A good friend of mine asked me this question after sharing this Amazon Business report with me. 

If this question were coming from almost anyone, I would answer with something along these lines, “No way, trade shows will continue to do great in a post-Covid world, and, the need for face-to-face connection will continue to have a massive opportunity in B2B trade shows.” 

But, my friend is a very successful tech entrepreneur and sophisticated business person, so I decided to read the report before answering his question. 

If you’ve ever read any of the stuff I’ve published before or the two books that I co-authored (The Face of Digital and Reinventing Live), you probably know that I honestly believe in my “classic” answer to this question. But, you may also note that with Vesuvio Ventures, I’ve spent most of my time during the last decade working with tech startups in the live events and media industries, and, this experience changed the way that I traditionally see “live events” as an event organizer. 

I have to be honest and share some initial reactions after reading this report and analyzing the extraordinary growth Amazon Business has had, as well as the remarkable growth in many other B2B marketplaces in different categories (Joor, Faire, Nuorder, and the list goes on). 

McKinsey reports that we saw a decade-worth of growth in e-commerce in just three months. Many other data points on this Amazon Business report emphasize that we all know that Covid was a massive innovation accelerator in many industries. Many of these B2B industries buyers and sellers will interact with each other differently beginning shortly. They will save time and money using technology and working alongside companies like those mentioned above to improve their B2B transactions. And, of course, here is where I start thinking about how these companies and technologies could affect trade shows and “commerce-oriented live events.”

If you take 15′ to read the Amazon Business report, you will probably have a similar reaction, and it will likely affect how you answer my friend’s question. 

We discussed some of these potential trends as part of the Reinventing Live book. Honestly, one of our main learnings was realizing how early we are to understand how live events could and should be affected by technology and innovation compared to other big industries like media and banking. We are still in the wild west days for live events 2.0

Some stats on this report shocked me (for example, 96% of B2B buyers will continue leveraging e-procurement long term). I started to think that it would be almost inevitable that many of these B2B buyers and sellers will change their expectations about trade shows in the future.

I’m not saying in any way that any of these companies or technological solutions are going to replace trade shows entirely. Still, they will undoubtedly change customer perception of what they want from a trade show in the future. And, based on how trade show owners answer my friend’s question and adjust their events, it will set their future and long-term sustainability. 

It’s effortless to keep answering my friend’s question with my “classic answer.” Still, I think I will need to go back and keep reading more reports like this one, as well as talking with B2B e-commerce innovators to continue to formulate a better answer for the next decade. 

If you are a B2B Marketplace Founder, investor, or a B2B event organizer, what is your answer and why? I’m curious to hear about different perspectives and keep learning.