Ecommerce Trade Shows: 9 Tips for Success

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9 Ecommerce trade show tips

Trade shows can be exciting and profitable opportunities for your company to connect with new customers and suppliers, and to find out what is happening in your industry outside of your own office walls. If you’ve never been to a trade show, expect to meet a lot of new people while having a lot of fun. Whether you plan to go as an attendee, a sponsor or to set up your own exhibit booth, here are some trade show tips to help you prepare.

What Is a Trade Show?

A trade show is an event where companies come together to showcase their products or services in a given industry. From the outside, a trade show looks a lot like ComiCon or any other conference, with thousands of people bumping shoulders and milling about. Trade shows, however, have a narrower focus – to bring together companies and people within the same industry. 

Usually, they are organized by trade associations, but groups of companies, other organizations and even government agencies will organize trade shows. Trade shows are usually closed to the public, so only company representatives, professionals related to the industry as well as members of the press usually attend. 

Ecommerce Trade Shows

A growing trend in recent years is Ecommerce trade shows, or Ecommerce conferences, which focus on companies building their digital presence in the marketplace. These trade shows typically include:

  • Speaker presentations
  • Discussion panels
  • Workshops
  • Networking events
  • Exhibition floor

Speakers and panelists are usually high-profile individuals within the industry or with skills related to the industry, if not actual celebrities. These are the people whose appearances will draw attendees to the trade show.

Trade Show Roles

If you’re partaking in a trade show, your role will typically fall into one of three categories: attendee, exhibitor or sponsor.


Attendees are essentially the trade show’s audience. This is a great opportunity to keep abreast of trends and new developments in your industry, see what’s available from suppliers and your competitors, and network. It’s also a chance to meet people face-to-face who you may have only corresponded with them over email or phone. Approximately 92% of attendees go to a trade show to learn what’s new in products and services in their industry, and 77% of decision-makers will find a new supplier at their next trade show. 

As soon as you know you are attending an event, let people know by adding the event and the date to your email signature. If there is someone you particularly want to meet, ask them if they are going and make plans to get together while you’re both in town.


Exhibitors are companies that pay a fee to rent space on the exhibition floor, where they can set up a booth to attract attendees and promote their brand. Like any major advertising campaign, a trade show exhibit is a significant investment. Even a small booth at a small trade show will cost several thousand dollars for:

  • Floor space rental
  • Booth materials
  • Signage
  • Travel and accommodations
  • Shipping
  • Promotions, handouts and swag

Exhibitors spend, on average, most of their budget on floor space, 14% on travel and employee accommodations, 13% for show services and 24% on exhibit booth design and construction. 

Advertiser or Sponsor

In addition to renting booth space, most trade shows give companies an opportunity to advertise at the event or sponsor the event. Advertising opportunities can range from having a business-card square on the event website or schedule to sponsoring workshops. Sponsoring the entire event is usually limited to major companies and may cost millions of dollars.

Advertising or sponsorship may be a good opportunity if you can’t attend the event or to supplement your presence in addition to an exhibit booth or sending an attendee. 

Speaker or Presenter

Having someone from your organization on a discussion panel, running a workshop, or even appearing as a keynote speaker, are fantastic opportunities to promote your brand, often for free. To be considered for such a role, your company will likely need to be a leader in your industry. Alternatively, if someone on your team is renowned for their skills or expertise, this person may be invited to speak.

Contact the event organizers as soon as possible, up to a year before the event is scheduled, to ensure they have time to put your speaker on the schedule and promote them as they promote the event.

9 Trade Show Tips

Like any other marketing endeavor, you will need to develop a budget and a plan if you want your presence at the next trade show to be a success. Your plan should include everything from your overall goals to how you will monetize your participation after the show is over.

1. Set Goals

No one should ever spend money on a trade show without a game plan. First, determine your goals and then develop a strategy for achieving them. Typical goals include: 

  • Check out the competition
  • Find new suppliers or strategic partners
  • Increase your brand’s presence
  • Discover new markets
  • Find new customers

If you’ve never been to a trade show, consider going as an attendee the first year or hiring a consultant with experience before investing in a booth. Doing poorly won’t just cost you money, it could seriously hurt your brand’s image.

2. Promoting Your Trade Show Attendance

In the weeks leading up to the show, use social media to broadcast your attendance at the event. During the show, update your social profiles frequently with pictures and commentaries on the event. Always use the show’s hashtag in these posts. 

3. Schedule Meetings in Advance

As the date of the trade show approaches, book appointments at specific times and places with people who have confirmed attendance. If you plan to meet at a local restaurant, book your reservations ahead of time. Add these meetings to your calendar and make sure it sends reminders to all attending on the day of the meeting to reduce no-shows. This can also help reduce the investment risk by not going into a trade show completely blind or without purpose.

4. Booth Preparation

Once you decide to rent space on the exhibit floor, book your spot early and choose a central location or a spot near where events will be held. Prepare your signage and select a booth type that will enhance your brand. Your booth will be competing for attention among hundreds of others. A generic black booth with a vinyl sign tacked to the top, and a few brochures on the table won’t inspire anyone to drop by to say hello. 

5. Attracting Attendees

Brainstorm the best ideas to attract attendees. There are plenty of ways to attract visitors to your exhibit booth, including swag (such as t-shirts, stress balls or sports bottles featuring your company brand), games, contests/giveaways, videos, product demos, music and more. The more unique, valuable or memorable your offerings are, the more likely people will visit you and remember you once the event is over. 

6. Meeting and Greeting Attendees

Running a booth is not for introverts. Recruit your most personable, sales-oriented people to run it. Encourage them to stand in front of the booth to greet people as they come by, rather than standing behind it like wallflowers at a high school dance.

7. Sales Pitch

Prior to attending a trade show, you should prepare talking points to pitch your company’s products at your booth. It can be simple and casual or more formal, but either way, ensure that you’re comfortable talking about what your product is, how it works and why it would benefit customers.

8. Lead Generation Forms

Decide how you will gather names. If you’re going to scan badges, ensure your scanner is charged and always have a backup. Zoey’s mobile app can support salespeople on the crowded exhibition floor by automatically entering the contact details and preferences of promising prospects directly into your customer database.

Treat everyone who approaches your booth as a potential customer. Always keep in mind that not everyone goes to a trade show to buy products, so be ready to sell the experience of being at your booth — not your wares. 

9. Follow-Ups

Once you return to the office, start contacting all the leads you gathered and everyone else who gave you their contact information. Most companies begin following up within a few days following a tradeshow, with 81% of exhibitors sending emails for the first follow-up. While it takes 3.5 sales calls, on average, to close a lead from a trade show, rest assured that the effort is worth it – trade show lead conversions cost 38% less than cold-calling campaigns.

What Trade Shows Should You Attend?

The best trade shows to attend are those that relate to the products you sell and the industries your major customers are involved in. Trade shows specific to your industry should be easy to find from industry organizations. For companies planning on increasing their Ecommerce sales, there are also conferences held across the world that focus on the challenges and opportunities specific to Ecommerce. A few of these include:

Try Using Zoey at Your Next Trade Show

For qualified leads, consider giving them a special promotion for their first order available only to trade show attendees. Zoey Ecommerce software makes it easy for new clients to get started through your online customer portal. To see how you can benefit by using Zoey before your next trade show, check out our free personalized demo:

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