Wholesale trade shows: How to get ahead of the competition [2024 guide]

If you are a brand operating in the realm of B2B and wholesale, you probably know all about trade shows. 

They are a great place to spark up conversations with potential new customers or catch up with regular ones. In fact, for many brands selling B2B and wholesale, they are essential for getting those crucial sales. And the same is probably the case for your company.

Want to learn more about B2B? Read everything you need to know on the topic here.

There is however one problem at wholesale trade shows. And that is, that hundreds or even thousands of other brands are trying to do the exact same thing you are doing:

  • They are attending the same trade shows 
  • Sweet-talking the same retailers
  • And ultimately trying to take over your spot on the retailers’ shelves.

So how do you get ahead of your competitors at wholesale trade shows? 

How do you make sure that you keep your spot on your retailers’ shelves? 

Well, we have an idea – and this blogpost is dedicated to that topic. Let’s get started! 

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What are wholesale trades shows?

But first, in case you aren’t too familiar with trade shows, here is a short introduction to what they are all about.

Wholesale trade shows – also sometimes referred to as wholesale trade fairs – are perhaps best described as an exhibition. Wholesale companies and brands go to these trade shows to exhibit and demonstrate their products. By doing so, they hope to meet new customers, and potential partners and learn about the latest trends.

Wholesale trade fairs are typically industry-specific. Say, a fashion wholesale trade fair. But they can also be more general and include everything from furniture and lamps to plants, kids’ toys and, high-end food brands. In a nutshell, trade shows are like marketplaces just in a non-virtual style.

Attendees at wholesale trade shows

At the trade show, the wholesale brand will set up an exhibition booth to display their products. Here, they will try to attract the interest of potential customers walking by. Often, they will offer small giveaways to draw in people. If the wholesale brand sells something food-related, they typically allow the trade show attendees a taste of their product.

The retailers attending trade shows often have multiple purposes. First of all, they are looking for the latest trends. They want to see if they are missing out on some great new product that they can sell in their store or webshop. That means that they are also looking for potential new suppliers. This might be a completely new addition to their store, but could also be a new supplier of a product they are already carrying. Last but not least, the retailers are also attending trade fairs to talk with their existing suppliers. It’s a great way for them to meet people face-to-face, whom they usually meet “virtually”.

While some wholesale trade shows only allow admittance for professionals, others allow private consumers access as well. At trade shows where consumers are allowed, they typically visit the trade show on the weekend, while the professional retailers visit on the weekdays. Even though it might seem a bit of a waste to exhibit On the weekend, remember that these consumers are still potential customers. The only difference is, that they will not purchase directly from you, but from your retailers instead.

Get ahead at the trade show

Now that we’ve covered the basics of wholesale trade shows, we’ll move on to the actual topic of this blog post; How to get ahead of your competitors!

Quit the paper at wholesale trade shows

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It’s actually quite simple. The only thing you need to do in order to get ahead of your competitors is to quit using paper. This is not only great for the environment – it is also great for your business.

If you are a trade show regular, there is no doubt that you’ve seen the piles of order sheets first-hand.

That’s because they are commonly used at almost every stand at a wholesale trade show. 

Whenever a sale is made, it’s written on a printed order sheet. This is not only a waste of paper. Eventually, this manual approach might actually end up costing the business money as well.

Well, we believe that you should go digital (and paperless). Specifically, you should bring a tablet and your favorite B2B eCommerce platform. 

This will definitely give you a head start on your competitors. It will not only be way easier for you. It will also be more convenient for your new and existing customers. They will love you for it!

In this blog post, we are going to share the drawbacks of the traditional and manual approach of printed order sheets, as well as the benefits of going digital with a B2B eCommerce solution. 

This way you will be prepared the next time you are attending a trade show.

Go digital and get ahead of the wholesale competition

Many retailers use wholesale trade shows as a way to discover new brands and place those first orders. 

Others simply attend to experience new collections from existing portfolio brands. While it’s great that these shows generate sales, many brands still don’t use technology to their advantage when selling in a physical environment. 

Instead, they take note of the customer and the order, close the order book, and wait until the trade show is over to start the huge workload it is to get through that backlog of orders.

Whether you are selling to existing retailers or brand new ones, this manual approach is a major problem. Not only because it causes a huge workload for you and your colleagues. No, even worse, it might end up costing your business precious sales.

As trade shows most often include orders from new and existing customers, it also includes different levels of risks if you are handling your orders manually. We are gonna cover the problem both for new and existing customers separately below, and explain why losing sales might be the grim result of doing manual and analogue instead of automated and digital.

New customers

Brands attending wholesale trade shows often have a focus on getting new business. At the trade show itself, you work hard to make sure that potential customers visiting your stand walk away as a new business has placed their first order. 

But exactly how committed does a new customer feel, to follow up on the order they placed in terms of paying a deposit or down payment before the order processing starts?

We believe it’s pretty safe to say that a lot of orders from new accounts on trade shows never follow through. And why is that? It’s probably a combination of things, so let’s make some assumptions:

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  • The buyer probably ordered a lot of new brands. Maybe too many.
  • The buyer is likely to have forgotten about the order. Or at least the details of the order. And they have no way to check up on them (they’re in your order book, remember?)
  • You haven’t sent the buyer any type of confirmation on the order yet. And when you try to follow up weeks later, he or she won’t feel very committed to whatever you agreed to at the trade show.
  • The buyer met other brands at the trade show that had far simpler ordering processes than you, making it an easy choice to select them over you.

There are potentially numerous reasons why new customers don’t follow through on orders and it’s impossible to determine which is the most common one. However, as you can probably tell, many of them can be fixed by going from paper to a B2B eCommerce solution. This way, for example, the customers get an order confirmation instantly meaning that they will remember their order and feel more committed later on.

Such a feature is just one of the gazillion features in Turis – the best B2B eCommerce platform there is!

Existing customers

Existing customers engaging with you at trade shows already know about your order process (whether or not it’s digital). This means that they, compared to new customers, are more likely to follow through on a potential order placed in a trade show setting.

There is however still one major risk for existing customers at wholesale trade shows. That is, they’ll experience how easy and simple it can be to interact with other brands in the ordering process. You don’t want to be the brand that’s still stuck with pen and paper while your competitors are spitting out orders with their fancy digital setup.

Several surveys have shown that customers buying B2B and wholesale prefer ordering digitally. And if you as the supplier is not prepared to offer that service, chances are that they will find another supplier that is. Eventually, your customers will leave you in favour of your digital competitors.

Instead, ditch the paper and go digital yourself. This way you will be the envy of your competitors. And it will be you who will see a surge in sales.

Other benefits of ditching paper

Let’s be honest; in wholesale and B2B, overuse of paper is not a problem confined to wholesale trade shows. The absence of digital ordering options is staggering compared to the rather digitized B2C sales.

That’s a shame since digitizing your ordering process is not only beneficial when at a wholesale trade show. It comes with a lot of other benefits as well. It decreases the risk of order errors, saves your company valuable time, and improves customer retention. 

So how easy is it to get started? Well, it’s actually pretty quick and easy. Just click the link below, follow the instructions, and you have your own B2B eCommerce solution set up in no time.

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