Today Digility should have opened its doors in Cologne. But it was cancelled a few weeks ago and will now take place in September as part of DMEXCO. Shortly after that news, the organizers of the VR/AR Global Summit Europe 2019 announced that there will be no event in Lisbon this year as originally planned. According to the organizers, the event will be postponed until next year 2020. The VR fairs booming in the last years seem to have passed their zenith. This raises the question of whether this can be seen as a sign for the industry in general. Can this trend be equated with the VR market itself?
Is the VR hype possibly over?
Yes, the hype is over and in our opinion it's about time. A hype is always accompanied by exaggerated expectations. Now we're really starting to look at the realistic opportunities and applications of this technology. The first phase of infatuation is over, the connection of the industry with VR is put to the test! And it holds its ground with the prospect of consolidation and further development. In Hampleton Partners' latest market analysis, Virtual and Augmented Reality will experience strong growth in the coming years, estimated at $17.8 billion. We took the trouble to evaluate several VR studies. Our conclusion: More and more companies across different industries are looking at the opportunities this technology offers and SMEs in particular are recognizing the opportunities VR offers for improving their own evaluation processes. VR democratizes the product review, since this technology is no longer only affordable for large corporations.
So VR is establishing itself, why are VR fairs disappearing?
The trade fair industry is currently in a general crisis of existence. This has not only become clear since CeBIT in Hanover was cancelled once and for all despite attempts at revival. The question arises as to whether trade fairs are still contemporary at all.
Trade fair visitors primarily want to find out about new trends and solutions in their industry. In times of Google & Co. a visit to a trade fair becomes obsolete from this point of view. A day of intensive Google research is far more productive than an all-day visit to a trade fair. Especially since there is no travel time, and all relevant suppliers are never represented at the trade fair, on the Internet they are.
But companies also have to ask themselves the question of efficiency. Events are very time-consuming and costly. Often they are also a black box for companies, since it is never guaranteed that the contacts generated at the trade fair justify the expenses. Consistent online marketing is often a better alternative. You can track exactly who is interested in the company and its products and services. Target groups can be better defined, addressed more concretely and provided with relevant information. Scatter losses, which are often unavoidable at trade fairs, can be greatly reduced in online marketing.
Does this mean the end of trade fairs?
No, trade fairs will always have their right to exist, if only because personal contacts and getting to know each other cannot be replaced by any technology. But it also becomes clear that event formats have to change in order to really offer added value and remain attractive. This change is currently taking place very massively in the industry. Trade fairs are increasingly becoming events with entertainment character and for the B2C sector this approach is definitely a good way.
VR and AR are ideal here because they convey an experience to people. Immersing into a virtual world always creates a wow effect. This means that while pure trade fairs for the VR/AR topic are becoming less and less, there are more and more stands in other trade fair formats that use VR applications to better explain their own product or to enable visitors to take a short trip to other places.
Why are pure VR events no longer so popular?
Probably it is due to the mediality of VR itself: VR and AR are and will remain a communication tool, just like other media. Nobody would ever come up with the idea of making a trade fair about podcasts, for example. Although the podcast format is being celebrated everywhere.
VR and AR serve the purpose that people can exchange ideas and visions by overcoming spatial and temporal boundaries. By definition, these technologies are a medium. They are already established.
Pure VR trade fairs no longer attract so many visitors, the more VR/AR technology is established at industry-specific trade fairs, where VR is used as a medium to, for example, allow customers to plan their own factory plant at the trade fair stand and then digitally display the results.
VR applications at trade fairs are usually experienced by one person alone, that is, the visitor puts on a VR headset and disappears into a world that no longer connects anything with the trade fair and the original contact person. They separate the potential customer and lead him away from the here and now, and thus away from a successful communication with the sales manager. It would be better if the supplier could walk through the plant together with the customer in VR and, if necessary, switch the engineer on directly in VR. This would mean that the entire team would no longer have to be on site and there would be less personnel at the trade fair stand. But we think one step further and believe that this VR experience no longer requires a trade fair. This requires a cloud platform with various VR experiences that are managed by the company. Communication in VR would thus be possible from anywhere in the world.