Consumer shows are big business, and in a digital world, getting more popular as people get to go and find hand crafted, original goods; connect with vendors on a more personal level; and soak up the atmosphere – a far cry from shopping online at home.

This is why events like the Gin Festival, The Other Art Fair and the Super Comic Con Convention are continuing to grow in popularity, as are all kinds of events focused on the artisanal, unusual, cultural and niche interests.

But how are people that work in this space – broadly referred to as ‘consumer shows’ – thinking about the future?

Where are they focusing their efforts, what’s important and how are consumer shows differing from the rest of the industry?

Thanks to our Pulse Report survey, we got responses from over 100 organisers of consumer shows and non-music festivals, and here’s what we learned.

  1. Consumer show organisers are optimistic about the future

73% of consumer show organisers are expecting their events to grow over the next 12 months, compared to 65% as an industry average. Given the opening context to this post, that probably isn’t surprising, but it’s great to see public demand translating into future growth for organisers.

However their focus is on growing existing events rather than launching larger ones, with slightly less (53% v an industry average of 55%) saying they’re planning on launching new events.

Still, with over half of respondents saying that they do plan on bringing new shows to market, this should be a great boon for consumers, providing greater choice and driving up quality due to competition.

  1. Efficiency, technology and increased competition primary areas of focus

We asked organisers “what trends do you expect to have the biggest impact on your events in 2017?”

The answers were clear:

Efficiency, technology and increased competition – in that order.

Which means consumer shows will be aiming to grow their events without adding more resources wherever possible (a good candidate for zero-based budgeting).

They will also be exploring technologies more heavily, no doubt from reviewing their existing ticketing solutions, through to RFID and even more innovative eventtech startups.

On the increased competition front, quite clearly consumer shows are going to need to up their game to stay on top, from brand building to finding advantages in how they approach marketing, to on-site experiences – there’s everything to play for in this growing but crowded market.

  1. Investing in marketing, technology and safety

Given the above, it’s not surprising that organisers of non-music festivals and consumer shows are having to invest more heavily in marketing.

Our survey shows that organisers in this market are much more likely to be increasing their marketing budget this year (41% versus a 32% industry average).

They’re also putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to technology, with 31% of all consumer shows expecting to increase their investments here, versus a 24% industry average.

Finally, there’s a striking difference in the important they’re placing on insurance and security, with consumer shows more than twice as likely to be increasing their security budgets and almost twice as likely to increase their insurance too.

With their large audiences and focus on the general public and families, it’s great to see they’re taking this very seriously.

  1. Pay Per Click works

Consumer show organisers were twice as likely than any other organiser to rate Adwords/PPC and paid social as the most effective channel for driving ticket sales, showing they’re mastering these important methods for increasing attendance.

For more information on how you can get a competitive advantage by mastering paid social, check out our in-depth guide.

  1. Social more important than email

One of the biggest differences we saw in the responses of consumer shows were that they found free social to be more important than email, which across the industry is usually seen as most critical for driving attendance.

However given the sheer size and reach of social media (Facebook alone has 1.8 billion users), the engagement these platforms get from users, and the ability they provide for organisers to stay in touch with an audience while building new followers, this perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising.

  1. More sophisticated marketing

Those running non-music festivals and consumer shows are 84% more likely to use 7 or more marketing channels versus other organisers, making them some of the most sophisticated marketers in the UK. (The average is 3-4.)

Breaking out from the safe trifecta of email, free social and word of mouth isn’t easy, but for consumer shows competing to win the attention of a busy public, against stiff competition, it has clearly become a necessity.

  1. Supported by larger teams

Consumer show organisers are 66% more like than other organisers to be working in teams of 8 or more (with the industry average just 2-3), so this might explain how they are able to deploy more sophisticated marketing campaigns.

It also shows the level of effort and detail required to pull of standout festivals for the public, particularly in an increasingly competitive environment.

  1. Larger events

The additional marketing channels and team members are necessary for consumer events, because on average they are much larger than events in general, with attendance numbers averaging 1,729 v 661. There are also a substantial number (12%) being 5,000 people or larger, compared to 4.5% of events overall.

And of course more people means more marketing, more planning for safety and access control, catering and plenty more on top.

  1. Content is king

Interestingly, the Pulse Report shows that consumer focused events are 60% more likely to be hiring for a content/production role than the industry in general, which highlights the importance they’re putting on content to differentiate their events and help them stand out in a crowded market.

  1. Big on Big Data

Finally, those working on consumer shows are much more bullish on big data and analytics that the rest of the industry with 22% ‘definitely’ using it in 2017 versus and average of 12% for other organisers.

With their larger audiences and reach, this probably makes sense, as they will have a bigger data pool to draw from and use for decision making.

They’re also much more excited by Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality than the rest of the industry, with 14% investing in it this year compared to 5% on average.

In conclusion

Consumer events are an exciting area to be working in right now.

They’re growing, investing in lots of areas including great content and technology, running more sophisticated marketing campaigns, and the experiences they provide are in more demand than ever.

For more event industry benchmarks, insights and trends, check out our 3rd annual Event Industry Pulse Report.

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