Trade Show Strategy: How Order Writing Software Can Change Everything

Sarah Leung
September 15, 2015

Areaware is a Brooklyn-based company that produces functional, unique products across categories ranging from home accessories to toys & games. Working with local artists and design talent, the ten-year-old brand has been able to bring these designers’ ideas to life, as well as market their high-quality products to a wider audience. Indeed, the company sells to a broad range of retail outlets, including independent stores and boutiques, museums (MoMA, the Guggenheim, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are among their customers), and larger multi-door partners like Urban Outfitters, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and Nordstrom. In addition to their business in the United States, Areaware’s products are widely distributed globally. Each year, Areaware attends numerous trade shows, including large industry-wide events like the New York Gift Show and Toy Fair, as well as smaller specialist/regional shows like Astra and Learning Express. At these trade shows, Areaware has replaced their paper order forms with digital order writing software. Read on to find out how this technology has changed their trade show strategy

Your Trade Show Strategy & The Advantages of Order Writing Software

1. Easy Training for Booth Staff

At trade shows, the entire Areaware team pitches in to interact with customers and introduce new products. This includes not only the sales team, but also members of the creative and marketing departments. According to Areaware’s Director of Sales, Ryan Kelly, having order management software at trade shows has helped these team members get up to speed quickly. “I do the training with the team at the show, and it only takes a couple minutes, which is really helpful. There are some people who aren’t as familiar with selling, so having a simple tool is necessary,” says Kelly. Indeed, with the entire product catalog on their mobile devices (along with pricing, customer contact information, etc.), anyone can easily pick up how to write an order.

2. Real-Time Trade Show Sales Reporting

Areaware sets specific goals for each and every trade show they attend, including a goal for total dollars driven, and a goal for total number of orders. The company is looking to see a steady increase from one year to the next, and they needed an easy way to see those numbers. With order management software, Areaware’s team can see real-time sales reporting from every trade show. After each day, Kelly pulls the reports and sends a recap to both the sales and management team to keep them updated on the progress at the show. Not only does this allow them to track whether or not they’re meeting goals, the company can also see which products are selling best and which customers are placing the largest orders. This kind of information can help the company prioritize which products to push throughout the show and look for patterns among certain account types––like average order size among museum buyers, for instance. This real-time sales reporting has also been helpful to inventory planning. “At other companies I’ve worked at, we had order entry systems for trade shows, but you couldn’t pull any data out of them. These reports are really useful, because at every show, we’re launching a new collection of products. To be able to see which products are doing well is really valuable,” says Kelly. The ability to see real-time product rankings allows them to track what inventory they’re selling out of and immediately reorder products when needed. They can also make key product development decisions. According to Kelly, “as we step away from a trade show, the reports help inform immediate action on products that are forthcoming.” Real-time sales reporting has also had another positive side effect on Areaware’s trade show performance. At each show, the team tracks order successes. “It just creates friendly competition––everyone wants to achieve the highest order. You wouldn’t necessarily have that if you didn’t have a clean way to pull the numbers,” says Kelly.  

3. Quick Confirmations & Faster Order Fulfillment

With order management software, Areaware has also been able to improve their customer experience on several fronts. First off, the entire order taking process at a trade show has sped up significantly. With contact information and payment details already on hand for existing customers, for instance, the process of writing an order can take just minutes. “Customers always appreciate a faster experience, because they have limited time. It’s important that it doesn’t feel like they have to wait for our system to catch up to the pace they want to move at,” says Kelly. After the order is taken, an order confirmation is immediately emailed to the customer, and it can be sent to the back office for fulfillment. According to Kelly, the software has improved the order entry process for Customer Service, as well as eliminated the need for follow-up with customers (to confirm quantities, etc.). “Frequently, by the final day of a trade show, orders from the first day of the show are already shipping out the door. Customers appreciate how quickly we can fulfill orders.”

A New Standard

For Kelly, using mobile order management software at trade shows is business as usual. “Most companies are using some sort of device for order taking, unless they’re really new to trade shows and haven’t yet invested in these systems. For companies of our size, it’s pretty standard.” Indeed, with much of the competition already making use of this kind of software, trade show buyers are expecting a new level of speed and efficiency from exhibitors. The days of paper order forms, it would seem, are over.