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Digital Trading: Sink Or Swim?

Digital Trading: Sink Or Swim?

8 September 2020
Author: Jasmine Waters

Throughout the entire uncertain mess that is the year 2020, trade shows have remained the Achilles Heel of the fashion industry. They’re a forum that has been floundering in the water for a long while, and the arrival of a global pandemic has hardly made strategy any more clear-cut. The purpose of what a physical trade show actually provides is now no longer the same as its intentions – is digital the only way forward until the storm has fully passed?

Are digital trade shows working?

The answer to whether digital is our knight in shining armour seems to be a rather complex one. Apart from the fact that it will be a long while before we have any sort of conclusion, there are distinctly different strategies emerging for how to weather out the rest of the year. From early digital examples (Pitti Uomo pushed forward the launch of their digital platform Pitti Connect from January 2021 to August 2020), solely digital efforts are missing the mark when it comes to fulfilling the needs of the attendee. Virtual attendance numbers across the board are extremely low, with organisers hedging their bets before they make further strategical decisions. It’s not proving to be an easy navigation for the return of the physical either, with Première Vision Paris being cancelled at the last minutes due to changes in governmental guidance. There appears to be no set solution for how to navigate unforeseen global advice, but being able to implement a strategy that has enough flexibility to quickly adapt to changes is putting your best foot forward.

Is this the way of the future? 

For digital, it’s pretty safe to say that, long-term, digital won’t be able to hold court all on its own – and is more seen as a temporary counter measure that will evolve into an organizational expansion. At the moment, there’s a varying opinion on whether to charge for a platform, with some organisers opting to provide a digital alternative for free, while others are charging upwards of $2,000. Dependent on the show’s physical price point, this either makes signing up an unmissable bargain, or not worth the effort. Many attendees cite their main reasons for attending a show to be primarily for networking purposes, as opposed to attracting sales – as more often than not, this isn’t the case. What could prove a winning strategy is for organisers to have more than one string in their bow ready to offer potential attendees or collaborators, in the sense of diversifying – having a digital offering as well as a plan for a return to the physical stage, as well as potential other business offerings and support. Those that are able to become as much of a ‘one-stop shop’ for buyers and exhibitors as possible will be the victors coming out of 2020, with the idea of consolidating ideas, opportunities and demand remaining a top priority.

Photo source: https://www.igegroup.com/

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