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Physically engaging with product remains crucial to buying process

In the specialty retail wholesale process, buyers still want to touch the product before purchasing.


We all know that adapting is necessary, especially this year. Our industry has had to react and create new business models due to the market changes brought on by COVID-19. But, it’s essential that brands work to protect the core needs of their retailers.

Envoy B2B surveyed 6,500 specialty retailers regarding their opinion of the importance of physical trade shows and what their recent experience has been with digital or virtual stand-in events.

Here are some key takeaways from that research.

Entirely digital shows did not leave retailers satisfied

The experience that retailers had at entirely digital shows left something to be desired. They missed the ability to see and feel the product in person, and felt that too few of the brands participated.

Graphic drawing of a trade show booth. Person with a blue outline is walking on an orange carpet with the words \
Breakdown of retailer interest in attending physical trade shows once a vaccine has been distributed.

“Nothing is like a real show. Virtual does not let you see and touch and feel.”

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Retailers want physical contact with your products during the buying process

Retailers find it harder to make buying decisions without being able to physically interact with the product. It’s difficult to get a feel for an item without being able to touch it and see it in person.

“I love to touch what a product feels like and how it hangs on a body and what the actual color is.”

Read The Research Research Here

Retailers want continued participation by brands at trade shows

Brands are currently driven to go virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s still critical that they show up. And, as we eventually shift back to a more in-person model again, retailers are going to want to see their brands face-to-face on the show floor.

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Specialty retailers are all in on physical trade shows

We aren’t there yet, but most retailers have stated that they look forward to the return of physical trade shows, and plan on attending to the same degree they did before the pandemic.

So, while we’ve all had to adapt our strategies and come up with new best practices as we navigate a largely virtual world, it’s going to be key to not lose sight of what your retailers want in the future. Digital sell-in events are the solution to today’s challenges, but they shouldn’t be seen as a forever replacement to the core needs of your retailers.

Your brand can come out of this tumultuous time with an opportunity to integrate new technologies into the sell-in process as we return to more in-person events. But, listen to your retailers and realize that these virtual experiences shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the kinds of relationships that can be built by attending in-person trade shows. And in the meantime, find ways to get your physical product in front of your buyers during sell-in. It’ll make your brand stand out even more.

Want to learn more? Click here to see the research

Further reading

Check out other courses in this series for further learning on how to build successful seasons and build effective wholesale channels

Modernize your approach to wholesale

How to host a virtual sell-in event for the next season

Best practices for in-season retail support and replenishment

Engaging retailers with great content at every step in the season

Empower your sales reps with modern tools and strategies

How to ensure a smooth transition to a modern wholesale B2B platform

8 critical features of a modern, growth-oriented B2B platform

Adapting for success: A conversation about growing during a pandemic