Could online shows become more normal in a post-pandemic world?

The Taipei Cycle Show is set to return next March, sitting alongside a virtual event. But could this become more normal in a post-pandemic world? Rebecca Morley reports

Taipei Cycle was among one of the first bike shows postponed and eventually cancelled in 2020, with travel restrictions and safety concerns twice disrupting its plans. While no one could have predicted quite how long restrictions would linger, it quickly became clear that industry events would seldom take place in 2020 – at least not as originally planned.

Although it was unable to go ahead with its traditional event, Taipei Cycle, in partnership with TaiSPO,  launched a 2D and VR exhibition back in May, opting to accelerate the deployment of integrated online services and assisted manufacturers to create business opportunities online. In addition to allowing buyers to place orders in 2D, Taipei Cycle displayed 40 ‘Taipei Cycle d&i awards, Innovation Design Award-Winning Products’ in virtual reality.

But as we look ahead to future iterations in a post-COVID world, many will be wondering what form the global events calendar might assume. Taipei Cycle is indeed set to return next March, but will sit alongside a new virtual event – a move that aims to help the international cycling industry ‘get business done’ through the pandemic. The show will still hold a physical exhibition, taking place as scheduled at TaiNex Halls 1 and 2 from 3rd-6th March, featuring dedicated exhibits to all manner of traditional and electric bikes, parts and accessories, along with drive units, cycling services and smart cycling devices.

Taipei Cycle Online will kick off on the same day – but will continue for one month. The change was announced by Walter Yeh, president of the show’s organising body TAITRA, in a press conference broadcast to an audience of domestic and international media from Taipei last month. Yeh was joined by three leading industry figures: Michael Tzeng, president and CEO of Merida, Bonnie Tu, chair of Giant Group, and Robert Wu, chair of KMC, at the leaders panel, who shared their thoughts on the key theme, ‘Cycling Through The Pandemic’.

“The pandemic has transformed the dynamic of trade and business and shifted the world towards being digital,” says Yeh. “We are excited to embrace that change with Taipei Cycle Online. Our joint exhibition platforms offer an innovative solution to our international exhibitors and attendees who, like us, want to continue getting the business of the cycling industry done whilst we weather the storm of COVID-19.”

Four elements will comprise Taipei Cycle Online:
– A virtual hall and booths to display the unique offerings of all exhibitors
– Online networking platforms to schedule meetings
– Live-stream events to experience elements of the physical event in Taipei including the Fashion Show, Cycle Salon and online forums discussing industry insights
– exclusive access to insights on buyer demographics following the show to inform marketing

“Through this platform, we are giving the exhibitors every opportunity to show their latest products,”
adds Yeh. “They can upload videos, they can show their strengths and do online campaigns. Just by logging onto our virtual platform, buyers all over the world can have a look at what Taiwanese companies and exhibitors can offer.”

At the physical event, the number of companies exhibiting e-bikes and drive units is expected to exceed 200 booths, doubling in size since last year. Up to this July, Taiwan’s e-bike exports reached 410,000, up 21% from the same period last year, and the export value of e-bikes reached $523 billion, on par with regular bikes, which stood at $583 billion.

“According to the latest statistics, from January to July this year, we’ve seen a decrease in the exports of complete bicycles,” says Yeh. “However, we have seen some growth of e-bikes. Not just here in Taiwan, but also in other big markets like the US, the Netherlands and Germany. This kind of growth also has a lot to do with what Merida, Giant and KMC have done so far this year. It’s also worth mentioning that Sweden has become one of the biggest exporting countries for Taiwan’s e-bikes this year.”

Yeh says the reason behind that is the subsidies launched in a lot of European countries, who have also put money into promoting cycling and the bike industry. “Of course, Taiwan’s bicycles have been very highly regarded in the world markets. We have a sophisticated marketing network and we also produce some of the best quality components to different places in the world. Even with the pandemic bringing such havoc to global markets, Taiwan’s bicycle industry has still managed to stand strong.”

The future of digital marketing
COVID-19 has greatly accelerated a shift to digital commerce for businesses large and small. But with the possibility of more events shifting to online, how can exhibitors and companies find more ways to look for business opportunities?

“Exhibitions are a platform for companies to find their potential partners,” says Yeh. “Due to the pandemic, a lot of them have been cancelled and so they have to be done online this year. We have to take advantage of this. We encourage companies to upload videos and to make all their information available online. TAITRA has also been doing a lot of online events, such as trade meetings and product launches. We will continue to do this to help the companies from Taiwan keep their operations going.”

“We started doing international marketing a few years ago,” adds Giant’s Tu, “but we were just doing it to expand our reach at that time. This year the pandemic broke out, and this kind of digital marketing turned out to be a very important factor for our entire marketing strategy. Digital and online product launches will become the new normal.”

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