By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Research Director, CEIR

It is fascinating to watch the evolving interplay of digital and physical business activity. If one flashes back 10 years or so, it was the time of digital birth … and destruction. Digital left a trail of ruin and new digital outposts emerged in their place. Business media has suffered greatly to name one. Anything non-digital was on the table for disintermediation.

If one looks at the publishing world, odd developments are in play making me wonder, have we reached some kind of plateau for digital?  Amazon’s foray into physical store outlets is a curious development. In 2015, the first Amazon store opened on the campus of University Village mall in Seattle. This first store must have done quite well, as they will soon launch another store at a mall near the University of California, San Diego. And Amazon is planning to launch more physical outlets.  A recent New York Times article reports on their activity.

This trend is in the business-to-consumer world, what about business-to-business?

In the business-to-business exhibition world, where CEIR research documents that on average, companies that exhibit allocate 41% of their marketing budget to business-to-business exhibitions, one wonders if there would be an attack from the digital flank to change that. Though still today face-to-face marketing for companies that exhibit is an essential part of their marketing approach.  As the Marketing Spend Decision study reveals, business-to-business exhibiting is part of a multichannel mix, though it is a very important part of the mix.

Why does it continue to prevail? Well, because it delivers! Digital can only get a company so far, physical, face-to-face marketing helps these companies succeed. Where face-to-face marketing is essential to the successful marketing of their products or services, it is an ideal place. It delivers essential ROI, the ability to achieve multiple business objectives in a time and cost-effective manner. Business-to-business exhibitions that deliver the right audience are the ideal face-to-face marketing oasis.

In a force ranked question in the 2015 Exhibitor ROI and Performance Metrics Practices study, sales lead generation and relationship management are top ranked objectives for exhibiting. And if you look at the table below, you can see why these are important reasons; because they align with the purchase process stages when  exhibitors find it important to meet with their target audiences to move a prospect to the point of purchase and then repurchase. This study further finds that exhibitions deliver best on sales revenue, lead generation and number of meeting metrics. It affirms the effectiveness of this channel in enabling exhibitors to achieve multiple business objectives in a time and cost-effective manner.

Source: 2015 CEIR ROI and Performance Practices

This report also discusses the fact that exhibiting companies regularly engage in other tactics alongside exhibiting, including digital tactics. Though clearly there is a synergy here that is positive, using exhibiting and digital, an integrated marketing approach that maximizes the success of a company’s marketing and sales objectives.

I think Amazon has caught on, and is reentering the physical world to maximize its business success.

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