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The Future of B2B Trade Shows in Home Furnishing

The Future of B2B Trade Shows in Home Furnishing

Evolving consumer tastes and preferences, advancement in technology, digital transformation, market sentiment, and several other factors determine the trends in any industry. The B2B trade show industry is no different. This article highlights the major trends that will shape the future of B2B home furnishing trade shows. Read on to explore.

Trade shows have always been a great avenue for businesses to display their products and services, and forge meaningful relationships with other businesses in the industry, potential clients, and partners. B2B trade shows come armed with success potential that knows no bounds: opportunities for great face-to-face marketing, capturing leads, creating a sales pipeline, gaining insight on industry trends, developing a competitive edge, and so on. But when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the trade show industry to its knees and the world shifted to makeshift virtual events, the re-emergence of physical trade shows came into question. As we make our way into the year 2024, however, the picture is very different. The B2B trade show market in the U.S. was valued at $15.55 billion in 2019. With the advent of the pandemic in 2020, the number drastically dropped to $3.86 billion. But sure enough, as the industry bounced back to $11.8 billion in 2023, the year 2024 only holds much greater things.

Now, let’s talk about home furnishing. Home furnishing includes everything and anything you use to accessorize your home. This ranges from furniture to flooring to curtains, rugs, linens, and the infinite world of décor. For a space this vast and experiential, the opportunity for innovation at home furnishing trade shows is truly boundless. That said, a deep dive into consumer sentiment, evolving tastes and preferences, emergence and popularity of new technology, industrial trends, etc. can reveal patterns and forecasts that would shape the future of B2B trade shows in the home furnishing industry. Join us as we break down these trends and learn how you, as a wholesaler, can stay ahead of the curve.

9 Trends That Will Shape the Future of B2B Trade Shows in Home Furnishing

1. Back-to-basics with physical B2B trade shows

As we hinted earlier in the article, physical events are going to be back with a bang. When the pandemic forced businesses to resort to virtual events, it was speculated that physical events would become a thing of the past. But for the home furnishing industry, physical B2B trade shows will reassert their dominance. Let’s see why. According to the Facetime_ Power Of Events guide, visitors that encounter your products and services at a live event find them to be 28% more innovative than before visiting. An immersive sensory experience is a much needed input when it comes to the home furnishing industry.

Moreover, B2B trade shows provide an invaluable opportunity for face-to-face demonstration of what makes your products stand out. It provides a focused, no-distraction avenue to immerse your prospects in a holistic conversation. Relationship building is easier in person and networking becomes a joy. And that’s not all. According to a research study, 87 % of respondents who hosted or participated in virtual events reported fewer sales leads as compared to physical events. That said, we firmly believe that physical B2B trade shows in home furnishing will make the best of both worlds, by complementing physical events with virtual and hybrid events, keeping let’s say, a 75-25 ratio.

2. Focus on creating meaningful exchanges and relationships

The biggest advantage in-person events have over virtual events is human interaction with no screens in the middle. There will be more and more avenues at B2B trade shows in home furnishing for meaningful discussions, one-on-one interactions, and relationship building between exhibitionists, planners, and attendees. According to a survey, 64% of the respondents recognized the quality of attendees as the most crucial factor when deciding whether to exhibit at a trade show, while only 23% of the respondents recognized the number of attendees as a factor. This statistic points toward a trend of fewer attendees, facilitating more intimate exchanges over consumer preferences, trends in the home furnishing industry, product innovations, and so on. To sum up, there will be a great focus on personalized engagement and designated areas to encourage conversation.

3. Creating sensory experiences

We are predicting that B2B exhibitors will be inspired by their B2C counterparts to create intricate experiences. B2B buyers are increasingly shifting toward a consumer mindset where they value going the extra mile to create a memorable demonstration. With this shifting mindset, we suggest exhibitors at B2B trade shows in home furnishing to implore not just a visual experience, but one that engages all the senses. Historically, sight has been an intricate part of attracting prospects to your booth at a trade show. And when we are talking about home furnishing, it is without a doubt, an effective medium with tons of possibilities: colors, shapes, lights, all carefully curated to create a delightful experience.

Now, let’s consider aroma as an experience. Olfactory sensory experiences can be used to create emotional associations with your brand. And when we are talking about home furnishing, the possibilities are infinite; for instance, using fresh cedar wood fragrance for a furniture exhibit.

43% of consumers in the U.S. said the ability to touch and feel products is what makes the in-person experience a huge success which is another great advantage at physical trade shows. You can also use VR headsets to simulate textures for a haptic experience of wall furnishings, furniture, curtains, or home décor that could not be displayed in the booth space. A fairly novel idea in the B2B space, sensory marketing has a lot of potential at trade fairs in home furnishing.

4. Push towards sustainability

Trade shows generate approximately 600,000 tons of trash in the U.S. every year. Then there are concerns of unsustainable materials used in booths and floor space, CO2 emissions, use of single-use plastics, wastage of food, and so on. These statistics are more concerning now because alternative modes of conducting trade shows (virtual and hybrid) are available and popular. We have already established why we believe physical B2B trade shows are indispensable when it comes to home furnishing. Evidently, exhibitors and planners of trade shows will have to find ways to be sustainable in light of increased scrutiny from the world. ‘Finding the future, together: Towards a more sustainable B2B trade show industry in the U.S. and Canada’ is a comprehensive report that outlines the short-term and long-term action plans that stakeholders in the B2B trade show industry can consider to develop sustainable practices and policies. Some of the key themes are sustainable materials, waste management, alternative sources of energy, etc.

Similarly, on the consumer and consequently, on the B2B buyer side, sustainable material home furnishings and eco-friendly solutions may be in high-demand. According to forecasts, the U.S. Sustainable Furniture Market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% by 2027. Consequently, we might see manufacturers increasingly embracing the ideology into their products and designs, and wholesaler and distributors curating and exhibiting sustainably produced products at B2B trade shows in home furnishing.

5. End-to-end marketing

Now, this is hardly a thing of the future but because it’s so important, we want to include it, hoping it drives the message home to those who are still not doing it right. You can’t afford to stay off the grid anymore. The process of connecting with prospective attendees at a trade show starts way before the actual trade show. How? Social media! 28% of trade show exhibitors begin planning their marketing approach 1-2 months before the event.

Promote your presence and tease your booth on company social channels. Use social media to be a part of the conversation. Reach out to attendees expressing interest in a trade show you are about to exhibit at, connect with them, showcase your products, even book appointments for the trade show. Pre-event personalized emails are another great way to connect with your prospects before they even show up at your booth. According to 42% of exhibitors, email marketing prior to the trade show is an effective strategy to attract attention to their displays. Utilize marketing ideas like coming up with a theme and handing out innovative freebies. For instance, if your theme is tropical, do it all the way: from tropical décor, curtains, furniture covers, and rugs to tropical outfits and giveaway items. It makes you stand out with a quirk; there are few better ways. Keep posting live updates from the trade show on social channels with attendees interacting with your booth, glimpses of your after-party, clips of meaningful exchanges with your attendees, and so on. The avenues are endless; just start somewhere.

6. Increased focus on safety and holistic well-being

Although the pandemic is behind us to a large extent, we cannot deny the way it has overhauled our lives. It is not an exaggeration to say that it may have permanently changed our preferences, behaviors, and priorities. Just one example is hybrid and remote work arrangements becoming a norm. Inspired by these changes, we predict that home furnishing exhibits at B2B trade fairs may include the theme of well-being. This may include furnishings that facilitate better mental health- we are thinking of biophilic themes, soothing lights and textures, fragrance décor, furniture focused on comfort and ergonomics, installations and equipment for creating home offices. According to the IKEA Life at Home Report , home solutions that are reflective of people’s personality boost their mental health. To this end, we may see more and more exhibits of technology that enables businesses to customize and personalize their home furnishing solutions.

Similarly, touch-less technology may be prevalent during B2B trade shows in home furnishing to strengthen safety measures. Like we said, the pandemic is almost behind us, but general hygiene can never go out of trend.

7. Rise of advanced technology

We predict a rise in the use of order management platforms at B2B trade shows, as opposed to traditional paper-first methods. B2B order management platforms eliminate the inefficiencies of manual processes at trade shows and help you streamline your efforts. You can increase efficiency at trade shows in many ways. Generating product labels becomes effortless; you can customize labels with your preferred templates, including your company logo, fonts, and barcodes/QR codes. At trade shows, all you have to do is scan product labels to swiftly process orders. You can also record buyer information instantly, eliminating the need for manual entry. What’s more, you can receive in-app suggestions for cross-selling and upselling opportunities, while also creating personalized catalogs based on customer interests.

Capturing leads, following up on them, and the method you choose to do so are crucial in determining the success of your B2B home furnishing trade show. According to a survey, 81% of respondents said they used emails to follow up their leads. You can use AI-based CRMs to automate repetitive tasks like following up on leads via personalized emails and even scheduling demonstrations. This automation gives you the strategic freedom to focus on the more human aspects of relationship management.

AI-based data analytics can help you gain insight into attendee behavior and preferences which would enable your sales reps to adjust and personalize their strategies in real-time. You can use AI to analyze customer interests based on the interactions with you and use this data to identify the most promising leads, categorize them by intent, and prioritize leads for follow-up. Personalized messaging can be developed and automated for following up according to the intent category. You can also use AI to analyze B2B buyer trends in home furnishing and curate your selection for the trade show accordingly. In these and many more ways, AI may also be a key differentiator at B2B trade shows in the future.

8. Creating immersive experiences (digital experiences in a physical setting)

The push towards physical B2B trade shows will come with a twist. B2B trade shows for home furnishing may take inspiration from B2C trade shows to create immersive experiences using Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). An immersive experience can help you break through the noise at a trade show and make you stand out. While this is not a common practice in B2B trade shows for home furnishing yet, the potential cannot be overlooked.

B2B buyers in this day and age are often seeking similar digital experiences that they come across as a consumer. According to McKinsey and Co., when it comes to customer-experience index ratings, B2B companies score significantly less (50%) than B2C companies (65-85%). Using VR and AR, attendees can experience interactive product demonstrations in a virtual environment. AR apps that allow B2B buyers to virtually place their home furnishings in their own spaces using their smartphones or tablets. They can also play around with AR tech to explore customizations to home furnishing products as per their preferences. With VR, you can create virtual showrooms or spaces where users can explore and interact with your products in a simulated environment. All in all, it’s a great way to create a memorable experience at an event surrounded by competitors.

9. Emergence of smart home furnishings

As the demand for and the development of smart home technology predictably continues to rise, we may see more and more smart home furnishings making their way to B2B trade shows. And by “smart” furnishings, we don’t mean a couch that can be converted into a bed. No, no. We mean tables and desks with wireless charging options, couches with speakers in the headrests, and mirrors that display information like weather, temperature, time, date, etc. The greatest example of smart furnishing we came across, though, is a smart bed that can track your sleep patterns and even elevate the mattress beneath your head to help you stop snoring! These incredible innovations are coming true because of a technology called Internet of Things (IoT), and we are here for it. We may see an emergence of more and more demand for these smart furnishings and their advent into B2B trade shows in home furnishing.

The Way Forward

One thing that jumps out glancing at B2B trade show trends in home furnishing is that technology is going to be a major differentiator. A few years down the line, we predict using advanced tech at trade shows to become a norm more than a differentiator. Evidently, early adoption can bring wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors at B2B trade shows a lot of merit. So, there you go. A lot of things to wrap your head around, but don’t be frazzled. Pick an idea suited to your brand identity, interests and goals, and go crazy with it.

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