Use A/B testing at trade show events to maximise ROI

A/B testing is a practice that originates in online marketing. It is the fastest and most cost effective way to measure what choice works and iterate on evolutions to boost ROI. For websites, A/B testing is used to validate the positioning of buttons, choices of color or call to action texts. In essence, A/B testing uses simple tests to compare between multiple options and pick the most effective one.

Online, we are constantly exposed to sophisticated A/B tests without knowing it. In the real life though, it seems that almost nobody does it.

99% of exhibitors have never considered A/B testing as an option to benchmark what they do at trade shows.

Exhibits are more and more digitized these days. The opportunities for running such tests are limitless and brands that to this will be the ones taking the lead. That being said, there are myriads of things you can test for, so where should you start? To point you in the right direction, here are five ways you can use A/B testing today.

A/B testing TV screen content

TVs are everywhere. We use them to display product videos, corporate marketing content, software demonstrations, and the list goes on. They are by far the most versatile piece of equipment on a booth. They are flat, curved, very large, you name it. But are people looking at it?

How many people are looking at your TV’s? What type of content get’s their attention?

Answer: honestly? almost nobody knows. Most event managers know that these screens are useful in some way, and they most certainly are – to a certain degree. But to the question of their effectiveness, nobody truly can answer.

A TV has the advantage that we can change the content it displays quickly. You can swap a video for another, or play the same video but featuring slight variations. Modern video production techniques make this possible at scale with little overhead.

Here are some A/B test for your booth TVs:

  • Video with or without caption?
  • Video or still images?
  • Content with a call-to-action that includes or not pricing (for a booth that sales on site)?
  • Video with just product shots, or featuring an influencer?
  • Fast paced content with flashes and effect or more still and smooth footage?

Once you are maximizing your screen’s ROI by testing your content, you can also choose to optimize for :

  • Engagement (attention time to the screen)
  • Demographics
  • Sales
  • Conversion

A/B testing booth lighting, Colors & Design

In recent years, booths have transitions from being static print + filtered light spaces to prints/screens + dimmable & variable color lights. The rise of LED spotlights that can completely customize the look and feel of a space have given brands opportunities to present a very personal space.

Your exhibit house will know, look & feel (aka. design & lighting) accounts for 80% of a brand’s perception at first sight. If it is that important, then it makes sense to test various lighting options and pick with the most effective one.

It is not because it looks good that it feels right.

Measure the effectiveness of your choices day in, day out. If you are using white, make sure to use the most effective white color temperature to keep your visitors comfortable and engaged.

A/B testing products …

Trade shows are the perfect environment to test new things. Car companies know this well – and concept cars are the proof of it. Many companies, in hardware, but also services use shows to release concepts and test new ideas on customers.

A/B testing can be used here again to measure and test the performance of products at your booth. You can measure a product’s specific performance and push it further by also testing for other important features:

  • product color (swap variations daily and measure engagement)
  • product placement on the booth
  • produce presentation (on a stand with a spotlight, on a shelve next to other, or in a glass cabined)

Figure out what drives conversion among your visitors for that specific product. Compare your results and use this as a cue to guide strategic choices.

… and also your product demos

Experiences are key to drive engagement. Visitors nowadays expect interactions, live demonstrations and hands-on use-case experiences. But not all demo’s are equal. Marketing folks often pitch multiple demonstrations to present a compelling introduction for a product but…

Why taking the risk betting it all on the wrong demo?

A/B testing here could help you cut through the guessing and drive demo choices based on data rather than gut feeling. Instead of choosing one demo scenario, choose two. First day, demo 1. Second day, demo 2. On day three, run the demo that drove the most engagement. Iterate again at the next show to confirm your assumptions, and you are certain to hold a winner.

A/B testing will help you find a winning product demo.

A/B testing your staff

Finally, you can also A/B test your staff at events. Recently we discussed the value of staff training, and A/B testing is entirely part of the strategy to maximise ROI once again. You can figure out:

  • Which staff is the most effective, and where
  • What introduction routine results in a higher conversion ratio
  • What dress-code / shirt color / works best with your audience
  • Who of your staff is born a true showman. Who can retain and engage audiences for a long time, and who’s more effective at maybe doing background work
  • etc.

The idea isn’t to point at the shortfalls. But to measure what works, and iterate on changes that truly drive success. It’s about finding where to get the most value for everyone at your booth, and deliver the best brand experience to your customers.

Need help?

If you want to A/B test your shows but need some additional advise with regards to your own case, to contact us. Our team can help you plan for an affective A/B testing strategy and complement it with world-class measurement solutions.


Illustration by Eugene Chystiakov