Online fair meets sourcing demand
As measures to control COVID-19 put traditional physical events on ice, exhibitors and buyers flock to a digital expo.
13 August 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to physical exhibitions around the world being cancelled or postponed but sourcing demand has continued to grow. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) acted swiftly to fulfil this demand, changing its strategy at the onset of the pandemic and actively developing new business channels and services. The HKTDC’s most recent online exhibition has concluded successfully, laying the foundation for a future hybrid model that combines physical and online trade fairs.
The pandemic led to nine of the HKTDC’s planned physical exhibitions being migrated online to form a digital exhibition, Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go ONLINE, which ran from 27 July to 7 August. The exhibition employed innovative online solutions which combined key elements of business matching from physical fairs to facilitate business discussions between buyers and exhibitors.
Small is digital
Benjamin Chau, HKTDC Deputy Executive Director, said: “The uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic have led more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to focus on online promotions and operations, which has quickly become the ‘new normal’ for conducting business. Given that the pandemic has prevented buyers and exhibitors from meeting in person, the HKTDC has introduced online business matching to enable networking and deal-making.”
Mr Chau said the Click2Match business matching platform featured at Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go ONLINE used big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to match exhibitors with prospective buyers. The HKTDC also leveraged the strong business networks of its 50 global offices and the support of its Hong Kong team to offer real-time assistance to buyers and exhibitors, enhancing their confidence and readiness to discuss business online. The results spoke for themselves, with more than 4,500 video meetings arranged.
Global sourcing opportunities
Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go ONLINE featured more than 1,300 exhibitors and attracted over 13,000 registered quality buyers from 118 countries and regions. During the fair period, multiple webinars were held to enable global suppliers and buyers to stay abreast of the latest market intelligence amid the pandemic, attracting more than 31,000 views. The most popular webinars included “Tech Trends Symposium 2020 – The Future of Intelligent Connectivity”, “Asian Lighting Forum 2020 – Shaping the Future of Lights” and “WGSN Presents: Lifestyle & Interiors Trends Spring/Summer 2021”. Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go ONLINE also boosted traffic to the online hktdc.com Sourcing online trading platform, with the number of page views reaching 1.5 million, a year-on-year increase of 60%.
Search is on for gifts, lighting
The majority of overseas buyers joining the online exhibition came from Mainland China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States, confirming the global nature of the exhibition. In addition, the HKTDC invited numerous major buyers to participate through the online platform, including representatives from Sichuan Impression Property Group Co Ltd, Guangdong Sanyuan McDonald's Food Company Limited, and Chengdu Ito Yokado Electronic Commerce Co Ltd from the mainland; Eslite Spectrum from Taiwan; Amazon India; Singapore’s Lightcraft Pte Ltd; Supervalu Inc and NeweggBusiness Inc from the US; Elgin from Brazil; and local representatives from Gap International Sourcing Limited.
Analysing the consolidated figures for the online exhibition, the product categories most searched for were, in order of popularity: gifts, lighting, medical and healthcare products, mobile phones and accessories, desktop organisers, clocks, audio speakers, watches, backpacks, and auto parts and accessories.
Online exhibition boosts deals
Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go ONLINE featured the Click2Match business matching platform, using multiple new technologies to enhance matching efficiency. It also covered meeting scheduling, video meeting, live chat and online seminars run by industry experts, all of which helped to provide a better online sourcing and networking experience for buyers and exhibitors.
Participants on both sides agreed that the online exhibition helped them connect and continue making deals amid a difficult trading environment.
Jun Wong, Managing Director of fashion manufacturer MsEnvy Corporation Limited, said her company had successfully connected with new customers through the platform. “The unique Click2Match business matching platform at Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go Online is a timely and effective tool that has helped us to find potential buyers amid the pandemic. A Japanese retailer and a buyer from the United Arab Emirates expressed their interests in buying our new collections based on their patterns. We expect that the initial orders from these two new buyers will amount to US$50,000,” Ms Wong said.
Mainland manufacturer Ningbo Hongyi Garment Co Ltd showcased its “Alice in the Wonderland” collection through the online exhibition. Pearl Yu, the company’s General Manager, said: “We have successfully connected with three new buyers via the Click2Match platform. A buyer from the Netherlands sourcing promotional gifts wants us to produce homewear based on his own designs – an order valued at US$50,000,” Ms Yu said.
Ognjen Vucic, Managing Director of Linea Media from Montenegro, said: “Building trust with new suppliers during the lockdown period has been difficult for buyers. The HKTDC’s innovative Click2Match customised business matching platform has made it much easier to make connections and is likely to facilitate orders worth around US$50,000 for our company.”
First time online
An HKTDC online survey found that more than 70% of exhibitors were participating in an online exhibition for the first time. Nearly 70% of exhibitors surveyed said they achieved their objectives for joining the fair, including generating new sales leads and meeting new customers, leveraging online platforms to promote and launch new products, as well as promoting their company image and brand. More than 40% of respondents agreed that they will use both online and offline channels for future promotions.
For buyers, 80% of those surveyed indicated they were participating in an online exhibition for the first time and 80% of respondents achieved their objectives, including finding new products and suppliers, gathering market intelligence and gauging product trends. More than 80% of buyers surveyed found the communication tools of Click2Match useful for connecting with exhibitors, saying that the exhibitors referred by AI largely matched their product and service areas (84%).
Moreover, nearly 70% of buyers said they would consider participating in the HKTDC’s physical fairs again in the coming 12 months, showing that physical events remain crucial for buyers and exhibitors to establish connections and build trust during trading. Additionally, nearly half (46%) of the buyers surveyed consider the hybrid online and offline model to be the future trend for sourcing.
Digital sourcing platform upgraded
Mr Chau noted that the global sourcing model is becoming more focused on digital solutions following the pandemic, and it is envisaged that an online and offline hybrid model will be adopted for future HKTDC trade exhibitions. The HKTDC’s online sourcing platform, hktdc.com Sourcing, provided the perfect complement to Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go ONLINE. While the former offers a year-round online showcase for suppliers, the online exhibition brought together suppliers and buyers for specific collaborations.
As the pandemic persists, the HKTDC will hold its next online exhibition, Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE, in November. It is also working to upgrade the hktdc.com Sourcing platform, using advanced technological solutions to enhance matching efficiency and ensure SMEs can continue to make deals during the peak sourcing season.
* The nine physical exhibitions that were migrated online to form Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go ONLINE are the HKTDC Hong Kong International Lighting Fair (Spring Edition), HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Spring Edition), HKTDC International ICT Expo, Hong Kong International Medical and Healthcare Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong International Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong Fashion Week, HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair, and the Hong Kong International Printing & Packaging Fair.
Summer Sourcing Weeks | Go ONLINE
- Hong Kong