The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) recently released a report titled, “Use of Analytics by Today’s Business-to-Business Exhibition Organizers.” Although the 23-page study nicely summarizes current practices, challenges, and some potential solutions for leveraging data,” it overlooks a decades-old category of software.
A survey of more than 300 b-to-b trade show organizers at the core of the CEIR report reveals that 68% of respondents are or will engage in data analytics within a year. The study also identifies the obstacles some organizations face:
- Multiple databases: Analytics are “apt to be siloed activities serving a specific core function,” such as marketing, CRM, sales, email, websites, social media or event management.
- No tools and limited expertise: 32% of companies are not engaging in analytics because of “barriers to accessing internal data and the know-how to define, manage, and implement such efforts.”
- Tools with limited industry-specific analytics capabilities: 82% of companies report using general software (Excel and Access).
- Limited context: 76% use only the analytics tools available in function-specific software.
To preserve the momentum and address the challenges, the report authors contemplate a number of potential solutions: function-specific software applications with more comprehensive analytics offerings, generic analytics applications that are more user friendly for non-experts, or more industry-wide use of analytics specialists. The problem is that none of these solutions exists yet.
There is, however, a class of exhibition management software currently available that combines registration, marketing, sales, operations, accounting, and other functionalities for single or multiple events. It eliminates silos by placing data in a centralized database that enables users to generate function-specific reports, as well as reports that link multiple functional areas together. Plus, the analytics capabilities, though robust, are designed for exhibition managers, not data-analysis experts.
There is also another advantage associated with all-in-one exhibition management platforms, courtesy of cloud computing. While more expensive than free or function-specific tools, they are built to quickly ramp up for new data sources, such as mobile, social media, proximity-based beacons, or even wearables as they become more widely used by organizers for their data properties.
Authors of the CEIR report may not have considered the more comprehensive event management software solutions when they designed the survey. “Given the high usage of function-specific software, it is likely that many analyses are done on separate data sets or that ‘linkage’ is limited,” they write. Nevertheless, the range of answers to one question posed in the report, “which applications will be the favorites for analytics among exhibition organizers?” is much broader than the study suggests.