While the overall global auto industry is growing, the Western European segment faces significant challenges: 40 percent of the plants are operating under break-even, some markets are trending at a 20-year low in demand, and European passenger car sales are projected to drop 7 percent this year, according to a June 2012 report by AlixPartners.
Considering this data, I was not sure what to expect when I visited the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile, which is currently being held at the Paris Expo - Porte de Versailles. In fact, it is one of the reasons I attended. Economic factors like these can obviously affect a show so seeing how shows play out in these types of situations provides valuable insights which can be used to shape marketing strategies in adverse times.
Based on the number of visitors I saw during my visit on a rainy weekday in the middle of the show's run, you certainly would not expect these underlying economic conditions. There was lots of activity on the exhibit floor, with significant crowds in and around several booths.
While it was great to see the latest cars, my main focus was to look at the latest at-show marketing tactics, as the auto industry is on the leading edge of marketing. I was not disappointed and got some great takeaways. One of the key ones was: TABLETS HAVE ARRIVED AT SCALE IN ON-SITE MARKETING! The show marks one of the most aggressive uses of tablets I have seen on the exhibit floor.
Ford. Hyundai. Lancia. Mercedes. Nissan. Skoda. Toyota. Volkswagen. Volvo. In exhibit after exhibit, I saw tablets being used. Tablet use here was significant not just in the number of exhibitors but also in the depth of use. In some booths, virtually every sales rep I saw had a tablet, and they were using them. I watched several interactions between sales reps and prospects, and the reps were actively working the tablets, both collecting info from and showing info to visitors.
Tablets were also being used by exhibitors on promotional displays, usually next to the cars. In one exhibit, there was a tablet display set-up right next to a seat, and person after person would come by, sit down and start interacting with it. It was very interesting to watch the human behavior here. You would certainly not see this type engagement with a static promotional display, especially the amount of time spent.
While we are still very early in the tablet story, it is clear from seeing their use at scale here that tablets are going to be a game changer in the exhibition industry. They bring a new dimension to exhibitor/attendee engagement that was not possible before. Show organizers need to stay on top of this fast-moving trend.
Cristopher Levy is managing partner of Encore Media Partners. Encore is an audience strategy, marketing and media buying agency covering traditional, digital and mobile platforms,which specializes in local, national and global trade and consumer shows, exhibitions and conferences. Reach him at email@example.com.