Millennial supply chain professionals have markedly different expectations of a trade show and express contrasting reasons for visiting an event to their more mature colleagues.
A new survey of over 200 logistics professionals undertaken by Sapio Research on behalf of the organisers of IMHX 2019 (the International Materials Handling Exhibition, NEC, Birmingham, 27 -29th September 2019) shines a light on the perceptions, behaviors and needs of visitors to trade shows in the supply chain sector.
In particular, the report’s findings help indicate to those companies operating in the materials handling and logistics space key motivators for engaging young people.
For example, although just 36 per cent of all those polled rated entertainment as an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ reason to attend a business exhibition, in the younger age group this figure rises to 56 per cent which suggests that increasing a show’s ‘entertainment value’ may be a way to encourage younger people to attend an event and add to their satisfaction with it.
But, across all age groups, education and networking opportunities are perceived as the most important features of a business exhibition.
In terms of education, the ‘need to keep up to date with industry trends’ is the key driver (79 per cent) for attending an exhibition among all respondents to the survey, followed by ‘finding new ways of adding value to processes’ (55 per cent), ‘finding new suppliers’ (48 per cent) and the chance to get ‘exclusive access to products you can’t see anywhere else’ (35 per cent).
When asked about networking, while ‘networking with peers’ was stated as a key reason to visit a show by 39 per cent of all of those polled, it seems that different types of networking activities have varying levels of appeal across the age range surveyed.
For instance, those aged 53+ said that the opportunity to speak to presenters who are delivering a seminar at an exhibition would encourage them to attend a show, while only 5 per cent of those in the millennial bracket find this prospect attractive: the younger generation stated a preference for pre-arranged meetings and networking opportunities.
Young people also see trade shows as an opportunity to seek out job opportunities and other chances for career development and advancement while this aspect is less significant to older professionals.
‘Attendance of companie I want to engage with’ (78 per cent),‘Product and solution demonstrations’ (71 per cent) and ‘Interactive exhibits and display zones’ (54 per cent) were the three features of an exhibition most likely to encourage visitor attendance across the age divide. However, ‘Technology sessions’ are viewed as an important attraction to 51 per cent of 41-52 year olds but are less interesting to 18-40 year olds with just 29 per cent rating them as a good reason to attend a trade show.
A ‘lack of interesting things’, ‘being sold to’ and ‘work pressures’ are the three things most likely to stop a potential visitor from attending a business-to-business trade event, but, encouragingly for both the IMHX organisers and the exhibiting companies, 88 per cent of respondents across the various age ranges stated that they plan to attend IMHX 2019.
Interest in IMHX 2019 is particularly strong among managers in the 18-40 age bracket, who, the study found, tend to visit exhibitions more regularly than their more mature colleagues.
When it comes to pre-show marketing activities the research threw up some interesting findings that will enable exhibitors to direct their message to their target audience more accurately.
For example, of the various social media channels, LinkedIn is, by some distance, the most popular (71 per cent) for keeping up to date with trends in the logistics industry, followed by Facebook (31 per cent) and Twitter (29 per cent).
However, as a source of answers to specific work-related challenges LinkedIn scored less highly with the overwhelming majority of respondents preferring Google searches to look for the information they need.
Guy Washer, a director of Sapio Research, commented: “Part of the brief for this study was to deliver a greater understanding of how to attract so called millennials to IMHX 2019.
“Clearly social media has a role to play in this process as platforms such as LinkedIn are widely used by young professionals to keep up to date with industry developments.
“But the survey’s findings on the role of entertainment is, I think, also significant: entertainment is clearly of much more importance to younger people when attending business exhibitions than those aged 41 and over and this is something that exhibitors can take advantage of by using interactive learning opportunities to draw young professionals to their stands.
“It is also clear that young people want to network and exhibitors can use this knowledge to create exhibits that incorporate networking opportunities both during and, perhaps, in the run-up to the show.”
The research has been well received by the logistics industry.
Simon Barkworth, managing director of Crown Lift Trucks Ltd and President of the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA), commented: “This research comes at an important time for the UK economy, with various industry sectors competing strongly to attract and retain the best young talent.
"As a leading trade association in the logistics sector, BITA has the mandate to help make our industry a lot more attractive and visible, particularly to younger people. IMHX is a fabulous opportunity to do just that – a showcase for the cutting-edge automation and technology our sector has to offer – and we are now equipped with the research to help deliver an event that caters for visitors of all ages."
Peter Ward, CEO of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association, whose members control over 100 million square feet of warehousing and distribution centre space from some 2000 locations across the UK, commented: “Young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but they are driving significant changes today, so I am delighted that the organisers of IMHX have recognised the importance of engaging with the new generation of logistics professionals.
“Logistics is a fast-growing, highly sophisticated industry. Online purchasing has created a demand for new roles, such as planners, analysts, engineers, administrators and more and, as a result, more young people are embarking on careers in our sector.”
Andy Kaye, CEO of supply chain and logistics recruitment specialist, Bis Henderson, and Chairman of The Novus Trust, said: “I’m really pleased to see that the IMHX research highlights the importance millennials’ place on networking, as meeting and talking to professionals active in the sector is absolutely essential for young individuals looking to establish, or develop, a career in the logistics and supply chain industry. An exhibition presents a great opportunity for networking and helps educate those who may not be familiar with the exciting technologies, transformative ideas and fantastic career opportunities that exist in logistics. In one day you can talk to twenty or thirty individuals from across a multitude of different supply chain disciplines – no better way to gain valuable insights.
“Millennials, perhaps like most of us these days, spend a lot oftime on their mobile devices. I think it’s so important for young people to network in the real world, to understand how the real world works, after all, at an exhibition you can see, touch and experience new ideas and new technologies – at a show, they come alive.”
Edward Hutchison, Managing Director of storage solutions specialist, BITO, said: “The results from the IMHX survey are fascinating. At BITO, we have long seen the advantages of attracting young talent into the sector and we are proud to have developed a young sales force who have driven continued growth. Given that BITO is providing logistics solutions designed to help retail ecommerce operations, manufacturers and the automotive sectors, it is a tremendously interesting environment in which to build a career, one that we would certainly encourage young people to consider. For a company in this business it is vital to retain talented staff that has developed an expertise that benefits our customers. This is why we go out of our way to ensure that we provide our highly valued team with the tools, incentives and opportunities they need.”
Summing up, IMHX event director, Rob Fisher, said: “The research delivers industry-specific data and insight into the kind of things that make IMHX visitors ‘tick’. Engaging with the IMHX audience in this way allows us to properly understand visitor trends and appreciate precisely what it is that visitors hope to get from a day spent at IMHX.”
He added: “Having this information means we can consider the extent to which our visitors’ needs are being met and shape plans for IMHX 2019 accordingly to ensure that the event delivers maximum value for visitors and, of course exhibitors.
“The findings of this study will allow us to position IMHX as a show that is attractive to logistics professionals of all ages and help IMHX exhibitors to ensure that they maximise the return on their investment and enjoy a hugely successful show.”