International trade fairs and sourcing modes have seen dramatic changes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the organisers of many physical exhibitions and seminars to transition to a digitised or hybrid path.
To help enterprises adapt to the new environment and stay closely connected to international buyers, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has launched a brand-new hybrid exhibition model, EXHIBITION+, to strengthen its exhibition platform. Meanwhile, the HKTDC International Sourcing Show runs from 5 to 8 July at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). Exhibitors and buyers at the event will be among the first to enjoy the smart business-matching platform, Click2Match, to actively assist them in seizing business opportunities.
HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Sophia Chong said: “The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on Hong Kong’s economy and particularly on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Amid the ongoing pandemic and geopolitical tensions, many enterprises have sought support from policies and aid packages to help them ride out the storm.
“From March 2020, the HKTDC adjusted quickly to the new reality, moving its various physical fairs, large-scale seminars and business-matching meetings to online platforms, striving to continue connecting local businesses with international buyers and offering various kinds of support. Now, the HKTDC is launching EXHIBITION+ to familiarise enterprises with digital platforms and capture online-to-offline international opportunities around the clock.”
A recent buyer survey by the HKTDC – which interviewed 600 international buyers from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, Australia, Europe, Mainland China and the United States – showed that most respondents (93%) had used online sourcing platforms, and more than 85% had participated in virtual fairs to meet sourcing needs. Most respondents said they would be willing to conduct sourcing through physical fairs (63%) or hybrid fairs (59%) once travel restrictions were lifted. The survey findings revealed that in future, physical and online-to-offline integrated fairs could complement each other.
EXHIBITION+ comprises four key exhibition elements – HKTDC-organised physical fairs, the smart business-matching platform Click2Match, online-to-offline seminars under the Intelligence Hub, and the hktdc.com Sourcing platform – to provide round-the-clock services that boost the flexibility and effectiveness of business promotion for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and offer benefits such as extended fair periods, expanded platforms and enhanced opportunities.
EXHIBITION+ extends face-to-face interactions from physical exhibitions to an online smart business-matching platform to help enterprises connect with business partners proactively. As always, the HKTDC’s 50 global offices will actively recruit international buyers, while its business-matching specialists will match suitable exhibitors according to buyers’ sourcing demands and arrange online and offline meetings to facilitate business cooperation.
Unique business journey
With EXHIBITION+, exhibitors can start displaying products to buyers on the fair website one month before the physical fair, while buyers can browse products and shortlist exhibitors. One week before the physical fair, both buyers and exhibitors can actively search for business targets through the Click2Match platform, check out AI-recommended leads and send meeting requests. During the physical fair, they can meet at the fairground or online via Click2Match, while further online meetings can be scheduled and conducted up to one week after the fair. Exhibitors can still receive sourcing enquiries from buyers up to one month after the fair.
Smart business-matching platform Click2Match is built on the HKTDC’s extensive database to greatly enhance the accuracy of smart matching through artificial intelligence (AI) and big-data analytics. Compared to physical exhibitions, where exhibitors typically need to wait for buyers to visit their booths, Click2Match enables them to actively search for suitable buyers and arrange meetings with global buyers. The platform features meeting scheduling, video conferencing, instant messaging, message translation (up to 14 languages), and file-sharing functions to facilitate easy communication between buyers and suppliers.
Fair attendees need just one account to seamlessly connect to the various HKTDC online platforms, allowing them to navigate between fair websites, Click2Match, hktdc.com Sourcing and the HKTDC Marketplace App anytime and anywhere. The exhibitions will also feature online and offline seminars and conferences, helping attendees tap into the latest market trends by attending activities in person or watching via livestreaming or playback.
Some exhibitors were given prior access to use the Click2Match platform in March. One exhibitor, Zuri Jewelry Company Ltd Director Victor Yiu, said the platform is very user-friendly. “We can even check buyers’ information before the fair and understand their sourcing demands, allowing us to better prepare for meetings and select the right products for buyers,” Mr Yiu said. Another exhibitor, Chit Tat Clock & Watch Co Ltd General Manager Philip Lau, said he is using Click2Match to actively search for overseas buyers. “We will keep track of AI-recommended leads, look at their sourcing demands and schedule meetings in advance, hoping to increase the chance of orders being placed.”
As an extension of the physical fairs, hktdc.com Sourcing provides a trusted year-round online promotional platform. In addition to connecting with buyers at physical fairs, exhibitors can also seek out potential buyers in unexplored blue-ocean markets, such as those specialising in online sourcing and overseas buyers that are unable to visit fairs. The platform shows exhibitors’ profiles, along with a comprehensive overview of their products and services, increasing their exposure to buyers.
The HKTDC recently added a “Request for Quotation” (RFQ) service to the platform, collecting sourcing requests from quality and reliable buyers and helping suppliers to seize every opportunity.
To comprehensively facilitate SMEs to upgrade and transform their business, and to help them maintain competitiveness, the HKTDC offers a series of platforms and services, including the Digital Academy and E-Tailing Academy, providing professional training related to e-commerce and digital business. The HKTDC also collaborates with major technological enterprises to provide cost-effective e-commerce, digital marketing and enterprise resources planning for SMEs.Transformation Sandbox (T-box) is a three-month programme initiated by the HKTDC to promote SMEs’ business upgrading and transformation, catering to their needs in the areas of branding, e-commerce, manufacturing and supply chain solutions and exploring new markets. The programme provides advisory services, workshops and government-funding information, helping enterprises to navigate trends, enhance techniques and expand their business network. T-box has attracted more than 2,000 SMEs to join since its launch.
The HKTDC will step up efforts to help Hong Kong’s SMEs further developing overseas markets through a series of activities. These include liaising with Hong Kong business associations around the world and providing training, group consultations and exchanges with trade committees from foreign chambers of commerce or consulates to join HKTDC’s overseas events, helping to build commercial connections and arrange business matching.
The HKTDC also strives to support SMEs in exploring business opportunities in other mature or new markets, including continuous support for Hong Kong companies in developing business in the ASEAN bloc and reinforcing the HKTDC’s flagship overseas promotional events. For example, the “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” event will be enhanced with online-to-offline promotional platforms, offering a continuous business matching service along with an SME support scheme and various training activities, helping Hong Kong companies to connect with global enterprises and seize business opportunities in a more effective way.
Host of opportunities
The upcoming HKTDC International Sourcing Show brings together seven trade fairs, including the HKTDC Hong Kong Electronic Fair (Spring Edition), HKTDC Hong Kong International Lighting Fair (Spring Edition), HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair, Hong Kong Houseware Fair, HKTDC Hong Kong Fashion Week, HKTDC Hong Kong International Home Textiles & Furnishing Fair, and the Hong Kong International Printing & Packaging Fair, attracting over 1,700 exhibitors from 12 countries and regions with more than 83,000 products.
The physical edition will be held from 5 to 8 July in the format of display showcases. Exhibitors and buyers who cannot join due to international travel restrictions can stay connected through Click2Match, the smart business-matching platform of EXHIBITION+, from 5 to 15 July.
Themed “Smarter Sourcing · Better Living”, the International Sourcing Show will highlight a broad range of quality lifestyle products under four main categories, namely Healthy Living, Smart Living, Stylish Living and Sustainable Living.
A host of seminars will be held during the show covering hot topics such as digital and social media marketing strategies, testing and qualification services for textiles and shoe production supply chains, the aesthetics of scientific design research, internet of things innovation beyond the home, and an introduction to the government’s Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales (BUD Fund). There will also be networking sessions, assisting enterprises to stay connected and expand business opportunities.
HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Spring Edition)
HKTDC Hong Kong Fashion Week
HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair
HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair
HKTDC Hong Kong International Lighting Fair (Spring Edition)
HKTDC Hong Kong International Home Textiles and Furnishings Fair
HKTDC Printing & Packaging Fair