News Embracing the virtual world:

Sirius Buying Group holds successful online trade show

Q&A 10

Left: Mark Veysey, General Manager, Sirius Buying Group Right: Steve Jones, Commercial Director, Sirius Buying Group

Last month, Sirius Buying Group hosted a Digital Trade Show, bringing together retailers and suppliers in a digital format while still offering the benefits of a real- life trade show. By harnessing the latest online

technology, the virtual show featured an impressive library of content from each supplier, including a welcome video, plenty of product information plus specific Sirius member offers. The real highlight, however, was the ability to book one-on-one video conference meetings. Just like the real thing, once members had joined the platform, they could browse the virtual supplier stands and speak to reps via their chosen method – phone call, email or a pre- arranged video call. Sirius Buying Group’s General

Manager, Mark Veysey, told ERT: “It was the closest we could possibly get to a real live event this year. The whole emphasis was getting as many members as possible onto the platform, to focus them on placing orders and interacting with suppliers.”

Q: What has the feedback been like from attendees? Steve Jones: We did a lot of work in the background to tee-up for a great day. Nothing like this has been done before and for most members after their first couple of calls on the day they realised how easy it was to get round and see all the reps. We had 157 members pre-register and

of all the booked appointments on the day we had around 98 per cent attendance across the board. We also learned that if anyone couldn’t make their original meeting time, they still wanted to attend later in the day. Mark Veysey: We have had a deluge of people saying how great the day was and how innovative it was. I’m quite certain we were the first in the industry to do this and fortunately on the day it went really well. Everyone got behind it in a big way

and that’s demonstrated by the nearly 860+ appointments we saw on the day. You just wouldn’t get that at a normal trade show. Q: How were members able to learn about new products? SJ: Most suppliers uploaded PDF information sheets to their digital stand, focusing on certain ranges or SKUs they wanted to highlight, particularly with the energy labelling changes coming up, there are new products coming out. There was also the video library and engagement with these proved very popular. Having been through all the analytics

from the show we saw that most members were watching these videos all

the way through and downloading the PDFs from nearly all the suppliers. MV: It’s really great to have all the information about who visited throughout the course of the day; we are able to share that with suppliers and if there’s a potential new customer in that group they can get in contact and start communicating. With this digital aspect, compared to

a normal trade show where sometimes you can be deep in conversation and not get the chance to speak to everyone, visitors can all be seen either at the time they logged on or later in the day.

Q: Why was it important for you to still hold the trade show this year? SJ: Our physical trade show is really important for us every September; we strategically hold it then because we’re heading into the final quarter of the year, traditionally the busiest period. We wanted to try and still bring the show to life, especially this year because of the situation we’re all in. The key things for Sirius are

communication, sharing best practices and learning from other like-minded businesses. Business in general in our industry is strongly built on relationships and online video calls are a means to an end – it’s an improvement on no contact – but we wanted to create a platform that encouraged real interaction between our retailers and suppliers. MV: Right from the beginning of this pandemic we have kept in constant contact with our members, and this virtual trade show has helped them see the value that Sirius Buying Group brings to them as

a business. We have offered a lot of help in recent months and all that culminated with the show, especially as we missed out on the members’ conference in Gibraltar earlier this year.

Q: Next year will you stick with the digital format or revert back to the physical show? SJ: We said from the outset that we didn’t intend for this digital show to replace the physical one, and it won’t, but judging by the success of it I would like to think there is scope to build on this or offer some sort of hybrid show next year perhaps. In terms of other bespoke events,

there is definitely an appetite for more virtual activity now, so if we can offer a solution where retailers spend less time out of their business but still get virtually the same experience as in the past, it’s a good way to add to what we do.

Said Garry Leveridge, Key Account Manager at BSH: “Although we’re unable to hold face-to-face trade shows at the moment, Sirius delivered a first-class virtual event which provided a fantastic platform for us to speak with members. We shared our innovations and key messages with over 100 trade partners and we look forward to finishing the year with the momentum generated by this event.”

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