Clogged aisles and queues often characterise the visitor experience at trade fairs. Not at INTERSPORT Deutschland eG: For 17 years, the most successful medium-sized association group in the sports retail sector with more than 900 retailers with 1,500 shops has relied on an intelligent appointment booking system from gts Systems and Consulting GmbH for efficient appointment coordination between trade fair exhibitors and retailers. By entering visit requests and keeping a tight schedule, each order fair, including appointments for up to 900 dealer persons per fair day and 80 exhibitors, is organised as effectively as possible. gts has now further developed the concept: The TransITmeet solution also provides large trade fairs with optimisation potential in terms of sales, resources and costs and delivers several incentives for their restart during and after Corona.
Visits to trade fairs can be frustrating: You have thought carefully beforehand about which topics and products you would like to inform yourself about. On site, however, the salespeople of the desired exhibitors are constantly in conversation. Or you show up at the pre-arranged appointment and the salesperson is stuck in the previous conversation. The result: the visitor wanders haphazardly around the hall and wastes a large part of his attendance time. The salespeople lose potential deals because they can only serve one customer at a time. What is needed is efficient coordination that improves the quality of the fair for everyone involved. What would it be like, for example, if visitors (actually) planned three days on site, but could time their visit so that it was possible to leave after two days? Or if visitors and exhibitors could choose in advance who they would like to talk to at the fair? The focus is on a concept that redesigns trade fairs, including the scheduling of appointments, and provides the organisers and participating companies with valuable input for continuous optimisation.
Optimised appointment booking at INTERSPORT
The example of the medium-sized INTERSPORT group shows how this can work: since 2004, the group has regularly organised order fairs at its own redblue event centre in Heilbronn.
Six times a year, around 600 sports retailers of the INTERSPORT Group meet to order the new collection from the industry exhibitors. On average, 80 exhibitors take part in the trade fair, with around five to eight sales representatives on 4 to 7 trade fair days, who are present on site in different ways. Due to the inconsistent availability, scheduling with individual arrangements or manual allocation is hardly feasible, as capacities inevitably remain unused. In order to organise the trade fair as efficiently as possible in terms of time for all participants, INTERSPORT therefore looked for a system that centrally coordinates and optimises all trade fair appointments. The goal: to reduce idle time and guarantee the maximum number of appointments at each trade fair. The software provider gts from Aachen developed the appointment booking system (TBS) for INTERSPORT, which objectively takes into account visit requests and prevents duplication of appointments.
Up to 5,000 guaranteed appointments - planned in advance
There are three phases before every trade fair: In the pre-booking phase, the software records the available field staff of the exhibitors and purchasing teams of the INTERSPORT retailers. Both the exhibitors and the retailers enter their visit requests with a planned appointment duration. In the optimisation phase, the software calculates an appointment schedule that combines the preferences of both sides and keeps waiting times as short as possible for everyone involved. Shortly before the fair, the re-booking phase starts, in which the remaining gaps in the schedule are filled and further appointments can be re-booked until the end of the fair. "The appointment booking system is an important building block for us to make the best possible use of the trade fair capacity of 3,000 to 5,000 appointments on average," says Lars Sommer, department manager of the redblue exhibition centre. "In view of our large exhibition area of 10,000 m2, the TBS also coordinates the appointments sensibly in terms of walking routes. This makes the visit as time-effective and resource-saving as possible."
More than 350,000 appointments coordinated so far
The industry representatives are also convinced by the system: "The simple overview of my pre-order appointments support me with the large request," says Oliver Bollmann, Area Sales Manager at the skiing goods manufacturer Atomic. "The automatic optimisation of visit requests makes it possible to accommodate all dealers in a small time window." In total, the software has coordinated more than 350,000 appointments since its introduction. It also ensures optimisation with regard to sales and resources: after the fair, statistics make it possible to compare the completed fair appointments with the previous year's values. The trade fair organisation team can analyse which visit requests remained open and whether all registered dealers were actually on site.
TransITmeet: Advantages for different users
The INTERSPORT principle has now been further developed by gts into the TransITmeet software, which other organisers of larger trade fairs can also use to optimise their trade fair processes. It fully fulfils the functions of the basic appointment booking system and offers users extended benefits: Here, too, the attendance time of visitors is reduced immensely through the input of visit requests in advance and a tight clocking of appointments. In addition, the system suggests further exhibitors that might be relevant for them - whether well-known companies, suppliers or certain types of exhibitions.
The visitors are optimally served by the exhibitor, as no other enquiries are made at the stand at the same time. This optimises the trade fair visit for the purchasing agent, for whom the right resources and experts are available at the stand.
Exhibitors also usually have precise ideas about whether they want to receive certain customers or types of customers. For example, the focus is on existing customers or as many first contacts as possible. By knowing before the fair which customer will come to the stand and when, the right advisor can be ready for the respective request.
This enables better staff scheduling. Ultimately, the trade fair company benefits from less planning effort: based on intelligent algorithms, the system centrally and independently develops and optimises plans that cannot be implemented manually.
Added Value: Trade fair becomes a service concept
TransITmeet's methodology goes one step further by enabling organisers to develop their trade fair into a service. By assuming the number of visitors, exhibitors can target their resources more effectively in advance and only send their staff to the fair when their presence is actually required. In addition, better trade fair planning is possible: the system digitises trade fair leads by digitally recording or filling in business cards and visit sheets. This creates valuable input for the sales department, which can tailor conversations to specific customers. The visitor registration provides important data for the CRM systems of the sales staff. Hybrid trade fair concepts - i.e. events with a mix of physical and virtual elements - can also be planned. In addition to the physical consultation appointment on site, visitors can book in advance the service of another expert, e.g. a technician, who takes part in the discussion via virtual switch. The trade fair costs are also easier to calculate thanks to a clearly defined visit plan. The course and success of the trade fair can be analysed afterwards, so that all participants benefit from continuous optimisation.
Potential for restart in corona times
The number of visitors to be expected can not only be limited in advance, but the fair as a whole is relieved by the smaller number of visitors. Thanks to the fixed schedule, there are no more queues at the stands; crowds of people entering and leaving the fairgrounds and at points of attraction are avoided. The infrastructure in the vicinity of the fair, including public transport, is also less strained due to the number of visitors spread throughout the day. This concept creates a high level of safety for visitors and exhibitors: because in addition, the solution in the Corona pandemic complies with federal and state regulations on how many people are allowed to congregate and the minimum distance they must keep apart. The software integrates seamlessly into the applicable infection control concept and enables clear traceability of possible chains of infection, as visitors confirm their arrival at the stand and the end of the meeting in an app. This supports the restart of trade fairs and may become standard in the future. In combination with the time-effective and resource-saving system for booking appointments, a service is created that not only digitalises the conventional concept of trade fairs, but sustainably reshapes it.