Trade shows provide immense opportunity for marketers.

In fact, according to Statista, trade shows are the most profitable B2B media industry in recent years, accounting for more than $12.65 billion in business in 2015 alone. And those aren’t ad dollars spent uselessly either. Right around 50 percent of trade show goers plan to buy a product or service they encountered on their trip – a ROI few other marketing tactics can boast.

But businesses are wising up. More and more companies are exhibiting at trade shows every year, and the competition is getting seriously stiff.

Take the CES consumer technology show, for example. In 2016, CES hosted nearly 4,000 unique exhibitors across a 3-day period. To really stand out and draw in visitors at an ultra-competitive event like this (or any busy trade show, for that matter), exhibitors need to up their game – quite literally.

Go Big or Go Home

In today’s busy marketing landscape, simply renting a booth and showing up is no longer enough – at least not if you want to stand out.

Enter Gaming

A great way to engage and connect with consumers, games can grab attention of a trade show passersby, keep them in your booth longer and deliver quality brand information – and better retention of that information – in one fell swoop.

Games have proven to be more effective at encouraging purchases, ensuring retention and inspiring word-of-mouth marketing. Just check out these stats as shared by Mark de Brand and Factory360:

  • A whopping 71% of consumers will share details of their activation experience with others
  • After engaging in a brand activation or experiential marketing effort, 98% of users are more inclined to purchase and another 70% actually become regular users
  • More than 60% of consumers have a better understanding of a product or service after a brand activation event

Let’s look at some of the benefits of brand activation and gaming in more depth.

Games increase dwell time.

The more time a visitor stays in your booth, the more they learn about it and the better chance they’ll do business with you. But keeping them there? That’s harder than it looks. With hundreds of other booths to visit, tons of noise and distractions, not to mention sore feet and hungry stomachs, most people only stay in a booth a few minutes at most.

An in-booth game can change all that. Take a company called Sperian Protection International, for example. They recently used a booth game to keep visitors around for 30 to 45 minutes each! Considering the average human attention span is just 8 seconds, that’s a pretty big feat.

If done right, games will not only bring people to your booth and keep them there, they will educate those people about your product, and give them an opportunity to share their experience online, all without the intervention of a brand representative.

Games encourage conversation and demand.

In-show games also stimulate conversation — both in person and online – on multiple levels. At their most basic, games are sharable. They can get people talking on the trade show floor, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms.

At shows with event-wide hashtags, this conversation is only multiplied. Encourage your visitors to tweet about their experience using the event’s hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. This can be hugely helpful in driving traffic to your booth today, while also activating brand awareness outside of trade show’s walls tomorrow.

Encourage your visitors to tweet about their experience using the event's hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Games can also have built-in sharing mechanics, which make online and social media interactions a foundational part of the competition. By interweaving online and in-person activities, you increase the potential spread of your message and your brand’s online overall reach infinitely.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is a great example of how an experiential activity can increase reach far beyond the booth. They recently created a mind-control drag racing game that not only brought in 1,000 visitors to their CES booth, but also gained them more than 80,000 new Facebook followers in just one weekend.

Games ensure retention.

Which do you think someone will remember more, reading a really awesome brochure or playing an interactive game that was fun, exciting and maybe even earned them a few prizes?

You can bet the more immersive experience will be engrained in their memories, and that brochure? Well, it’s probably somewhere at the bottom of their suitcase … or purse … or maybe they left it somewhere in the hotel room? Chances are they don’t even remember!

A recent study on the use of game-based learning and job training methods actually proved this. Those who used the gaming techniques had 14% higher knowledge retention and were 20% more confident in their mastery level than those who were taught with more traditional methods.

Those who used the gaming technique had 14% higher knowledge retention and were 20% more confident in their mastery level than those who were taught with more traditional methods.

Get in the Game

If you’re a regular trade show exhibitor, creating a product-related game is a no-brainer. The brand activation strategy of the future, games can help your booth bring in more visitors, capture more leads and, most importantly, convert those leads into loyal, profitable customers.