The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly dumped economies across the world into the digital deep end, taking offices, malls and conferences online. Many economies are now cautiously reopening as vaccination programmes and control measures dampen the pandemic – but are moving into a hybrid, online-offline (O2O) model rather than reverting to the analogue-first world.
As a global business hub, Hong Kong is at the cutting edge of moves to harness the potential of the O2O model, exemplified by the endeavours of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).
The HKTDC International Sourcing Show is the first online-and-offline trade exhibition organised by the HKTDC. The cyberspace section of the show, the HKTDC International Sourcing Show | ONLINE, opened on 17 March and runs until 29 July. The physical fair will be held from 26 to 29 July at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
HKTDC International Sourcing Show | ONLINE features more than 1,400 exhibitors from 20 countries and regions. In the first three weeks alone, it attracted some 23,000 buyers from 131 countries and regions, including India, Indonesia, Japan, Mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
The HKTDC mobilised its worldwide network of 50 offices and its artificial intelligence-powered online business matching platform, Click2Match (main picture) to connect exhibitors with buyers. By the end of last month, more than 7,000 online business matching meetings had been successfully conducted, helping participants capture new business opportunities amid the pandemic.
Furthermore, the International Sourcing Show | ONLINE offered a new product-video production service, as well as 3D virtual booths, to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) showcase products in a more eye-catching way and get better prepared for the era of digitalised trading. Exhibitors welcomed both services.
Positive response to hybrid format
The global pandemic situation is showing signs of improvement in some regions but its impact continues to be profound. Benjamin Chau, Deputy Executive Director of the HKTDC, believes global sourcing will become increasingly digitalised and future trade fairs will be more likely to offer a hybrid online and offline sourcing model to reap the benefits of both formats. “When physical fairs resume, the HKTDC will continue to organise regular online sourcing events that will feature different themes and will align with the sourcing cycles of different industries. Our goal is to generate even more business opportunities for suppliers and buyers globally,” Mr Chau said.
As the trend for combining online and offline sourcing gains traction, the HKTDC conducted an online survey to gauge the views of exhibitors and buyers joining the International Sourcing Show. The survey found the majority of exhibitors surveyed (80%) considered trade fairs with online elements will become their major promotional channel in the future, while 96% said they would participate in the HKTDC’s online and physical exhibitions again. Most surveyed buyers (82%) intended participating in trade fairs offering online and physical elements to develop both online and offline business opportunities.
More than 80% of exhibitors said they had achieved key objectives through the event, including generating new sales leads, meeting new customers, promoting brands and products, and launching and promoting new products. More than 90% of buyers agreed the show helped them seek out new products and suppliers and gain a better understanding of market trends.
Many participants found buyers or suppliers through the Click2Match platform. Among them was Rachel Chan, Business Development Specialist at Avery Dennison (Hong Kong) Ltd, a local exhibitor. She said the online fair offered her company a good opportunity to introduce its printing solutions and radio frequency identification (RFID) labels to buyers from different industries.
“We are very happy to have video meetings with more than 10 new buyers from different places including Mainland China, India, Malaysia and Thailand,” said Ms Chan. “The buyers are keen to develop cooperation opportunities with us, and we hope to continue receiving new sales leads or enquiries. The online show also helped to increase our company’s exposure.”
Her remarks were echoed by Thai exhibitor Fashion Hometex Co Ltd. “We have made four new contacts with buyers from Mainland China, Brazil, Poland and Saudi Arabia. We expect potential orders worth US$100,000 from three new buyers,” said company representative Atitaya Dechboon. “We are very satisfied with the Click2Match service which allowed us to arrange video meetings as frequently as we liked without any time conflicts.”
Equally impressed were buyers including Artem Mykhailyk, Chief Operational Officer at Micon Trade LLC of Ukraine, who was interested in sourcing smart wearable devices and DVR cameras.
“Through the International Sourcing Show | ONLINE, we have found three potential suppliers from Mainland China and Taiwan. We plan to place orders worth US$280,000 with these suppliers,” he said. “The show provided a unique and well-arranged online sourcing platform that offered an alternative to physical exhibitions amid the pandemic. I found it easy and convenient to find suitable products and make appointments with potential suppliers.”
Hanna Touma Bechara, Manager at Modern Electronics Co of Lebanon, found two potential suppliers from Hong Kong and the mainland through the online fair. “Our budget for buying audio systems is US$30,000. Due to travel restrictions under the global pandemic, online trade shows like this are the only way we can find new suppliers for the time being,” he said.
Intelligence Hub webinars take pulse
The Intelligence Hub, a feature of the online fair, hosted 17 webinars with more than 60 industry experts sharing the latest industry developments and trends. The webinars have attracted more than 44,000 views in total and counting.
The most popular webinars include “International Sourcing Outlook”, “Survive and Thrive: Leveraging End-to-end E-commerce Solutions”, “Utilising Licensing to Expand Your Business” and “Toys & Children’s Products Safety & Regulations Updates”.
The HKTDC also launched the “Let’s Go Phygital: Power Up for the New Normal” seminar series, further helping SMEs adapt to the hybrid online-and-offline sourcing model, with the first round of webinars held during the online show.
Videos of the webinars are available on the Intelligence Hub webpage [https://isshow-online.hktdc.com/en/intelligence-hub], enabling companies to review insights from industry luminaries anytime, anywhere.
The International Sourcing Show integrates seven HKTDC trade fairs that were originally scheduled to run in spring 2021. The fairs are: 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 by the HKTDC and CIEC Exhibition Co (HK) Ltd.
While the Click2Match business matching service for the online show has concluded, buyers and exhibitors can continue trading through the HKTDC’s upgraded online marketplace, hktdc.com Sourcing platform [http://sourcing.hktdc.com], until 29 July.