World’s largest ICT show shifts away from consumer tech to focus on B2B
Looks at business matching and sales; plus startups to spur innovation
IN a bid to grow its business and take on the competition, Deutsche Messe AG has altered its strategy to focus purely on business-to-business (B2B) information and communication technology (ICT), according to its top executive.
Oliver Frese, member of the managing board for Deutsche Messe, said the sole focus on the B2B commerce space represents a radical shift from how the organiser of the famed CeBIT trade fair had been setting up the show for years.
“Our new focus from this year onwards for CeBIT will be 100% on B2B commerce,” he said at a media conference on March 11. “We have made this decision in close consultation and discussions with our exhibitors, as we believe this is the right move.”
CeBIT is the world’s biggest ICT trade fair and is organised and managed by Deutsche Messe, a state-backed company whose ownership comprises the Government of Lower Saxony and the City of Hannover.
(CeBIT stands for ‘Centrum der Büroautomation und Informationstechnologie und Telekommunikation – German for ‘Centre of Office Automation and Information Technology and Telecommunication).
In its heyday, it hosted exhibitors from all over the world, including the crème de la crème of the ICT world. Exhibitors consisted of vendors and service providers spanning consumer electronics, software and hardware, gaming and enterprise technology.
However over the years, other large ICT expos began springing up and have somewhat overtaken CeBIT’s popularity as the go-to destination.
Examples include the Mobile World Congress (MWC) held in Barcelona and organised by the GSM Association; the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, organised by the Consumer Electronics Association; and the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA), organised by the German Association for Entertainment and Communications Electronics.
Also, large vendors led by household names such as Apple and Nokia began pulling out of these trade shows about 10 years ago in favour of organising their own events, as they believe they could get better returns that way.
When asked what the impetus for this change was, Frese said the decision to not focus on consumer electronics any longer was a strategic one and was guided by what its customers wanted.
“Large exhibitors such as Deutsche Telekom, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, HP (Hewlett-Packard) and Software AG have told us that they don’t need a trade fair to promote their brands. What they want is for a trade fair to grow their business and conduct sales.
“CeBIT is unique in that sense as it’s the only trade fair that caters to the complete value chain of the digital market and does not just focus on the mobile [ecosystem],” he claimed, referring to MWC, the largest mobile expo in the world.
Another reason for the switch was that CeBIT had more trade visitors in the last few years and this suggests that it has become even more specialised in B2B commerce, Frese argued.
“When we considered our visitor count, we noticed that our trade visitors have [actually] increased. For instance, in 2008, 75% of our visitors were from the trade sector while last year, this figure jumped to 82%. Additionally, most of them came with concrete investment plans to do business,” he said.
In tandem with this, Deutsche Messe invited over 6,500 chief information officers to attend this year’s event, with about 1,500 having confirmed their participation, he added.
Besides these developments, CeBIT will also feature star-studded names such as Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple; as well as Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, in its Global Conference series.
CeBIT is being held in Hannover, Germany from March 10-14 and boasts of 3,400 exhibitors from over 70 countries. Last year, attendance for the trade fair peaked at 280,000 visitors, with 230,000 registered as B2B visitors, said Frese.
He added that for 2014, total numbers for visitors is expected to equal last year’s total trade visitors, due to the closure of the CeBIT’s consumer electronics exhibits.
On what are its targets for the coming year, Frese said Deutsche Messe plans to hit 4,000 exhibitors in three to five years.
“We need time to communicate our change in strategy so that the world would know that we are focusing only on B2B,” he said. “This year is a good start and we hope to build from this.”
Giving startups a voice
According to Frese (pic), part of the reinvention of CeBIT involved Deutsche Messe reaching out to the startup community as well as the younger generation.
For the past three years, CeBIT had catered to this sector by introducing a specialised area for young startups to showcase their products and services. Known as ‘CODE_n,’ the exhibition area boasts of over 50 startups chosen from amongst 400 applicants from around the world.
Frese said these startups are very important to the ICT ecosystem and while CeBIT is very much focused on larger players, it has not neglected startups because they are needed too.
Asked if the emphasis on startups was merely to pay lip service to these younger breed of entrepreneurs, Frese disagreed, saying that the world needs them as they look at problems and challenges differently.
“Startups can help solve problems, and create products to meet today’s challenges because they do things differently from others,” he argued.
“Over the years, we have noticed that they bring new creative concepts to the show,” he said, adding that some of these players would eventually become CeBIT exhibitors in the future.
Edwin Yapp reports from Hannover, Germany, at the invitation CeBIT organiser Deutsche Messe AG
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