Virtual and hybrid fairs are the future of sourcing

virtual hybrid fairs
Image by kentoh | Bigstockphoto

A recent survey by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) unveils that 59% of international businesses prefer to source via hybrid fairs once travel restrictions are lifted. It also shows that ASEAN countries and Mainland China are the most enthusiastic about hybrid fairs.

The survey was conducted over six months, interviewing around 600 international businesses from ASEAN countries, Australia, Europe, Mainland China, and the United States. It revealed the three top reasons for buyers to use online sourcing platforms: to search for new suppliers and make enquiries (70%), to compare products and prices (66%), and to identify the latest product trends (57%).

“The survey reflects that more buyers have been choosing to purchase online due to the pandemic. However, this makes it difficult to perform tasks such as product examination and evaluation as well as supplier authentication. We believe that physical fairs and hybrid fairs are the future, with the two complementing each other,” said HKTDC director of research Irina Fan.

Ms Fan mentioned that businesses across the globe accepted virtual fairs for numerous reasons, such as reduced travel costs and other expenses in attending physical fairs and out of necessity. Hybrid fairs combine both merits of physical and virtual fairs, which could facilitate more business opportunities.

In connection with this, buyers with a preference for hybrid fairs were more likely to register a higher average spend per order, ranging from USD$50,000 to USD$100,000.

“In the wake of the pandemic, many industries are committed to organising virtual fairs to strengthen the connection between international buyers and suppliers. These events have been well received by the industry, with the survey showing that more than 85% of buyers surveyed had participated  in virtual fairs in 2021.”

Businesses seek key digital features when joining hybrid fairs, such as the ease in searching and acquiring exhibitor information, smooth scheduling of meetings with exhibitors, and access to communication tools like instant messaging, file sharing, and business card sharing.

Services, for instance, seminar live streaming and recording, virtual meetings, AI-integrated exhibitor, and product recommendation, are features also wanted by various international businesses.

Consumers also identified the main pain points they encounter with online sourcing platforms, namely, the inability to examine products physically, risk of fraud (56%), insufficient product details and images  (54%), unresponsive suppliers (49%) and uncertified products (49%).

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