Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.
Are trade shows becoming obsolete? Apple seems to think so.
At TourneyCentral, we’ve scaled back from a couple dozen local shows and two national shows (NSCAA and US Youth Soccer) to just one per year, the NSCAA. In short, much of the material was a repeat of the shows, the exhibitors — with the exception of the NSCAA — were treated like second-class citizens that were allowed to pay, but not participate.
Perhaps this was Apple’s experience, but most likely not because of their size and heft. But, for smaller companies who have other choices to reach their audiences, this sounds like “permission” to break away from the “must show” trade shows.
Yet there still exists that fundamental human need for touch. As trade shows become less and less attended, what will replace that? Tweetups? Webinars? Live TV shows? More likely, the answer will be some combination of all of these, initiated or complemented with Twitter, blog comments and posts.
With any luck, we’ll start meeting people again in laundromats, grocery stores, bars and dog parks. And, maybe we’ll even unplug the cell phone from our ears and turn to them and have a real conversation.
What do you think is the future of trade shows?