With nearly 14,000 people logging into its first digital trade show for the furniture, home décor and apparel industries, International Market Centers plans to add transactional capabilities to future online events.

Exhibitors at International Market Centers’ recently-concluded High Point Virtual Market Experience reported strong web traffic, lead generation and orders for products ranging from furniture and home décor to apparel, IMC says.

There will be a blending of the physical and digital worlds as the industry returns to the new normal.
Eric Dean, president

The event—which replaced IMC’s bi-annual physical High Point marketplace, which was canceled in April due to the coronavirus pandemic—featured content from more than 550 vendor catalogs, representing 54,234 pages of products. Exhibitors’ digital catalogs were made accessible through Catalog Connexion, a keyword-searchable catalog library powered by IMC_di, IMC’s Digital Innovation division.

Furniture maker Zuo Modern Contemporary Inc. reported a 27% increase in web traffic and 53 new customer applications in a five-day span, IMC says. Zuo also identified IMC as a Top 5 traffic driver to its website.


Luis Ruesga, CEO, Zuo Modern Contemporary Inc.

“We have benefited tremendously from IMC’s digital initiatives,” says Zuo Modern CEO Luis Ruesga. “It is nice to know that they are overcoming the circumstances to bringing new beneficial technology and talent to the table.” Zuo Modern also sells online at Zuomod.com.


Nearly 14,000 visitors

Overall, 13,840 visitors viewed 396,343 catalog pages during the three-week-long event, IMC says. Exhibitors with the highest number of catalog page views were Eurostyle, A&B Home, Bungalow Five, Chelsea House, Adriana Hoyos Furnishings, Cyan Design, Simply Amish, Alder & Tweed, Coast to Coast Imports, Phillips Collection and Global Views, IMC says.

In addition to driving web traffic, exhibitors generated 422 leads from 32 states and four countries. Leads came from retailers and designers submitting requests for product information through Catalog Connexion.


Dana Roeser, owner, Dana Roeser Interior Design

One attendee requesting product information was Dana Roeser of Winnetka, Illinois-based Dana Roeser Interior Design. “I found Catalog Connexion very easy to use and I loved being able to see the vendors and their products to jog my memory,” Roesner says. “These digital tools obviously can’t replace physical markets, but they are a good resource.”

In addition to enabling attendees to browse catalogs digitally, IMC offered 27 webinars. Subject matter at the show included how to build relationships with clients via Zoom video conferencing, for example. IMC also made content available through its first-ever Virtual Showhouse; IMC’s Market Snapshot and TrendWatch programs; the Market Preview; an exhibitor product showcase; trade publication previews; and an Instagram Takeover with industry influencers.


Focus on web content

“Good content is as important as discovery tools for marketplaces, whether it is a virtual or physical event,” says Eric Dean, president of IMC_di. “We wanted to provide a strong buying experience along with thought leadership.”

Recordings of all webinars are posted on IMC’s website and the Catalog Connexion will be accessible through the website until the physical Fall 2020 High Point Market, scheduled for Oct. 13 – Oct. 21, 2020.

While the High Point virtual marketplace did not feature an online ordering mechanism, exhibitors with B2B portals were able to accept orders. Anecdotally, exhibitors reported strong order activity, IMC says.

Exhibitors at IMC’s marketplaces are a combination of permanent exhibitors, or tenants, and temporary exhibitors.

IMC will offer online ordering through its virtual marketplace events to be held later this summer in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Both marketplaces, each of which were pushed back a month from their originally scheduled dates, will have a physical and virtual component, Dean says.


Virtual marketplaces 2.0

“Our Atlanta and Las Vegas events will be ‘virtual marketplaces 2.0’ for us as we introduce a transactional component to the discoverability component,” says Dean.


Eric Dean, president, IMC_di

While Dean acknowledges that virtual market places are not a replacement for actual trade shows, he says B2B suppliers and buyers still want the industry interaction marketplaces provide. Offering a virtual version of a physical marketplace will enable exhibitors and buyers not yet comfortable attending such events in person to still be able to participate.

“Buyers are used to a cadence around the High Point Market occurring every six months, and they rely on this schedule for discovery, inspiration and community,” Dean says. “When these types of events go away it’s hard. Having a virtual option is a good support vehicle for those who may not attend in person, because they can still experience the event.”

Looking further down the road, Dean expects that virtual marketplaces and trade shows will remain part of the B2B landscape even after restrictions on the size of crowds to contain the spread of coronavirus are fully lifted. “There will be a blending of the physical and digital worlds as the industry returns to the new normal,” he says. “We see digital marketplaces as an enhancement that can make physical marketplaces better and vice versa.”


While IMC’s High Point Virtual Market Experience has concluded its live presentations, recordings of all webinars are posted online. The Catalog Connexion also is still accessible through the website and will remain so until the Fall 2020 High Point Market in October .

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.  

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