COVID-19 and how it’s changing the industry

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Newly published insights from Reed Exhibitions’ COVID-19 Customer Needs and Mindset Barometer reveal how the pandemic is changing customer attitudes to physical and digital events

Reed Exhibitions today released its first ‘COVID-19 and How it’s Changing the Event Industry’ White Paper, highlighting findings from its COVID-19 Customer Needs and Mindset Barometer, the largest and most ambitious research project ever undertaken by the company. 

Involving nearly 3,000 exhibitors and over 9,000 attendees across 201 events and 17 Reed Exhibitions offices, the Barometer reveals insights into the key concerns and behaviours of the company’s exhibitors and visitors, and tracks their changing attitudes to physical events and digital event technology over time.

 “When the scale of the global pandemic started to become clear in early February, there was little in the way of formal, comparable data to help the events industry understand its immediate and longer term impact on our customers, our events and our global marketplace” explained Layla Northern, Global Head of Digital Customer Insights.

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“Started in June 2020, this ongoing, regular research is not only helping us at Reed Exhibitions to evolve our technology and services in response to COVID-19 and changing customer needs; it also offers our industry valuable insights into how we might reshape our events to our customers’ advantage, and fuel long-term profitability and growth in the future” Northern added.

Among its key findings, the Reed Exhibitions COVID-19 Barometer reveals that:

  • COVID-19 is accelerating changes in consumer behaviour. 84% of visitors and exhibitors have tried at least one new digital service since lockdown.
  • Acceptance of digital tools is increasing over time. On average, visitors had tried 3.3 new digital services in June, rising to 3.5 by September. Exhibitor adoption increased from 3.2 to 3.6 respectively.
  • Consumer willingness to adopt digital is reflected in attitudes towards online events. The number of visitors who say they would like to carry out one or more event activities digitally whilst they are unable or unwilling to attend in person is significant, and has increased consistently, from 91% in June to 94% in September.
  • Visitor agreement with all positive statements around digital is increasing. 59% of visitors now say they would be likely to sign up to attend an online trade event, up from 57% in June. The percentage who believe that they can still carry out the majority of their event objectives online is also increasing, up from 52% to 57%.
  • Exhibitors are more cautious about online tools than visitors. 43% believe that they can still carry out the majority of their event objectives online.Verbatim responses reveal that one of their key concerns is that attendees will not engage in digital events – a belief not borne out by attendee data.
  • Engagement with digital activities increases with familiarity and exposure. For example, participants in travel events, which have a long tradition of using online meeting tools to arrange physical meetings, are much more comfortable with the idea of using live meeting software in a digital environment.
  • COVID-19 has not diminished the value of in-person events for participants who are committed to returning as soon as restrictions are lifted. Throughout the period of the tracking survey, the importance of events has remained consistent for both exhibitors and visitors.
  • While exhibitors remain sure they will spend less while the pandemic continues to unfold and prior to there being a vaccine, around two-thirds of exhibitors expect to return to normal levels (or spend more) once a vaccine is developed.
  • Customers are increasingly open to the idea of engaging with digital alongside in-person events as they return. 65% of visitors and 57% of exhibitors believe digital will continue to work for events after COVID-19.

The White Paper can be downloaded here.

Sam is the assistant content manager for Event Industry News (EIN). Sam is involved in publishing news stories, videos and podcasts. Sam also collates the latest stories for the EIN e-newsletter. If you have a press release or story you think we might be interested to know about please email editor@eventindustrynews.com