The next big transformation

ExpoPlatform’s new ‘Future of Events’ research suggests that we are only at the tip of the digitisation iceberg, and that online marketplaces are the crucial next step.


Event technology company ExpoPlatform has released a new guide to creating online marketplaces, as the latest in its ‘Future of Events’ series.

The research looks to provide a guide through the changing world of online events. The landscape of the events industry looks very different now than before the pandemic, which ExpoPlatform says exposed a “huge lack of resilience in the ‘events first’ strategy”. Instead, the focus for organisers should be on supporting their community.

However, the research also suggests that many existing online event platforms come up short in regards to trading – one of any exhibitor’s key goals for an event: “It’s clear that including exhibitor profiles as part of a virtual event package is not the full answer to the more fundamental changes needed to drive exhibitor value through digital channels.”

Instead, ExpoPlatform believes this fundamental change can come about by empowering buyers to choose when and how they transact with exhibitors.

Luke Bilton, chief growth officer at ExpoPlatform, says: “Over the last decade, retail has evolved from relying on the in-store channel to an omnichannel model, where the buyer has control of how and when they want to buy, whether shopping online from a mobile device, a laptop or in a bricks-and-mortar store. This shows the real transformation that is required for an exhibition brand to become a true hybrid of digital and physical.

“A first step to delivering this kind of omnichannel experience, is to have an ‘ever-available’ digital marketplace that can directly effectively connect buyers and sellers throughout the year.”

When dealing with online marketplaces, ExpoPlatform recommends starting small: focusing on one or two specific markets rather than scaling the same technology across multiple markets too quickly. It also recommends establishing clear value propositions for both buyer and seller personas.

Another key point is to establish a monetisation model for the online marketplace. The marketplace could mirror the model of most events by making the initial business connection and focusing on lead generation, or it could deliver the entire order using ecommerce.

ExpoPlatform also recommends focusing on the KPIs that really matter: specifically liquidity – the efficiency with which a marketplace matches buyers and sellers on its platform. KPIs should be established, measured and reviewed weekly to ensure that all team efforts are aligned.

Sophie Holt, managing director of Explori, commented: “Omni-channel is a term that has been bounced around in the events industry, but for retailers it truly means meeting the customer where they are.

“A customer can begin their journey in one channel, purchase through another, then receive customer service through a third. All with a consistency of brand and the opportunity to create value. They don’t put their customers in boxes or see their online customers as being ‘less than’ those who visit the store in person.

“This is a really powerful concept for events; allowing attendees to flow seamlessly between digital and in-person experiences at their own convenience to meet their own unique goals.”