Nicola Meadows, divisional managing director of Hyve Group plc, gives the inside track
Presented as “a game-changing new approach to buying, designed to revolutionise the traditional trade show model by connecting retailers and brands on a scale never achieved before”, the initiative is set to launch at this year’s Autumn Fair and then be rolled out to Spring Fair 2024 and beyond.
Clearly representing a major investment for show organiser Hyve Group plc, following on from a recent meeting with the GCA to clarify Connect’s implementation PG Buzz spoke to the company’s divisional managing director Nicola Meadows for the inside track on the new initiative.
Being such a new concept, there is still some confusion around what Connect @ Autumn Fair actually is. Can you sum it up?
“Connect @ Autumn Fair is the game-changing new meetings programme at Autumn Fair, designed to help buyers find the right products and brands that their customers will love.
“The most common questions and feedback we get from our exhibitors before they exhibit, at the show and once they leave the show is: What buyers are coming? Who attended and from what companies? What were they there to buy?
“For the first time in history we are giving Autumn Fair exhibitors access, pre-show, to thousands of buyer profiles so they can see for themselves. This inevitably will help them to generate leads, opportunities, and orders in an incredibly efficient and effective way.
“Added to that, it offers retailers the best of both worlds – the opportunity to plan ahead and secure meetings with exhibitors in advance of the show as well as the joy of simply discovering and shopping the show in the traditional way.”
What would be Connect @ Autumn Fair’s top three main benefits to an exhibitor?
“One – for the first time exhibitors will be able to view the profiles of buyers prior to the show and see the types of products they’re searching for at Autumn Fair, including company information like how many stores they own or which country or county they are based in.
“Two – exhibitors can select which buyers they want to meet based on criteria that’s important to their business, and book meetings with them before they get to the show. All meetings are scheduled based on individual availability, and are double opt-in, ie both parties want to meet each other.
“Three – with the Connect @ Autumn Fair platform, exhibitors can set up profiles for each representative in their business who, in turn, can proactively select the buyers they want to meet. How you manage your teams is up to you, and you don’t need everyone having pre-arranged meetings. This will help you forecast your team’s time and the resources you need at your stand before coming to Autumn Fair. You can even download your meetings summary, including any notes taken and contact details for everyone you and your team have met.”
What would be Connect @ Autumn Fair’s top three main benefits to a buyer?
“Buyers can request meetings with exhibitors they’re interested in based on criteria that’s important to them. For example, searching by exhibitors offering LGBTQ+ cards that are FCS certified with a minimum order value of £50 or less.
“All meetings take place during the show on the exhibitor’s stand. So, buyers can view, touch and ask them questions about their products in person, providing the perfect opportunity to launch new products.
“Buyers can manage their time efficiently, choosing what day and times they want meetings. They can prioritise and pre-arrange the most important meetings, while still shopping the show.”
How many buyers are expecting to participate in Connect and how many meetings are you expecting to happen as a result of Connect?
“We expect over 3,000+ buyers to pre-arrange over 6,000+ meetings at the show with targets set to grow exponentially for Spring Fair 2024 and beyond.”
Why does participation in Connect @ Autumn Fair have to be compulsory for every exhibitor?
“We want buyers to have access to all exhibitors that will be at Autumn Fair and for this reason it needs to be as important as showing up on the first day of the show being open.”
Some exhibitors have pushed back on the cost to participate, how are the costs justified?
“Connect is the biggest investment we have made in the history of Spring and Autumn Fair, investing in the product, people, and time. The introductory rate at Autumn Fair, replaces the marketing fee exhibitors used to pay. Connect will give exhibitors access to buyers and arranging high quality meetings that might not otherwise happen is great value. It offers excellent return on investment and return on exhibitor’s time.”
The 15-minute meeting slots on which Connect is based are seen as rather too regimented for buyers and exhibitors, especially given the nature of trade shows. Is there any leeway for this to be more flexible to give buyers more time to walk between stands, etc?
“Connect is a tried and tested programme already used across other Hyve events, we believe 15 minutes is the right amount of time for an introductory meeting. Buyers and exhibitors can create a follow up from this meeting if more time is needed to place an order, or to find out more about each other’s business. Both buyers and exhibitors have connected pre-show and arrive at the meeting with detailed information and data on each other so time at the stand can be spent more effectively.
“Each meeting is based on mutual interest and availability. In addition, the platform will ensure there is time for buyers to move between meetings and browse the show.”
The concept works on 15-minute meeting slots. What happens if both parties want to extend the meeting outside this period?
“We ask that Connect @ Autumn Fair meetings are prioritised to ensure they all run on time but, of course, if both parties have the time to continue their conversation, they can do so in the same way they normally would at the show.”
Surely the joy of trade shows are retailers chancing on a product and exhibitors meeting retailers they didn’t expect to meet. To what extent does Connect @ Autumn Fair take these chance meetings and resultant business away?
“Yes, for some the chance element of trade shows is great. Connect doesn’t remove any element of our trade show that currently exists. We still expect people to shop the show and be surprised and delighted by new product and suppliers they find while walking the aisles.
“However, pre-show, they can now arrange those must-have meetings they already know they want, to start making those exciting chance discoveries before the show even opens, and plan ahead to make the best use of their time while at the show.”
Top: Some of the fun marketing for Connect @ Autumn Fair that featured around Spring Fair