For the first time, the trade fair OutDoor opens its doors to consumers this year. When I first heard the news, my initial reaction was along those lines: “Oh no, hundreds of enthusiasts will wander around the exhibition center, and they will be armed with large shoulder bags to collect as many stickers and souvenirs as possible. A trade fair is a place to nurture business relationships and write pre-orders; it’s a place for the personal handshake that combines trust and commitment in a professional environment. But collecting souvenirs, stuffed in plastic bags, and carrying them home without ever reading any of the informational brochures attached to them? This surely can’t be the intention of a trade fair, right?”
Of course, there is a grain of truth in this intentionally exaggerated picture I just painted. And yet, the possibilities that come with opening the doors to consumers on dedicated days outweigh the fear of souvenir hunters uninterested in the actual products. Outdoor Retailer, a trade fair in the US, was hugely successful when they relocated to Denver with a new fair concept. Just like in Friedrichshafen (Germany) this year, consumers were granted access to the Denver fair during dedicated times. Especially events such as fashion shows and parties revived the fair thanks to the additional visitors.
So the core question for OutDoor will be: How do manufacturers and retailers deal with their new audience? I suggest: get to know your customers better! What an opportunity – especially for manufacturers and salespeople who are rarely in touch with consumers in the day-to-day operation of the business. Marketing departments constantly wonder what moves their “target groups.” So a livelier fair concept is the ideal opportunity to explore this question further and start a dialogue with their consumers. And the more transparent brands and retailers make this process, the more exciting the process and the bigger the value of their insights. Customers appreciate it when brands listen to them and ask for feedback.
The one thing I like the most about this new approach: it demonstrates that the outdoor market, just like any other market also, does not only consist of manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers – but of consumers, too. Bringing all of them together, physically and in one place as opposed to online, is a strong concept for the future, I believe.