We all know that adapting is necessary, especially this year. Our industry has had to react and create new business models due to the market changes brought on by COVID-19. But, it’s essential that brands work to protect the core needs of their retailers.

Envoy B2B surveyed 6,500 specialty retailers regarding their opinion of the importance of physical trade shows and what their recent experience has been with digital or virtual stand-in events.

Here are some key takeaways from that research.

Entirely digital shows did not leave retailers satisfied

The experience that retailers had at entirely digital shows left something to be desired. They missed the ability to see and feel the product in person, and felt that too few of the brands participated.

Breakdown of retailer interest in attending physical trade shows once a vaccine has been distributed.

“Nothing is like a real show. Virtual does not let you see and touch and feel.”

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Retailers want physical contact with your products during the buying process

Retailers find it harder to make buying decisions without being able to physically interact with the product. It’s difficult to get a feel for an item without being able to touch it and see it in person.

“I love to touch what a product feels like and how it hangs on a body and what the actual color is.”

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Retailers want continued participation by brands at trade shows

Brands are currently driven to go virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s still critical that they show up. And, as we eventually shift back to a more in-person model again, retailers are going to want to see their brands face-to-face on the show floor.

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Specialty retailers are all in on physical trade shows

We aren’t there yet, but most retailers have stated that they look forward to the return of physical trade shows, and plan on attending to the same degree they did before the pandemic.

So, while we’ve all had to adapt our strategies and come up with new best practices as we navigate a largely virtual world, it’s going to be key to not lose sight of what your retailers want in the future. Digital sell-in events are the solution to today’s challenges, but they shouldn’t be seen as a forever replacement to the core needs of your retailers.

Your brand can come out of this tumultuous time with an opportunity to integrate new technologies into the sell-in process as we return to more in-person events. But, listen to your retailers and realize that these virtual experiences shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the kinds of relationships that can be built by attending in-person trade shows. And in the meantime, find ways to get your physical product in front of your buyers during sell-in. It’ll make your brand stand out even more.

Want to learn more? Click here to see the research

Further reading

Check out other courses in this series for further learning on how to build successful seasons and build effective wholesale channels

Modernize your approach to wholesale

How to host a virtual sell-in event for the next season

Best practices for in-season retail support and replenishment

Engaging retailers with great content at every step in the season

Empower your sales reps with modern tools and strategies

How to ensure a smooth transition to a modern wholesale B2B platform

8 critical features of a modern, growth-oriented B2B platform

Adapting for success: A conversation about growing during a pandemic

EnvoyB2B logo. Envoy is in black letters and B2B is blue.


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Engaging retailers with great content every step of the season

The Seasonal Journey What is it and how to use it to build your go-to-market content plan. The seasonal journey is the path you and your retail partners take as they navigate the season. It’s helpful to think of the season as a series of stages when considering how to best …read more

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A Conversation About Growing During A Pandemic

The outdoor industry, like many others, is experiencing an unprecedented disruption due to the current worldwide pandemic. COVID-19 has radically changed how we are able to do business, and brands are finding themselves adopting new models and systems as they seek new ways to …read more

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8 critical features of a modern, growth-oriented B2B platform

Your brand is hot. You’ve got killer new products. Retailers are excited. Your wholesale channel is ready to go! But, wait. Is it? You may have crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s for your go-to-market plan, but when’s the last time you took a look at your B2B? Are you …read more

How To Host A Virtual Event

How to host a virtual sell-in event for the next season

As the world changes and businesses adapt, many brands find themselves needing to adopt a completely virtual sell-in experience. Even if your brand can’t conduct essential business face to face, it is essential that you find ways to move forward. This is doubly important at the …read more

Best Practices For In-Season Retail Support

Best practices for in-season retail support and replenishment

While the time leading up to a season for a brand and retailer are crucial to ensuring that the right product gets purchased and it eventually sells through, the decisions and actions in season can’t be overlooked. This article will discuss a retailer’s needs while in season, …read more

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Empower your sales reps with modern tools and strategies

Why Reps Matter to Specialty Retailers Sales reps are one of the essential components of a brand finding success at retail. For many retailers, they are the key that unlocks a successful season by providing much needed support. But what exactly should reps be doing to service …read more

Modernize Your Approach to Wholesale

Modernize your approach to wholesale

Welcome to Brand College! Think of this as your destination to get inside the head of specialty retailers and better understand what they expect of you as a brand in order to earn your spot on their shelves. We’ll cover the key fundamentals of building a thriving wholesale …read more

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How to ensure a smooth transition to a modern wholesale B2B platform

In this guide for brands and sales managers we will cover How to overcome objections and get your team on board Finding The Right Time To Upgrade Prepping Your Organization For A New B2B System — Upgrading your flagging B2B system to a more effective, modern platform is a big …read more

SNEWS Retail College: Test your product IQ – first soft shell?

The SNEWS® Retail College is more than just a classroom. Inside our virtual college walls, there exists a library of information, unlike any other training resource, which is perfect for ensuring sales people are always on their specialty game. How good is your sales knowledge? …read more