Ecommerce Trade Shows— How Online Sellers Can Prove an ROI

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Trade shows have become increasingly important as the ecommerce market becomes more competitive. Trade shows are a great way for brands to get in front of consumers to offer direct personal interactions when exhibiting and a great way to make business connections with vendors and manufacturers.However, choosing the right trade show for your business can be daunting when you consider the high cost of eCommerce trade shows, the vast number of options, and the uncertainty of a positive ROI. Here are factors to consider when selecting the trade show to attend and how to generate a positive ROI:

Selecting a Show

Before researching and compiling a list of possible eCommerce trade shows to attend, it’s important to clearly define your objectives. Determine the purpose for attending or exhibiting at a trade show for your brand. What do you expect to gain from attending? Your goals may include:

  • Increase brand recognition
  • Engage with customer/fan base
  • Launch a new product or feature
  • Discover new product manufacturers
  • Connect with new vendors/distributors

1. Research Past Experiences at the Event

While a trade show’s website can provide an overview of the event, an even better way to get a good understanding of what to expect is by seeing the event from previous attendees’ point of views. Look for reviews and vlogs from past attendees and exhibitors to get input from their experiences or reach out to someone you know who’s familiar with the event. Often times, this can provide you with valuable information for planning your own experience at the trade show.

2. Evaluate Past Exhibitor Lists & Attendees

Look into demographics of past attendees and brands who have exhibited. If you are attending, decide whether you fit the profile of other attendees. If you don’t, there may be a reason why people and brands like you do not attend. Reevaluate whether that trade show fits your objectives. The same thing goes for exhibiting—are similar brands exhibiting? If they are, there’s a good chance the show is a good fit for your brand—be sure to stand out!

3. Consider the Timing

Check if there are any other conflicting company events you have planned, such as a new product launch or retail holiday. Trade shows can put usual day-to-day business on hold, as they often require your full attention. Be sure the date of your trade show does not interfere with a major business project that requires you to be on standby.

4. Evaluate All Costs Associated

Trade shows can be very costly. Be sure to factor in all associated costs such as trade show admission, booth space, booth design, promotional materials, shipping cost to transport equipment and materials, travel, food, and transit expenses for staff. Keep in mind that the more time ahead of your event you begin planning, the more money you can save on event admission, booth space, material production and shipping (no rush orders), and flight bookings.

How to Get a Return On Investment from Trade Shows

Trade shows can be an effective sales and promotion tool for businesses. But what happens when your ROI is falling short? Below are tips to help you get a positive ROI from eCommerce trade shows:

Prepare Your Team & Have a Plan

It’s easy to get lost in the bustle and excitement of a big show and lose sight of the big picture of why you are attending the event in the first place. Whether exhibiting or attending, your team should be focused and prepared to engage attendees, generate targeted leads and collect contacts. Have a plan laid out for the team that outlines booth schedule or divides the floorplan to divide and conquer. Also, be sure to review and list out measurable goals for the team, such as: connect with 25 new suppliers or distribute 500 promotional materials, for example.

Make Lead Generation Your Top Priority

Collecting leads should be your priority, as it will most directly generate a positive ROI. While it can be difficult to quantify certain successes from a trade show such as brand recognition, it is easy to directly attribute a lead to the show by documenting the source for the leads brought in. Keep track of lead generation resulting from the show through to the point of sale to determine your ROI.

Market Your Trade show in Advance

Let your audience know you’ll be exhibiting at the trade show ahead of time and invite them to attend and visit your booth. Incentivize show attendees to stop by your booth by offering an in-booth promotion or giveaway. If attending a show to make business connections, such as finding new vendors/distributors or manufacturers, try to request a meeting at the show ahead of time to make the most of your time spent.

Ecommerce Trade Shows to Attend in 2019

Trade shows provide great opportunities for learning latest technologies, discovering new products and networking. If you’re an online merchant, those opportunities abound in 2019. Below are just a few of the popular upcoming ecommerce trade shows in 2019:

1. Traffic and Conversion Summit: February 25-27, 2019 in San Diego, California

The summit will focus on how you can increase your website’s sales, as well as sales from your social media marketing efforts.

2. ShopTalk: March 3-6, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada

With the tagline “Retail’s Best Show”, ShopTalk trade show is a must attend. Topics will include fulfilment, checkout and payment experiences, logistics and more.

3. B2B Online: April 29-May 01, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois

The summit is for executives in charge of ecommerce strategy and marketing in the distribution and manufacturing arms of online retail.

4. The Social Shake-Up: May 6-8, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia

This conference is for attendees who want to turn social followers into customers or leverage social media better. Topics of discussion include Twitter branding, Instagram marketing, analytics and more.

5. Imagine 2019: May 13-15, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Imagine 2019 will feature 100 unique sessions and attendees will learn about data insights, mobile development, email marketing and more.


Brands can benefit from attending and exhibiting at trade shows throughout the year. However, it’s important to thoroughly research the best fit trade show depending on your business goals and plan ahead to generate a positive ROI and make the most of this opportunity.