Digitization is not the end of trade fairs

Published on 15/04/2019 in Inspire

Digitization is not the end of trade fairs

What is the secret behind the success of the Enterprise of the Year 2018? Is it its view of technology, its employees, or maybe both? Marleen Vanhee, Group CMO of Easyfairs, explains.

A winning combination

A great story deserves an award, and that’s precisely why Easyfairs has been rewarded with the top prize for Enterprise of the Year in the French-speaking part of the country. A fantastic example of entrepreneurship that has its roots in university life.

“The adventure began over 30 years ago in the student quarters of our Group CEO Eric Everard in Louvain-La-Neuve. Today we’re an international enterprise, active in 17 countries, that has doubled its revenue in the space of five years,” clarifies Marleen Vanhee, Group CMO of Easyfairs. Since then the company has combined good management, innovation and talent with impressive financial results and new opportunities for expansion, year after year.

Reinvesting 80% of the profit

With its profit, Easyfairs makes strategic choices focused on the future. The focus is completely on the long term, and so most of their profit goes toward optimizing operational efficiency, expansion, digital technology and talent. “To move forward you must innovate, and thus dare to invest. Our strategy consists of reinvesting 80% of our profit. Aside from the strategic acquisitions and launches at home and abroad and the digitization of our products, we are primarily aiming to automate our processes at the international level.”

The development of talent

As befits future-oriented companies, Easyfairs opts for ongoing development of its talent. For this, the 750 employees of the company can count on the Easyfairs Academy, where talent is rewarded by the UFI (the international association for the event industry). “Easyfairs Academy is a program for talent development where we offer a combination of F2F learning and an online platform. The intention is to give our employees the opportunity to optimally develop their talents on a permanent basis. That contributes to greater motivation,” Marleen explains. “By exchanging best practices, they learn from their international colleagues.”

Digitization is not the end of trade fairs; it stimulates the need for personal meetings.

Marleen Vanhee, Group CMO of Easyfairs


Between the digital and the human

The development of digital products is also very important to Easyfairs. “A fine example is EasyGo, a digital service package for exhibitors that already accounts for 3% of our income, but it is expected that this will increase to 10% in 2021. Exhibitors get the opportunity to get more from their participation in a personalized way. For example, they can choose to put the focus on visibility or on lead generation and, here too, we optimize the user-friendliness by means of a digital platform for exhibitors, My Easyfairs.”

The company tailors these technologies to the visitors as best as possible so that they don’t hinder, but support, the course of business; for example, the use of smart badges with NFC chips.

“Visitors get a badge with an NFC chip that makes contact with a reader at the exhibitor. At the end of their visit they get an email with information about all the exhibitors they have selected, and the exhibitors receive the data of the visitors who have shown interest. Digitization is not the end of trade fairs; it stimulates the need for personal meetings. Our carbon footprint is optimized too, because there are fewer folders and brochures in circulation on the floor at the fairs. That is and remains one of our goals too, of course.”

Big data and big evolution

Trade fairs are the source of a profusion of data. Too much? “I don’t think that we can collect too much data, as long as we use it in a relevant way to serve our communities. The fact that big data is now a hot topic doesn’t mean that we weren’t already highly data-driven in the past. But today the technology and data science techniques enable us to go much further in this. Always observing the current legislation, of course, and with the focus on relevance for our customers,” stresses the CMO.

Marleen Vanhee

Easyfairs is preceded by Roularta Media Group on her CV. In 2018 Marleen Vanhee gave her position at Easyfairs an international impetus by becoming Group CMO of Easyfairs.


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