Ingram Micro’s first-ever Virtual Expotech online trade show for resellers has gone live.
Ingram announced its decision to cease its national roadshow in favour of a new online-based forum last September. Similarly to the physical event, the 3D Web showcase is based around an online exhibition hall where visitors can interact with vendor stands through available product information, catalogues, online chat and live webinars.
Ingram marketing director, Grant Cleary, said 35 vendors initially signed up for the launch including key vendor partners, Microsoft, HP and Cisco. The distributor is hoping to recruit more of its 112 vendors through 2010.
Exhibitors can update static and multimedia content on their individual stall regularly, as well as providing news and other promotions throughout 2010. Alongside individual stands, the distributor will run live meetings where vendors and resellers can discuss topical issues and news. A general lounge, where users can gather to chat online, will also be available.
Virtual Expotech was initially slated for launch in March. Cleary said the delay was necessary to ensure the online trade show was ready for use.
“We wanted to get it right – it’s a major development and we’ve invested lots of money and time into this,” he said. “It took us six months from go to live on a project that normally takes 12 months… the fact that we had it up in six months is an achievement.”
To complement the online forum, Ingram will run specialised and regional events nationally. Cleary said more functionality was also on the cards later this year.
Several vendors who declined to go on record expressed disappointment in losing the national tradeshow event, while others said they were waiting to see how resellers took to the new medium before placing their bets on its success.
While Acer welcomed change and new ideas around channel engagement, its marketing director, Robin Tang, said it was unrealistic to expect the virtual show to have the same impact as the physical roadshow in its first year.
“It takes a couple of years for these types of changes to be successful and significant,” Tang said. “Nothing can replace face-to-face communication with people and on products.
“We expect Virtual Expotech will be a successful, but it’s unrealistic to expect that in the first year.”
Kingston marketing representative, Emily Lu, worked on implementing the peripheral vendor’s virtual stand and said it planned to continue updating its content throughout the year.
“We find it very innovative technology and exciting, and it was time efficient to load content,” she said. “We have not utilised the multimedia capabilities as yet, but once we get the hang of it, we will update our features.”
Although admitting its five-product limit was a restriction, Lu approved of the ability to update content whenever Kingston wanted.
APC managing director, Gordon Makryllos, said it had taken advantage of all features on offer and was using special product offers, showcases, video and vendor messaging and whitepapers to try and drive users to its stand.
“It will be interesting to see how many hits it gets, but we also need to maintain it over time,” he said. “I think there’s a real place for it if vendors get behind the technology – with the way the Internet is going, you’ve got to have something fun and interactive.
“Vendors have a responsibility to keep content alive, so we have appointed someone to look after that for us. It’s a significant investment for APC and Ingram.”
One vendor also suggested the forum was more suitable for volume-based vendors, a claim rejected by Ingram’s Cleary, who pointed to a mix of its Volume and Enterprise Technology Group divisions on the site.