3,400 booths. 3,000 new pet products. 7,000 other buyers trying to make their way across the show floor.
If you don’t attend any seminars, visit the New Product Showcase, stop to chat with anyone in the aisles or for food, a drink or to go to the bathroom and maintain a walking speed of 2.5 mph, you can spend about 1 minute and 13 seconds with each exhibitor.
Clearly, simply planning to stop by every booth at the show isn't going to work well for you. At the same time, you don't want to miss out on an opportunity that could take your pet business to the next level.
That's why it's crucial to go into the show prepared to navigate it with maximum efficiency. But what does that actually mean? What kind of plan do you need to have? What goals should you set for yourself at the show and how can you make sure you've seen them through?
We talked to the experts to see how they navigate the show floor. Whether you're a pet specialty retail store buyer, an exhibitor, or simply an attendee looking to see what's new in the pet industry, here are a few tips on navigating the trade show like a pet professional.
Going into such a large event without any goals in place is like walking into a grocery store without a list. You're there for something, but you're not quite sure what, and you could end up walking out with just about anything.
Valerie Rezente, Vendor Manager at Pet Food Express, sets her primary goal to enhance her current product assortments. "I usually have a target category or two that I am working on and am looking to discover the latest and greatest items to offer our customers. I am always looking for the diamond in the rough that is just starting out that I feel is the perfect fit for our company."
For retail buyers, this is a common theme. After all, the whole point of spending the time and money to go to a show is to find out what's new, what's big, and what could take sales to the next level. Michelle Petrich of Life's Organics, Inc. explains that her goals are "finding new products, negotiating promotions for the year and keeping up with industry trends and news."
From another point of view, Denver Oates, Regional Manager for All Points Marketing explains what he's seen his best customers do at the show. He explains that best practice is to "first establish a plan to visit current vendors to see what new products may be available and/or introduced at GPE."
While visiting these vendors, he says it's a good time to "discuss any issues/challenges we are facing or are apt to face in 2018 and beyond." Then, it's time to seek out new vendors who have products that fit well in your store. And, just so you don't get lost, he suggests to "literally map out the locations at the show so you can find them easily."
Discovering new products isn't the only part of the show that thrills attendees. It's also a great way to get excited about the pet products currently collecting dust on your shelves. You may even take away inspiration for new ways to merchandise them once you get home.
Lena Berry, another Regional Manager for All Points Marketing explains that "brands spend thousands of dollars investing in a booth structure that portrays who they are as a company and visiting is a great chance (one of only two a year) to see the products 'merchandised' at their best and to get a good understanding of the story and messaging the brand is telling."
Tracking Your Goals
Now that your goals are laid out, how do you track them and make sure you're hitting them successfully? It's all part of creating a cohesive plan and following through with checking it during and after the show.
During the show, Petrich uses a to-do list to stay on track. She says to "plan ahead and follow your 'to do' list but don't get overwhelmed, if booths are busy come back." Oates outlines a similar routine; "I would use a checklist to be sure I hit all the current vendors and all the new vendors on my list. If I can check off all of these I would say I have hit my goal successfully."
However, visiting the vendors shouldn't just be about checking something off your list. While you're in the booth, take a moment to review what makes you excited about the brand. According to Berry, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- What was the demeanor and personality of the people you talked to in the booth?
- What kind of consumers does the messaging attract?
- Do those people shop at your store?
- Is there a story behind the brand?
With all this information in mind, it's easy to get exhausted and stressed by everything there is to see and do at the show. Petrich suggests to "take breaks when needed and cover as much of your 'to do' list as possible but know you probably won't cover it all."
During the show, there can be so much going on at once that it can be difficult to keep up. That's why it's crucial to spend time after the show to get your notes, and your thoughts, together and plan out your next steps.
Rezente explains that her post-show routine includes sitting down and analyzing her success. "After the show, I put together all of my notes and new contacts to see what I have found that I want to pursue. It may take a while to measure the success but I have a volume of information to start my process with."
How do you know when you're successful after the product is now merchandised on your store's floor? Tim Brown, Regional Manager for All Points Marketing explains that "the single most concrete indicator you are doing it right is the ooh’s and aaah’s you get from consumers as the new products go up on display." Well, it's that and the sales numbers.
Believe it or not, it is possible to avoid becoming completely overwhelmed by all that the giant show has to offer. Even with new and exciting pet products dotting every aisle, it's important to make your health and your experience a priority. Berry explains, "the show can seem overwhelming, but just walk. Walk around and take the time to stop and talk to people if something catches your eye."
Not sure where to start? See what's new and shiny to put in your store. Rezente suggests to "start out at the New Product Show Case. It gives some good guidelines and product selections and booth numbers to make sure to visit."
Then, make time to visit the vendors that matter the most. Oates explains that "GPE can be overwhelming due to it's size. And it seems to get bigger every year. Plan your work and work your plan. If you complete this before time to leave, visit new vendors."
Rezente adds that to maximize efficiency and prevent being overwhelmed, "don’t stress if you don’t cover the entire floor but if you make appointments make sure to coordinate them in sequential order to avoid running back and forth."
As you're running around between booths, seminars, and vendor meetings, remember to take your time and try not to get too carried away. Brown encourages attendees to "use all three days. Don’t collect samples or catalogs they get really heavy after a long day on the floor. Just bring an iPad and a backpack and take notes/pictures digitally."
The number one tip for those who've never been to Global Pet Expo before? Stay comfortable! Rezente suggests "Wear comfortable shoes and don’t take too much literature that you’ll have to carry!"
Oates' last words of wisdom are to "seek out the services of industry professionals such as All Points Marketing! APM can put you in touch with products that have proven to increase sales."
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Hoffman is a freelance content marketer and writer for the pet industry. Growing up in the pet industry, she has keen insight on market trends and a passion for helping small businesses grow. Her portfolio includes various topics from pet food trends to using technology and marketing strategies to boost pet business sales. When she's not writing articles or working her day job, she's playing with her cat (Chewie), reading a book, or hiking one of Washington's many trails.
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