Any hope B2B sales and marketing could return to normalcy in 2021 took a hit in January when CES, the largest trade show in North America, was forced to go virtual because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020 CES attracted 4,419 exhibiting companies to Las Vegas to showcase goods and services to 171,26 people from 162 different countries.
"We've been optimistic, but realistic," says Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), host of CES. "We had no choice but to reimagine CES."
B2B buyers and sellers have had to reimagine the way they conduct business since the pandemic started with trade shows, and even face-to-face meetings, not feasible because of social distancing requirements.
Companies should continue to put more effort into strengthening their B2B digital marketing, especially email marketing.
B2B Trade Show Market May Not Recover Until After 2024
While CES has its fingers crossed that the show can return to an in-person event in 2022, PwC estimates that the US B2B trade show market may not recover to pre-pandemic level for years.
PwC research says that the US B2B trade show market was $15.58 billion in 2019. Last year, with most major events cancelled after March, the market nosedived 64.3 percent to $5.56 billion.
Even with a steady recovery, PwC forecasts the market to grow back to only $14.5 billion by 2024, numbers shy of 2019.
In the meantime, virtual events, such as the CES show, and other forms of digital marketing, such as email campaigns, will take on more importance.
Lauren Goode, writing in her article “Virtual CES Was as Surreal as We All Suspected It Would Be: Should It Have Happened at All?” in Wired summarizes that for some companies, skipping the cost of virtual trade shows and using email instead might be more cost-effective.
“The CTA was still charging between $1,200 and $1,500 for a gadget maker to be a “digital exhibitor.” That’s not including the additional fees to participate in tangential events like Pepcom (anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000, according to documents reviewed by WIRED),” wrote Goode. “For that amount, plenty of smaller companies would be better off emailing journalists or potential business partners directly and setting up their own Zoom briefings.”
Email is Having Its Moment
Some have been trying to write email’s obituary for years, but email is very much alive and clicking.
According to Statista, there were 306.4 billion emails sent in 2020 … each day! That figure is estimated to grow to 361.6 billion daily emails by 2024.
“Despite the growth and prominence of mobile messengers and chat apps, email has remained a central part of daily digital life,” said Statista’s Joseph Johnson.
Even before the pandemic hit, B2B email was on the rise with Radicati reporting that between 2015 and 2019, business emails received per day rose from 112.5 to 128.8. Litmus reported in “The State of Email 2019” that the average ROI of an email campaign was $38 for every $1 spent.
Forrest Brown in his article “Where To Spend B2B Marketing Budgets During A Pandemic” said, “This is good news for B2B marketers looking to gain more top-of-the-funnel leads, as paid email campaigns like content syndication and sponsored newsletters stand to offer good ROI if current trends and projections hold.”
Email Campaigns: Breaking Through the Noise
Validy in its report, “Disruption: How the 2020 Pandemic Changed Email” showed that while global inboxes remain at an all-time high, open and click-through rates have returned or remain at pre-pandemic levels, making it harder for companies to get their message across.
The report estimates that open rates, which peaked at 27 percent at the start of the pandemic, were now under 24 percent and that click-through rates never really jumped as much as open rates and were now between 3 and 4 percent.
Some inbox behaviors have changed with remote work during the pandemic, according to the report:
- Traditionally, mornings were considered an effective time to send emails, but afternoon emails in 2020 yielded better engagement.
- Emails sent at the top of the hour, usually avoided by marketers, but in 2020 there was higher engagement at this time as many employees were online waiting for Zoom meetings to start and had time for email.
The report recommends that companies should invest in content and messaging and that best practices are more important than ever when it comes to email marketing.
“Be careful and intentional when digging deeper into your audience database and in setting up your campaigns. Straying from best practices will hurt more than it helps in the long run,” the report concludes.
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