event is either 100% digital or hybrid, with a smaller, physical trade fair and B2B network facilities open online 24h/7 for up to six months after the actual event. This is the new normal and exporters must prepare for it.

ITC is here to train and inform exporters and trade support institutions on how to thrive in this new virtual business environment, which does not allow for the usual physical show, test and tell.

Moreover, these new forms of events can be as expensive for an exporter as traditional trade fairs used to be. Tempting as it may be to sign up for numerous hybrid virtual fairs, this might not be effective or lead to actual sales.

Here are the top 10 questions exporters should ask themselves before exhibiting virtually!

1. Is this the right trade fair for me?

Is it SIAL or ANUGA for exporting bulk ingredients for food processors, or rather Food Ingredients Europe?

2. What are the costs?

Do you have the export capacity to develop enough extra sales beyond your current customer base to make it financially worth attending?

3. Is the timing right?

Choose a fair before the start of your export season to make the most of the newly made contacts.

4. Can I export to this market?

The reach of a virtual trade fair is far beyond that of a physical one. You will meet buyers from all around the world, but you might not be able to sell everywhere. Check target markets where restrictions may apply for agriculture exports (such as Australia, Canada, China, and United States).

5. Will I be able to dedicate enough time to prepare and attend, on top of my usual business duties?

Depending on where the virtual fair is held, you may be expected to interact with buyers late in the evening or during the night.

6. Are my promotional materials ready for exhibition?

Make sure your company is visible online (Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, company videos, website, etc.).

7. Is my supply chain transparent, organized and certified?

Reassure your buyers thanks to your certifications.

8. Which international means of payment should I be using for new customers?

If you use credit insurance, integrate this in your export price.

9. How do I export to new markets?

Be perceptive about logistics. You might know how to export to your regular markets but how about exporting to unknown markets? Is it cost effective? Are you competitive?

10. Can I maintain the momentum?

Structure your follow-up after the virtual event. Be methodical and adapt it to your export season. Connect on a regular basis.