Hong Kong’s externally oriented economy has undergone a test by fire over the past year as restrictions to control the COVID-19 pandemic kept traders, investors and entrepreneurs in the home markets. The city responded with its renowned flexibility, rapidly adapting by digitalising sourcing and going online, taking trade fairs and conferences to attendees wherever they are.
After running a series of online sourcing shows last year, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) debuted its first online-and-offline exhibition this week. The HKTDC International Sourcing Show features both online and physical formats, helping businesses adjust to the new sourcing model. The online section of the trade show launched on 17 March, enabling buyers and suppliers to engage through a dedicated online exhibition platform that also features business matching and video conferencing tools. To explore further opportunities, businesses can join the physical show at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) from 26 to 29 July, by which time the pandemic is likely to have eased.
Hybrid standard model
Over the past year, numerous physical exhibitions around the world have been cancelled or rescheduled due to the pandemic. The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) estimates that the industry contracted 68% year on year globally in 2020, affecting deals worth about US$370 billion. Despite this challenging environment, many Hong Kong businesses reacted quickly, promoting products through online platforms to gain new customers and orders. The HKTDC reacted with a flexible and innovative approach, strengthening online services and migrating physical fairs online. It also launched an upgraded hktdc.com Sourcing platform that has won the support of suppliers and buyers alike.
“Although the global pandemic situation remains volatile, the release of COVID-19 vaccines and the commencement of mass vaccination programmes make us optimistic that trade activities can begin to return to normal,” said HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Chau.
“However, we believe that international trade exhibitions will continue to be held online through the first half of 2021. Even when the pandemic eases, we expect a hybrid model of online and offline sourcing to become a dominant trend,” he added.
To help Hong Kong businesses adapt to an increasingly digitalised sourcing model and provide a seamless online-to-offline (O2O) experience for suppliers and buyers, the HKTDC has set up quality online platforms and support services while leveraging e-commerce capabilities and new technologies.
“The online-and-offline model of the International Sourcing Show will create synergy between the two exhibition formats. We will also mobilise the HKTDC’s network of 50 offices worldwide to help exhibitors and buyers make the best possible preparations,” said Mr Chau.
Quality lifestyle products, solutions
Themed “Your Source of Inspiration”, the show integrates seven HKTDC trade fairs – the HKTDC Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong Baby Products Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong International Home Textiles & Furnishing Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong Fashion Week, HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair, and the Hong Kong International Printing & Packaging Fair [co-organised with CIEC Exhibition Co (HK) Ltd) – that were originally scheduled to run in spring this year.
From 17 March to 29 July, the hybrid show will highlight a broad range of quality lifestyle products and solutions under four main categories.
Smart Home: an extensive selection of houseware, home textiles and furnishings, including household and furniture items.
Smart Play: a range of baby products, toys and games, spanning baby care, nursery products and interactive and educational games.
Smart Style: an eclectic mix of fashion products, gifts and premiums as well as printing and packaging solutions.
Smart Tech: a wide variety of tech products, including electronics, lighting, medical and healthcare products employing the latest technologies.
More than 1,400 companies from 20 countries and regions exhibit at the show, which features 19 group pavilions including the Department of Commerce of Jiangsu, Department of Commerce of Zhejiang Province, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and the Taiwan Toy & Children's Article Manufacturers Association.
In addition to exhibiting in the usual formats, some exhibitors have opted to use 3D virtual booths for a more eye-catching promotion of their brands and products. The HKTDC has also launched a product video production service through which resource-strapped small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can design and produce videos to promote products and catch the attention of buyers.
Marketing skill webinars
The HKTDC has invited more than 60 industry luminaries to share their insights at 17 webinars, which are scheduled for the first three days of the online show (17 to 19 March), enabling buyers and exhibitors to focus on business matching on subsequent days.
Highlighted webinars include “International Sourcing Outlook”, “Survive and Thrive: Leveraging End-to-end E-commerce Solutions” and “Utilising Licensing to Expand Your Business”. Among distinguished speakers are Devin Dai, Director of Category Management at Alibaba.com; Shinya Hisanaga, Director of Buying and Logistics at AEON Stores (Hong Kong); Flavien Serra, Founder of DTL Sourcing; Fione Tan, Co-founder of 28Mall.com; and Benson Ng, Hong Kong Business Consulting Leader at EY.
The International Sourcing Show saw the launch of the HKTDC’s “Let’s Go Phygital: Power Up for the New Normal” seminar series, organised with the support of AsiaWorld-Expo and the HKCEC to help SMEs adapt to the O2O hybrid sourcing model. The first seminars of the series were held online this week.
Similar to previous HKTDC online shows, the International Sourcing Show features Click2Match, an artificial intelligence-powered online business matching platform helping traders overcome barriers under the pandemic and build business connections around the world. Buyers and suppliers can use the tool to connect while enjoying value-added functions such as a meeting planner, video meetings, live chat and e-business card exchange.
HKTDC International Sourcing Show