What to Expect at Global Pet Expo 2020
Every year, Global Pet Expo sets new records in terms of exhibitor participation and show floor space. Will it do so again this year?
We anticipate meeting our 2020 targets, in terms of both the number of booths and the number of exhibitors at the show. The most interesting trend that we saw this year is the average number of booths per exhibiting company increased. In some cases, it’s companies that have multiple locations on the show floor, but more often it has been exhibitors increasing the square footage of their booth. Either way, it indicates that the show is important enough to the exhibitors that they want to make a good impression and make sure that they’re able to showcase all of their products to all categories of buyers who come to Global Pet Expo from around the world.
What are your expectations for buyer attendance? Have you seen any notable trends in pre-registration?
Our preshow registration numbers were on the same growth trajectory as 2019, which should mean another well-attended show again this year. Some of the trends that we noticed included stronger preshow registration numbers among the distributor and the mass market segments.
We also noticed that about 25 percent of this year’s preshow registrants are attending Global Pet Expo for the fourth year in a row. So, the loyalty level of our buyers is really strong. This speaks to the strength of our industry and the quality of the exhibitors at this show. We work hard to present a quality event that retailers want to attend year after year.
This past October, Global Pet Expo was named as part of Trade Show Executive Magazine’s Gold 100, which honors the 100 largest shows in the trade show industry. In fact, the show moved up two places on the list, from 48th to 46th. What does this say about the show and our industry? What does it mean to you and your staff?
When they publish that Gold 100 list, they provide some data on event growth, and Global Pet Expo has always outperformed most of the other shows on the list, in terms of square footage growth year over year.
There are a couple of things that are driving our growth. First among them is the industry; it’s a great industry that continues expanding, with more U.S. and international manufacturers entering the marketplace year after year. This obviously gives us a larger exhibitor pool. In addition, since manufacturers in the industry see Global Pet Expo as an important venue for moving their businesses forward, they’re trying to make a bigger splash with the attendees. They’re expanding their exhibit space so they can showcase their full lines. This combination of factors is what keeps pushing us up on the list.
It’s really gratifying for our staff. We have a lot of people on our staff working really hard all year long to make Global Pet Expo the show that it is. We have a membership and a booth sales team that goes out and finds all the companies that would be good additions to [the American Pet Products Association] and to the trade show. Of course, on the attendee acquisitions side, it’s always important that we bring in quality, qualified buyers to make sure that the exhibitors are seeing the audience that they need to see. Lastly, everyone on our team tries to offer a very high level of customer service to the buyers and to the exhibitors. When they’re having a good experience from day one, they’re going to return year after year, and that helps us continue growing.
What are some of the returning show features that buyers and exhibitors should be sure to take advantage of at this year’s Global Pet Expo?
Education is first and foremost. We provide about 50 hours of education for retailers, completely free. That is something that is unique to Global Pet Expo. On Tuesday, before the show opens, we host a few comprehensive programs that offer a deeper-dive educational opportunity. Then, of course, we have a robust schedule of informative seminars led by experiential experts taking place in meeting rooms across all three days of the show. But we’re also expanding the education that we’re doing on the show floor. We’re doing the mini-sessions again this year in the New Products Showcase, and we’re also offering the FTFFA workshops in the aquatics lounge. Those 15-20 minute mini sessions are a great opportunity for buyers to gain valuable information in a condensed amount of time without having to leave the show floor.
Another great returning feature, which we started offering last year, is a one-hour preview of the New Products Showcase before the show opens. Last year, we only offered that on day one, but we’ve actually extended it this year to include Thursday, as well. So, now buyers are going to have two additional hours to peruse the New Products Showcase, vote for their favorite new products, and make some notes about which exhibitors they want to see.
Was the expansion of the New Products Showcase preview a direct result of feedback you received from buyers last year?
Yes, everyone was really happy that they were able to get that hour before the show opened. You know, we have very dedicated buyers. They come to the show for all three days. They get here early because they know that there’s a lot to cover with 1,100 exhibitors and 3,600 booths. So, giving them that extra hour before the show officially opens really gives them more time to focus on buying products during the official show hours.
Are there any other returning features that are popular with attendees?
The sports bar is back, and we’ve actually made it bigger this year. Each year, we have a lot of people in there, whether they’re coming in for a beverage or just using that space to have an impromptu meeting. So, we expanded it by 33 percent to add more seating and make it a much better hub for people to get together at the show.
Are you introducing any new features or changes to established elements of the show this year?
We moved voting for the New Products Showcase Best in Show Awards onto the Global Pet Expo mobile app. So, when buyers go into the New Products Showcase, they can now vote for their favorite new products on their phones. As they’re walking through the showcase, they’ll be able to just register their vote in the app making it more conducive for buyers to go back and forth to the New Products Showcase at their convenience to vote, rather than having to remember to submit the paper ballot. They can also bookmark the products they like best on their phones so they can follow up with exhibitors in their booths. We’re really excited about this new feature, as we’re always trying to make the mobile app more a part of the attendee experience at Global Pet Expo.
This year, we’re also introducing The Global Pet Expo Paws2Pet Lounge, where we are hosting therapy dogs. Show attendees can stop by, pet a dog or just sit and relax.
Finally, because the show is such an international event—over the years, we’ve drawn attendees from more than a hundred countries around the world and almost one-third of our attendance is from outside the U.S.—we’re giving attendees an opportunity to show some hometown pride. We have photo opportunities on the show floor, where you can stand in front of a map of the world to show that you came to Global Pet Expo from this city, this state or this country. We think that’s going to be a lot of fun.
You mentioned the Global Pet Expo mobile app, which is a great resource to help buyers successfully navigate the show. What are some of the key features of the app?
The app is really the best tool for buyers looking to maximize their time at the show. They can use the app to mark the exhibitors they want to visit. They can find those exhibitors on the floor plan to map out a route to get from one company to another. They can also create a planner on the app to maintain their schedules, including meetings with exhibitors, as well as the seminars and special events that they want to participate in at the show.
What can you tell us about the series of webinars Global Pet Expo hosted leading up to this year’s show? What were some of the topics covered in the series?
We have a close relationship with Pet Store Pro, the free online training program for pet retailers offered by the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA). For several years now we’ve worked with them to create a series of webinars that we host throughout the year. You know, learning is a continuous process. So, while we have the educational program that takes place here at the show, it’s important for people to be able to access educational opportunities after they leave Orlando. The webinars are the easiest way to do that.
We have the speakers that participate in the Global Pet Expo Academy lead the webinars, which focus on a variety of topics, such as marketing, business development, staff retention, using social media, merchandising, and how to create experiences for your customers—anything that can help retailers build their businesses.
All of these webinars are archived. So, as long as you have qualified to attend Global Pet Expo, you can access all of that education for free at any time.
The Ninth Annual Retailer Excellence Awards presentation will take place tomorrow before the show floor opens. What is the purpose of the awards?
The purpose of the Retailer Excellence Awards is to recognize the importance of independent retailers for the pet industry. They have a passion for the industry and a connection to their communities, and they provide a very valuable service to pet owners. It’s nice to be able to recognize the ones who do that at the highest level.
It’s also important to offer some benchmarks for other retailers to see—you know, here’s what works, and here are things that you might be able to do on your own store. We think that’s very important to the retail community.
Each year, the awards presentation is followed by Retailer Roundtable Discussions. What are some of the topics that will be covered in these discussions?
This year’s roundtable topics include inspiring and empowering your staff, new merchandising ideas, how to use social media to build customer loyalty, marketing tactics to protect margins, how to use data to grow your business, how to create buzz for your business, the power of effective email marketing, and how to create a good marketing plan. What I think makes these roundtables special is that the Global Pet Expo Academy speakers who present on those topics are the ones who moderate the discussions. Retailers will have an expert there to help drive the conversation, so you’re always going to stay on topic and you’re always going leave with some really good information that will help you build your business.
For the third year in a row, the Aquatics Lounge will play host to a series of aquatic seminars. What can attendees expect to learn at these educational sessions?
The aquatics segment of the pet industry is very important and very different than a lot of the other retail segments. So, when we decided to offer an educational element that focused on this part of the business, it just made a lot of sense to bring it to the Aquatics Lounge, where all of the aquatic exhibitors are nearby. The topics that we are covering the FTFFA workshops are really tailored to help retailers build their businesses, including how to grow your sales with garden plants, how to keep your fish healthy, how to use live fish to drive traffic to your store, and how to be a basket builder—all of which are really important.
Global Pet Expo always draws a lot of attention from a wide range of media. Do you have anything notable to report, in terms of media participation at this year’s show?
This year, we have a really solid turnout from international trade publications. We have media outlets based out of Brazil and Russia attending, in addition to all of the major European publications. Obviously, all of the U.S. trades also send pretty big contingents to the show.
As for consumer media, we have publications like the LA Times and Forbes covering the show, as well as most of the local news teams in Orlando. So, we’re confident that the traditional media coverage is going to be really good again this year.
Then, of course, there are the social media influencers. This is a relatively new segment of our PR effort, but we’re getting a lot interest from the influencers across social media. We do have a set of criteria that they have to meet—in terms of activity, the social media platform they use and the number of followers they have—in order to qualify to come to the show.
Do you have any advice for buyers on how they can make the most of their experience at Global Pet Expo?
First and foremost is always plan ahead. You have to know what you want to accomplish before you leave home; that’s the only way that that you’re going to have a successful show. Once you know what you want to accomplish, then you can decide who you need to make appointments with—the people that you absolutely have to see. I often have conversations with exhibitors who say, “We have appointments pretty much from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm every day, so if someone just stops by the booth, sometimes, it’s hard for us to service them.” So, if it’s someone that you really need to see, make that appointment.
Now that you are here at the show, I recommend starting your day at the New Products Showcase, because that’s where you’re going to identify developing trends that may not have been on your radar. It’s where you’re going see that next new, cool thing that maybe you weren’t aware of, and now you can call an audible and say, “Oh, I need to see that exhibitor. I need to get more information on that product.” So, you want to get to that part of the show floor as early as possible.
Speaking of the show floor, we all know that it is big. That’s why we have trollies that loop around to make getting around easier. You can basically flag them down anywhere on the main cross aisles and they will get you from one end of the hall to the other, which will save you some time and will also save you some steps on your Fitbit. This will help you maximize your time on the show floor.
Finally, while it may seem the obvious, make sure you eat and stay hydrated. The days are long, and it’s very easy to lose track of time. You want to make sure that you have a water bottle with you throughout the day, and you want to make sure that you have breakfast and lunch, so you have the energy that you need to do everything that you need to get done.
Do you have any advice for exhibitors on how they can effectively engage buyers during Global Pet Expo?
Step one should be pre-show marketing. That includes print and digital advertising, basically letting the industry as a whole know that you’re here at Global Pet Expo. Then there are more targeted things that you can do with your current customers to let them know where you’re going to be. If it’s someone that you need to meet with, try to set up an appointment beforehand.
We, as the show organizers, provide buyer lists to exhibitors. One is called the invitation list, which includes all of the buyers who have registered at some point and are qualified to attend. Then, about three months before the show, we also publish a list of people who have actually registered to attend this year. The lists include buyers’ contact information with sortable fields to help you organize and target your efforts. But exhibitors need to put in that effort to let people know that they’re going to the exhibiting well before the show opens.
Now that you’re at the show, it’s important to have your booth staff ready at 8:45 am, to make sure that you’re ready to go when the doors open. And make sure that you’re there until the show closes, because you never know who’s going walk into your booth at any given time.
You also want to make sure that you staff your booth properly. You know, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm can be a long day if it’s only one or two people in a booth. So, make sure that you have enough staffing available so that there’s always someone in your booth to meet with people who are walking by.
Then, after the show, it’s all about the post-show follow up. The trade show industry association has done research on post-show follow up, and it’s kind of scary how few exhibitors follow up on leads—that’s across all industries, not just the pet industry. So, if you scan them on your lead retrieval device or take their business cards, please make sure that you follow up with buyers after the show. If you do, you’re going to be one of probably a few companies that have actually done that, and it does make an impression on a buyer. We make the full post-show attendance list available to all the exhibitors, so you can see every buyer who was at the show, whether they stopped by your booth or not. That is a great resource for doing follow up after the show.
Is it too late for exhibitors to take advantage of some of the resources available, like getting a badge scanner or promoting their show specials on the app?
Exhibitors can still get a scanner and upload show specials. You also still have an opportunity to distribute information about your company and your products in the press office. While we do have a limited number of slots for press kits available on a first come, first serve basis, you should still be able to get a press release or sales materials into the press office.