Is Visitor Tracking An Option At Your 2014 Trade Show Booths?

Trade shows and exhibitions are constantly looking for new gimmicks to get people in the doors, visiting the trade show booths, and generally making life easier (and more profitable) for their exhibitors.  While these trends are going on constantly, there’s one in particular we’d like to discuss today: Visitor tracking systems at trade shows.2013-ip-specials

This is one of those that can quickly raise people’s ire.  Some folks are instantly creeped out by the idea of electronic sensors tracking them from moment to moment, while others are fine with it and enjoy the personalized services these systems provide. (After all, strictly speaking, your cell phone is alwaystracking your movements as long as it’s turned on.)

However, adoption at trade shows is far from widespread at the moment. It’s mostly confined to tech shows, and other expositions where the visitors are assumed to be tech-savvy. The expense is still enough that most trade shows, right now, aren’t investing in it unless they know their exhibitors are interested.

So, the question of whether you want to look for trade shows and exhibitions deploying tracking systems is a fairly complex one, since it’s dealing with a convergence of new tech and old attitudes.

The Basis Of Trade Show Visitor Tracking

There are currently several different systems on the market, with different technologies behind them.However, most of them are based in some form or another on the Near Field Communications (NFC) system. This is a wireless radio technology, found in most cell phones and other pocket devices like the 3DS, which uses extremely weak transmitters to communicate with devices a few feet away.

NFC is inexpensive, low-power, and relatively easy to implement within an enclosed area.  Passive sensors scattered throughout the building keep tabs on every visitor who checks in, as well as sending them targeted messages based on their location and\or time of day.
So, what do you get if you find a show that offers tracking, or if you convince one of your shows to start promoting it?

Benefits You Can See From Trade Show Visitor Tracking

Many of the benefits of tracking technology first go to whoever’s running the exposition. They get huge reams of data about visitor movement, traffic patterns, and other consumer behaviors. This won’t pay off for exhibitors directly, but in the future, it would mean that the trade show would be able to give you a lot of detailed information about how visitors behave that will be great for your trade show booth design planning.

Beyond that, however, there are a lot of real practical benefits – and fun uses – for this technology. For example:

Visitor check-in is simplified, or potentially even eliminated entirely, depending on which tracking system the exhibition has installed. Sometimes, the systems can pick up all the info they need from a visitor’s cell phone. As part of the system, you’ll know instantly when a guest you’re interested in enters or leaves the building. You may also be able to tie your own guest tracking to the NFC system, to reduce time spent on this during the show itself.

The exhibition’s app or other navigational system generally works as a sort of catalog, giving you promotional space to invite visitors to your display or show off your offerings, even if they’re across the building. Visitors get live interactive maps, directly on their mobile devices, guiding them to the right trade show displays and keeping them from getting lost in the bustle.

You have a wide range of opportunities to drop targeted messages onto people’s devices, based on their location, time of day, or other factors you can determine. Location-based games, scavenger hunts, or meetups become far easier to coordinate and monitor. Depending again on the local system used, you may have the option to drop your own apps or other digital freebies directly onto a visitor’s device with minimal interaction.

Event scheduling is virtually always built into these systems. So,whenever you get your visitors to RSVP for your event, they’ll get reminders and notifications that help ensure they appear. Everyone all around benefits from a paperless system, saving time and helping the environment a bit.

And this, really, is just scratching the surface. Visitor tracking and location-based content delivery is one of the newest forms of digital marketing, and its potential uses are only beginning to be explored. There’s huge room for a creative trade show display designer to come up with original and engaging uses for the technology.

The Problems With Visitor Tracking

Whether you go in for visitor tracking is likely to depend a lot on the attitudes among your own visitors. Given the recent (and ongoing) revelations about how many different governments are apparently following our every move, there’s a lot of people right now who don’t care for technologies involving “tracking.”Old interior room

Also, because of the lack of standardization between tracking systems, apps and software you set up for one event might end up being useless at the next one, if they’re using systems from a different vendor. There’s definitely a certain amount of extra investment required at your end to make use of these systems, and that investment may not carry over from trade show to trade show.

Proceed cautiously when embracing a tracking technology or particular bit of software, unless you know that multiple shows in your schedule will be using the same system.

Finally, in many cases, trade shows and exhibitions may simply not use tracking systems, either because of the cost or fear of alienating the anti-tracking crowd.  Making requests or negotiating with them may or may not be helpful, since the market for tracking technologies is a bit turbulent at the moment.

Is Keeping Tabs On Your Guests A Good Idea?

As a consumer and convention-goer, personally, I’m cautiously excited about the possibilities behind this technology. Whether it’s widely adopted – and whether it becomes seen as a good idea or not – is going to in large part depend on how it’s utilized. There are a lot of fun ways this tech could be integrated into your trade show booth plans.

I do, however, worry that less-creative exhibitors may simply turn the technology into yet another way to nag and distract people with messaging they don’t want to see. Abuse of these systems would turn people away from them, quickly.

Overall, I’d suggest advancing the idea in an email or visitor poll, or something along those lines. Test the waters, so to speak, and see if your customers sound enthusiastic or not about the prospect of attending a show with tracking technology deployed. If they sound interested, ask them about what sorts of targeted messages they might want to see.

When dealing with a potentially-controversial new technology that impacts your customers, you can rarely go wrong asking for their opinion and letting the blowing winds determine your course.

We’ve included a video below showing off the new Backlit VBurst Popup Display – pretty cool stuff, with a lightweight frame (lifetime warranty), vibrant graphics and backlighting without shadows – check it out!

And in the meantime, whether you want advice on adding the latest high-tech wonders to your trade show displays, or just want a design expert to ensure your next booth wows ‘em, drop us a line and tell us what your exhibition appearance needs to succeed!

For more, read on how to leverage your trade show displays or how to succeed in a small booth.

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