As Japan has so far weathered COVID-19 better than most countries, almost all restrictions on business activities have been lifted and even trade shows are being held. The BC Wood Japan office recently took part in the hybrid Bamboo Expo, which was online one day and then in-person on the second day. That was our first show this fiscal year, but last week we took part in the industry leading Japan Home and Building Show at Tokyo’s Big Sight.
As Big Sight’s main East Halls are still closed for the Olympics, this year’s show was held in the new but much smaller South Halls. This restricted the number of potential exhibitors regardless of COVID. However, the corona virus of course had a big impact on the show as the organizers took a variety of precautions to protect all attendees. This included limiting the number of visitors in the halls, requiring temperature checks and masks, as well as requiring all entrants into the halls to register their information for potential contact tracing. The number of COVID cases had been decreasing through the fall, but unfortunately infections started rising just the week prior and rapidly increased during the week of the show. All of this led to a large drop in the number of visitors from 40,644 in 2019 to 22,056 this time. While somewhat disappointing, just being able to hold an important trade show like this and have over 20,000 people show up was a triumph.
Despite overall attendance at the show being down, the Canadian pavilion organized by BC Wood was quite busy due to the great location we secured as well as a strong visual presence. Since it was possible to see our signage from almost any part of the hall, we learned that other people were using it as a direction finder. Travel restrictions are still in place so no one from Canada could come to participate directly. Therefore, BC Wood launched a new comprehensive promotional campaign that also incorporated a virtual presence at the Japan Home Show. As a result of our highly visible space, we were able to give out to over 1200 visitors company introductions and contact information on behalf of the participating members.
We were also able to collect contact information from over 300 visitors who expressed interest in our products and asked for further information. Even though the show’s attendance fell, this is a similar number of contacts developed compared to other years. Once we have processed and entered those into our contact database, we will conduct two levels of follow-up: one generic and one specifically for the participating members. Specific leads from this follow-up will also be referred to the members.
For the first time, we tried to connect buyers live from our booth with members to ask questions via video chat, but unfortunately this part did not work out as well as we had hoped. Part of it seemed to be a level of shyness about jumping on a video call from the show floor in front of others, but it was also a case of people just wanting to pick-up information and moving on as quickly as possible to minimize their corona virus risk. However, as a part of the follow-up process, we will suggest to the buyers that they can still schedule a Zoom call with the Canadian suppliers at their convenience.
Overall, it was a great learning experience on exhibiting at shows during COVID. Despite the lower attendance, we were still successful in showcasing the Canadian value-added industry, promoting a variety of members’ products, and collecting a large number of new contacts. We are looking forward to building on these lessons and creating an even bigger impact at the larger Nikkei Architectural and Construction Materials show in March. Please contact Jim Ivanoff (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information on that event.