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Hyve reveals digital strategy to return to full strength

by Emily Wallin
With technological innovation behind them Hyve is banking on returning to full strength by roling out their omnichannel strategy across all their brands and growing into new industries where there is scope for digital growth.
Group strategy director Jessica Natinsky tells EN editor Emily Wallin how they plan to use technology to complement and improve their offering and are confident on the continuing need for real life interactions.

Hyve Group’s omnichannel strategy started before live events were shut down, but the pandemic opened their eyes to the possibilities of harnessing technology to complement their trade shows.

Hyve’s latest interim results, published in May, show the group’s live events are recovering better than predicted, thanks largely to their omnichannel growth – according to CEO Mark Shashoua.

Revenue climbed to £56.6m in the six months to 31 March 2022, up from £5m for the same period a year earlier, with Shoptalk singled out as a particular highlight, outperforming all expectations and delivered a double digit increase in like-for-like revenue compared to its 2019 event.

Shoptalk, with its global, industry-wide reach and tech-enabled model, is a good illustration of where Hyve is heading they say – focusing in on global, industry-leading, omnichannel platforms.

Group strategy director Jessica Natinsky tells EN the omnichannel strategy implemented at Shoptalk is being successfully replicated across their leading brands, including Bett, Autumn and Spring Fairs.

Explaining the strategy she says: “Even before people weren’t able to meet in person, the need to meet, to have those connections was really important. You’ll always need that in-person component. But at the same time, that one meeting point a year isn’t always enough, both from a buyer and seller perspective, but also just networking. When you’re talking about industries facing a lot of disruption, whether it’s technology or something else, everything is changing really quickly. So, it’s important to be able to help facilitate the ability for those participants to connect year round. That’s, that’s really a key of our current model.

“It comes from the ability to provide customers with an entire calendar of opportunities, to learn, and network and trade both online and in-person throughout the entire year.

“We’ve all seen how absolutely thrilled everybody is get back out there, you need that physical touch point, but what we’ve seen is that you can supplement that.”

Tech

When it comes to the technology Hyve is harnessing to implement their omnichannel strategy- Natinsky says it all comes down to growing buying, selling and networking opportunities for their customers.

She says: “We’re using the leading tech in the space, we’ve got both in-house capabilities and we work with third party providers. It’s a combination. It’s really about the meetings, the matching, so that is really the key driving tech for us.
“When we talk about meetings, that’s going to be the in-person proposition, but that’s still driven by technology. We see tech as being able to help drive the evolution of that in-person proposition.

“Then you’ve got what we call the Meet-ups, which are a bit more about networking, less about pure trade relationships, and those will be virtual. They serve different purposes. When we think about the different tactics we’re using, it’s to help improve the proposition we already have.

“We can use technology to help make people’s experiences at an in-person event better and it’s truly changing the value proposition. It’s not just taking the process of who you already had and making them more efficient and faster, but it’s actually adding new things for people to be able to do.”

Shoptalk

The omnichannel strategy introduced at Shoptalk 2022 saw it’s best ever year. Hyve are now replicating the strategy across many of their shows.
Natinsky says it’s proved a success at Bett, Autumn and Spring Fairs – but adds it is important to tailor the approach to each market.
“We’ve recognised the importance that it can’t always be one-size-fits-all, every industry and the participants in it need slightly different things, they have different challenges,” she says.

Hyve is also turning the virtual events world on its head by launching the first live version of Fintech which they acquired in April and will be held in Las Vegas in March.

“That was interesting,” Natinsky says, “because it started as an online programme, and now we’re launching it and doing the reverse and taking it in-person, almost the opposite of what else has been going on.
“We already know that people love the online proposition. So we thought ‘let’s actually show that in-person is additive and differentiated and bring something to the table.”

Future growth

Looking to the future, Hyve’s acquisitive sights are set on industries where they can replicate the same technological benefits.

“We’re really focused on organic growth right now. That’s very much a priority. We’re still in that recovery coming out of the pandemic, but you can definitely see through the acquisitions that we’ve made over the last year or two, that industries open to omnichannel growth have been a really key driving factor.

“This is a capability that’s really unique to Hyve, we’ve been able to build a meetings program that is just truly differentiated from anybody else in the market, both in terms of scale and quality.

“When you have these leading events, once a year, it is important to have tools that help supplement that ecosystem throughout the year.

“Our customers are evolving. We need to make sure that we’re meeting their needs as it as it changes.”

Data benefits

The other main advantage to Hyve’s tech strategy is generating better insights from their improved data.
“There’s this bigger opportunity when you are using all of the data that you have, in your collection,”  Natinsky says.

“All of that information about the people that are coming, the people they are meeting, you get a much better and deeper understanding of why people come, what do they want out of this? Who do they want to be meeting more or learning from?

“As a business, we’re really focused on that, better utilising the data that we have. That’s exactly how we want to make sure that we’re using technology to continue to evolve. The better we know our customers, and the more we know about them; the more we can think of new, different and innovative ways to create an evolved value proposition for them.”

Future proofing

The challenges of the past few years have brought some lessons on not being complacent and preparing for the future. Hyve had thriving businesses in both Russia and Ukraine and saw its share price drop rapidly when the war started. The company had 206 staff in Russia, as well as 87 in Ukraine, before they formally pulled out of Russia in March. In July, they announced the sale of the Ukrainian arm of the business in a management buyout.

With a recession looming there are further storm clouds ahead.

“Things are always going to continue to change. You can’t get complacent,” says Natinsky.

“I think one of the things that that we’re keeping in mind as the economy is tightening, is that marketing will need to continue and people will need to meet and these events will have to take place. It will just be even more important to have the best offering, you’re going to need to prove to your customers that they are going to get ROI by coming to your event, that the value is there.

“We know they’re going to have to choose where that marketing spend is going, but we’re confident that they’re going to double down on live and that they know that is where they’re going to be able to get the value that they need to meet the evolving needs of their business, because we’ve put ourselves at the heart of that ecosystem.”

This feature appears in the September technology issue of Exhibition News.

Read more interviews, insight and expert opinion in the full issue here.
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