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U.S. and global trade show marketing - Statistics & Facts

Trade show is a traditional marketing strategy used by companies to showcase their latest products and network with other businesses, clients, and potential partners in the industry. By participating in event marketing formats like trade show exhibitions, many companies aim to increase brand awareness and drive sales. Other common marketing goals include the promotion of customer involvement, enhancement of product knowledge, and the launch of new products. While trade fairs and other in-person promotion events have been facing brisk competition from digital marketing channels in recent years, they remain one of the most profitable business-to-business (B2B) media strategies around the world. In 2019, the global B2B trade show market was valued at 34.4 billion U.S. dollars, and by 2023, this figure is expected to surpass 40 billion.

The United States is home to a significant number of trade shows worldwide. In 2019, the U.S. trade show industry generated revenue of over 15.7 billion U.S. dollars and thereby accounted for almost half of the global total. In terms of distribution, nearly half of the revenue from U.S. trade shows comes from registrations, with another quarter attributed to exhibit sales. Thanks to digital innovation, immersive offerings, and an overall focus on entertainment, the U.S. exhibition industry has seen year-over-year revenue growth for several decades. Considering that trade fairs were often labeled as outdated in the past, these steps have certainly helped to revive this marketing format and transform traditional networking events into unique experiences.

Depending on the event, the number of exhibitors at large trade shows in the U.S. has either remained stable or seen an increase in recent years. When asked about attendance figures in 2019, only a few industry experts noticed a drop in exhibitor and visitor numbers at U.S. conventions. Although reaching target audiences has been named the top challenge to growing trade show visitor attendance, a majority of exhibitors were confident about future trade show results in 2019, and this optimism also translated into companies’ event marketing budgets.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, however, marketers and exhibitors across the United States were forced to revisit budgets and revenue projections in early 2020. Around 66 percent of surveyed U.S. event organizers decided to postpone shows and conventions in light of the pandemic. In comparison, some 87 percent canceled events altogether. To recover from the radical decline in trade show attendance and revenue during the first quarter of 2020, many industry professionals reallocated their event budgets to digital channels and started to host virtual events. When and how visitors will be able to attend trade shows in person again remains to be seen, as the future of the exhibition, convention, and meeting industry is still uncertain – in the United States and worldwide.

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