Emerald Holding released its first annual research report reflecting the changing expectations influencing and shaping the future of the business-to-business (B2B) events industry.

Emerald traditionally has hosted over 140 events each year. Its shows include Outdoor Retailer, Surf Expo, The Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show, Impressions, Swim Collective, and Active Collective in the active lifestyle space.

Developed by the company’s content strategy and marketing agency Content4Demand, G3 Communications, “B2B Event Industry Outlook Report 2022, Charting Success Amid Evolving Expectations” surveyed more than 1,000 B2B event planners, vendors/providers and attendees in the U.S. and Canada to understand how events are driving business growth in an industry that is both recovering and evolving. The report also examines how constant connectivity drives demand for year-round engagement and creates transformation for the future of the B2B event landscape.

“Our inaugural B2B Events Industry Outlook details industry participant outlook during an unprecedented pandemic-induced economic reset of our industry,” said Issa Jouaneh, executive vice president, Emerald. “As we enter a time of recovery and resurgence, companies are re-evaluating their value propositions and go-to-market strategies to ensure they can quickly and effectively respond to changing B2B customer behaviors in both shopping and buying. Our goal with Emerald’s Report was to identify actionable, data-driven opportunities through the data and then apply our collective expertise to generate new perspectives, guidance and insights into the rapidly evolving event industry,” he added.

The report underscores that while in-person events remain a driver for business growth, a common thread identifies a growing demand for virtual and digital.

Previously considered complementary and optional, digital offerings are deemed core and essential to augment the in-person event experience and drive year-round engagement to achieve customer-centricity.

Key takeaways include:

  • The number of in-person events planned, and participation in those events, are expected to increase in 2022 from 2021, but expected increases do not offset 2019 versus 2021 declines.
  • The 2022 growth projection is estimated at a 50 percent increase in the number of in-person events and participants from 2020, according to those surveyed B2B vendors and planners/organizers.
  • These B2B vendors/providers expect a sales pipeline attributed to events (live and digital) to make up for the downturn from 2019.
  • All groups surveyed said that they would prioritize the quality of contacts and level of engagement in actual events in the future.
  • Attendees and B2B vendors/providers said they value in-person events; however, they are also looking for a dynamic model that combines the best features of live and digital events for year-round engagement and commerce.
  • Respondents indicated that e-commerce would become a growing component of year-round engagement. All surveyed groups, including 84 percent of attendees surveyed and 67 percent of B2B vendors/providers and planners polled, would like organizers to enable and help facilitate these transactions

Andrew Gaffney, president, Emerald’s G3 Communications division, said, “Events have served as the central part of pipeline building strategies for most B2B brands, and the while the survey responses suggest that will continue, there are evolving expectations around how events will guide more of the entire buying journey.”

“While the core, in-person aspect of an event will remain critical, companies appear to be looking for year-round engagement, diversification, commerce, and community. Event organizers would do well to consider using content to build dialogue, meet buyers where they live and make it a more seamless process to move from discovery to evaluation to selection,” added Gaffney.

The report also provides insight and analysis into the impact brands have seen on business from the limited number of events staged in 2020/21, 

what B2B companies are looking for in a new event model, and expectations for online commerce solutions for B2B businesses for transactions through the year.

To read the full report, go here.