Customer Retention, Attraction and Satisfaction in Exhibition Industry

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Studies based on event marketing and DIY summits reveal that location, communication, organization, coordinating teams, and undertakers of summits and trade exhibitions are the main factors that influence customer retention and attraction in any marketing event. Successful planning and appropriate communication coupled together with a strategic location account for the highest number of customers and other participants in a conference as well as a trade fair. Based on the 2017 DIY summit in Berlin and the 2018 DIY summit in Barcelona, there is an increase in some participants in the succeeding summit than the latter. This is due to an average performance in the previous summit. However, there is a loss of interest by most of the attendants due to some factors which are directly associated with coordination, communication, location (hospitality and accommodation) as well as the general outcome of businesses about anticipated profitability. In the year 2017, 69.8% of the 1000 attendees showed interested of subsequent participation with only 2.7% suggesting to back off from the event and 27.5% remaining undecided. The 69.8% represents the customer retention capacity of the summit. The value is above average, and thus there is a likelihood of attracting more customers, an outcome that is realized in the 2018 summit with an attendance increment of 10% (100 more attendants). In the year 2018, only 46% of the participants showed the interest in participating in the next summit to be held in the year 2019. 12.2% vowed not to attend, and 41.7 were undecided. The total number of those who backed off thus increased significantly from the previous year. Therefore, the overall customer retention capacity in 2018 is at 46% with a probability of losing customers at 12.2%. The rates are disappointing, and thus the factors above need to be looked into to regain a sufficient customer share with increasing rates. Therefore, continuous improvement measures are necessary to realize profitability. In the present business world, events and conferences are utilised as tools of communication that are vital in the acquisition and retention of customers. The field has attracted attention amongst researchers, and thus utmost concentration is given to conferencing and exhibitions as tools of marketing. Therefore, observing various forums and events from an organisational point of view is necessary in order to identify parameters and conditions that serve as significant determinants of customer retention and acquisition. A literature review spanning across domains of promotion and customer service help in coming up with strategies of acquiring and retaining customers for conference and exhibition events. The present study seeks to identify factors that influence the acquisition and retention of customers. Therefore, a customer is central in the determination of brand performance in the market, brand orientation as well as organisational product creation and innovation. Moreover, the study was undertaken with respect to event marketing with the aim of coming out with critical factors that determine new business. as well as the acquisition of new customers as a way of narrowing down the study to a specific and measurable parameter in event promotion. Therefore, the study is undertaken through a literature review and a confirmatory study based on surveys, interviews, and sampling based on a DIY (do it yourself) congress. The results indicate a positive relationship between customer satisfaction, price sensitivity and customer retention as well as acquisition capabilities.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary. 2

Declaration. 4

Acknowledgement 5


1.1 Background Information. 7

1.2 Importance of Annual Conference Events and Exhibitions. 10

1.3 Problem Statement 11

1.4 Aim.. 13

1.4.1 Objectives. 13

1.4.2 Research Questions. 13

1.5 Assumption of the study. 14

1.6 Value of the study. 15

1.7 Dissertation structure. 16


2.1 Theoretical framework. 17

2.1.1 Model on retention/attraction/satisfaction in exhibition industry. 17

2.1.2 Importance of Studying Customer/Exhibitor Behaviour 19

2.2 Empirical studies on exhibitor retention, attraction and satisfaction in Summits/Exhibitions/Annual Conference Events. 19

2.3 Gaps in Knowledge. 24

2.4 Conceptual Framework. 27

2.5 Summary of chapter 27


3.1 Overview.. 29

3.2 Research Design. 29

3.3 Research Philosophy. 30

3.4 Research Approaches. 30

3.5 Research Methods. 31

3.5.1 Secondary Research. 31

3.6 Data Collection and Sampling. 37

3.6.1 Theoretical Approach to Data Collection. 39

3.7 Validity, Reliability & Data Analysis. 41

3.8 Ethical Responsibilities of the Researcher 42

3.8.1 Ethical Consent Form.. 42

3.8.2 Participant’s Rights. 43

3.9 Summary of Chapter 43


4.1 Results Findings. 44

4.1.1 Demographic Results. 44


5.1 Further Discussions and Path-Setting. 53

5.2 Skill Measurement 54

5.3 Test and Budget Commentary. 57

5.4 Interviews and Commentary. 58

5.5 Analytical Questions Score Sheet 58

5.6 Development of Quality of Services. 60

5.7 Limitations of the Study. 64

Bibliography. 65



I hereby attest that the completed work is my original contribution and has no trace of any piece of work partially or in full submitted in a different university for the award of a degree.


I take this opportunity to acknowledge that the help and guidance of my supervisor throughout the preparation of my dissertation. I also thank my relatives and parents for their moral and material support.

How Can Annual Conference Events Retain Existing Customers and Attract New Ones


In addressing the topic of the study, the main deliverable was to examine how can Annual Conference Events retain existing customers and attract new ones. In addition, examine the kind of factors that affect participants increase on Annual Conference Events. The important issues in the topic are: customer retention and customer attraction which in this dissertation were operationised as the dependent variables. All other control variables were in respect to the preparations and deliverables around annual conference events. For the latter, the detailed analysis of the variables was carried out upon completion of the literature review.

Business in the current century is global. Companies are constantly looking for new markets to increase their trade portfolio. Social media offers a good platform for companies and individuals to exchange ideas and understand trending ideas and markets that are worthy investing. This however is not enough, investing takes a whole set of procedures. From analysing the numbers and understanding how feasible a market is. This paper centres on the importance of events and conferences and their input in business development and capacity development for business standards globally. A global event such as the global DIY was a key focus in this paper as through it the researcher unravelled the whole process of event planning to transform global business. Before establishing a market niche, a study has to be undertaken to provide raw data that ascertains the validity of a number of parameters and reasons as to the way the variables behave in a predetermined manner (Carrillat, 2012). Customer satisfaction refers to the measure of how contented a consumer is with a given product or service (Hill and Brierley, 2017). It is associated with various work outcomes. It is mainly associated with employee strategic recognition and motivation as well as organisational communication.

Previous studies have linked a direct increase in customers to how companies implement ideas exchanged at these conferences. Trade pacts running into billions of dollars are born through such events and offer partnerships that go on to be fruitful. Therefore, this study is crucial to highlight factors that influence participation and increase of delegates in summits/conferences as well as exhibitions. The customer and associated firms together with governing principles and conditions are the central points where all the findings revolve. Besides, they form a focal point upon which one can conclusively and absolutely declare that a given factor is responsible for the outcomes and behaviour of customers interested to remain or join a particular marketing event with or without an aim of making sales. As part of the study, sales associates, event organisers, and other corporates are the individuals whose behaviour determines whether a customer will be retained, attracted or lost based on the satisfaction and attitude of the customer.

1.1 Background Information

A conference is a meeting organised by individuals with the aim of sensitisation, sharing, promoting as well as creating awareness (Jones, 2014). Most conferences have keynote speakers who showcase their knowledge in a given target subject. An annual conference refers to a meeting conducted yearly by members of a given organisation, shareholders as well as company associates. The aim of any conference is usually to execute business on behalf of a given company. At a conference, innovative ideas, as well as new information, are exchanged. Most conventions entail exhibition of scientifically engineered systems as well as business ideas that are viable and profitable.

Conferences vary based on the content being shared among the participants. Therefore, a conference may be classified as either academic, trade, business or an unconference. An economic conference is usually a gathering of academicians or even scientists with the aim of sharing research findings whereas a trade conference is a gathering of a businessman as well as the general public who come to network with vendors, retailers, and wholesalers. In a trade conference, white paper presentations, as well as workshops, are conducted. On the other hand, a business conference is held by individuals working in the same company or even industry (Laursen and Andersen, 2016). A business conference aims at discussing new opportunities, market trends, and variants associated with the industry. An unconference does not have any protocol, and thus all attendees are of the same rank and knowledge base thus ideas are shared openly without a specific hierarchy.

Seemingly, a conference may be utilised as a profit-making event in that trade fairs are organised to attract customers as well as retain existing customers. Such conferences are termed trade conferences, and they involve showcasing various products and services with the aim of market promotion (Chow, 2015). Therefore, they are vital to providing a strong market base as well as establishing a robust customer base with the aim of maximising profitability.


An event is a scheduled activity intended to communicate a particular message to individuals who may either have similar or different goals (Crowther, 2011). The Oxford dictionary defines an event as “as something that happens or takes place due to being of importance.” In the past, events have been described from a sponsorship and marketing perspective (Carrillat and d’Astous, 2012).

Types of Events

Events can either be ordinary or planned. Planned events are special events with prior schedules whereas regular events are unplanned events that take place without a specific formal arrangement. Special events can be further categorised as either major or minor (Masterman, 2014).

Trade Fairs

Trade fairs and shows are defined as marketing events that take place at specific regular intervals with a specified duration with companies and organisations presenting a range of primary products of particular industry segments (Kirchgeorge et al., 2010). They involve suppliers, buyers, sellers, intermediaries and distributors gathering in one place at a specific period to create an appropriate ground for one on one interaction. The shows often stimulate the simultaneous exchange of ideas and promotion of sales.

Trade shows are either vertical or horizontal. Horizontal shows involve exhibition of a wide range of products which originate from a variety of multiple industries whereas vertical trade shows target specific products. Besides, the shows can be divided into consumer and industrial shows. This is based on the visitor profiles that are targeted in the shows. Industrial shows mainly target specials and organisational buyers while consumer shows focus on consumers as well as the general public (Tafesse and Skallerud, 2015).

Trade shows simultaneously tackle some marketing activities at ago. For instance, promotion, advertising, creating awareness, one on one communication, product testing and feel are all realised through exhibitions. Therefore, they create a B2B environment (Kirchgeorgr et al., 2010). Thus, the shows have to attract the maximum number of customers and retain a good number of individuals who serve as testimonials to the rest of the consumers interested in the exhibited goods and services.

To sum up, trade shows have considerable benefits for both the suppliers and consumers, and thus they are the reason behind the continued success in event-based marketing (Rinallo et Al., 2016). Besides, most industries mainly rely on trade shows to form a robust customer base to maximise their profits (Sridhar et al., 2015).

Trade Shows

Trade shows began earlier during biblical times. One such trade shows took place in Damascus, Syria (Ezekiel, 27:12-24). However, the development of the current trade fairs and events began in Germany in the early 1850s. The first most significant show took place in a crystal palace in 1851 with exhibits from seventy-two countries. In the United States, the shows are traced their origin to the 1872 Chicago International Exposition Building. The two significant events with other subsequent events collectively stimulated commerce as well as access to local products by showcasing events in the form of exhibitions (Gopakalakrishnaa and Lilien, 2012).

Trade shows form part of recurrent events that are known for facilitating both economic and social sharing among key stakeholders (Tafesse and Skallerud, 2015). This is the main reason as to why scholars and publishers are currently concentrating on event marketing as a field of research in order to establish various factors that influence multiple facets of the field of activities that take place during trade exhibitions.

1.2 Importance of Annual Conference Events and Exhibitions

Event marketing provides the most appropriate opportunity for assessment of opinions from customers as well as the determination of market strength, research and evaluation of competition. Besides, the event may be used in the identification of new agents and distribution outlets from various individuals thus initiation of joint ventures and establishment of partnership programs.

Additionally, networking as a factor of trade fairs can be realised through annual conferences. Networking helps in market promotion and publicity of participants (An, Yoon, and Ban, 2015). Tie-ups usually result in a stable investment base in a country, and thus most of the conferences have to be given utmost attention for the maximum benefit of the parties involved.

Seemingly, conferences seek to be identified and recognised globally. Therefore, they do form the basis of global marketing, and thus efforts have to be made to come up with a rigid structure that attracts more customers and retains the existing ones. This means that exhibitions and trade fairs act as a means of establishing collaborations and reinforcement of entrepreneurial tenacity.

Consequently, exhibitors and traders show their great fundamentals and the urge of business continuity which in turn serves an assurance that nurtures trust as well as confidence in and outside the supply chain (Chow, 2015). Besides, buyers are brought to one platform where they can access a wide range of products and their substitutes.

Activities such as product launch real touch and feel as well as live demonstrations coupled together with networking boost sales of a product. The act is important in that it helps customers to identify with the actual product under visual identity. The result is trust and thus realisation of customer loyalty.

1.3 Problem Statement

The research project is mainly based on the challenge of retaining customers and acquisition of new customers in annual conferences as well as trade exhibitions. Therefore, an array of factors will be considered in an attempt of establishing the main factors that influence attendance of such events. Further, a study conducted by Wang, Moyle, Whitford, and Wynn-Moylan (2014) noted that exhibition industry in China has recorded considerable growth over the years. Nonetheless, recent studies have documented several factors that affect its future growth especially the incapacity to retain customers. The authors opined that customer relationship management (CRM) comes as a solution to solve such identified problems. The same authors affirm that there exists anecdotal evidence that asserts that CRM has continued to be adopted in exhibition industry in China, but then there lacks adequate empirical research that focuses on the components essential to its successful implementation. In line with this article the research seeks to provide clear strategies that may guide on catalysts of effective CRM implementation and how best to overcome the inhibitors to the same. In this problem statement, the researcher introduces the concept of CRM because it is a holistic system that links annual conference events or trade exhibitions with the customer and the management. Thus, a successful implementation of CRM would point to enhance customer retention and customer acquisition among others.

Another problem can be cited by further address previous studies which asserted that exhibitions organised by Chinese companies lacked the awareness and capacity to maintain existing exhibitors while at the same time attracting new ones (Wang et al, 2014). The struggle to retain exhibitors and attendees has, on the other hand, created cut-throat competition that has triggered quality deterioration of most of the exhibitions. Price is one of the key factors that attract exhibitors and attendees; it is also a factor that weakens long-term participation of the same subjects. In similar vein, opportunistic behaviours have been associated to the pre-exhibition organising initiatives where they end up creating misleading information about exhibitors; as a result, such jeopardises the potential of creating a long-term and sustainable relationship among the organisers and exhibitors (Jin, Weber & Bauer, 2012). In fact, as per the study by Mo (2010) it was noted that customer loss in exhibitions for every year was 25%. On this backdrop, it has remained questionable on the manner in which exhibition organising firms may increase sustainable competitive advantage through establishing and edifying relationships with exhibitors to foster the growth of the exhibition industry for the centuries to come (Wang et al, 2014).

1.4 Aim

The core aim of the study is to identify methods through which annual conferences and exhibitions can retain and acquire new customers in order to depict a positive growth and maintain their profit margins. On the other hand, factors affecting the increase of participants in annual conferences will be identified and examined with a focus on retention and acquisition of customers.

1.4.1 Objectives

i. To establish how annual conference events can retain existing customers as well as acquire more customers.

ii. To identify factors that affect participants increase in an annual conference event.

iii. To propose a model framework that can be used by annual conference events planners to increase value from the customers through retention and attraction effects

1.4.2 Research questions

The primary research questions include:

i. What factors affect the retention and attraction of new customers at a conference?

ii. What are the parameters that influence the increase of customers in exhibitions and other trade events?

iii. What are the strategies that may be sought by annual conference events planners to attract and retain new customers?

Therefore, the study seeks to answer the questions based on various factors that motivate and demotivate customers interested in trade shows as well as summits. A review of multiple literature materials reveals that retention and attraction of new customers is the only way through which trade shows are made profitable and thus answering the study questions is an eye opener towards acquiring vital information that may be utilised in meeting customer needs and improving on the quality of goods and services.

Besides, the study seeks to gain customer insights on various trade show platforms and their willingness to attend as either new or returning customers. This is an implication that the study aims to identify with the customer experience and anticipated experience in attending various trade events aimed at marketing through promotion and eventual acquisition of a sufficient market share in the target industry.

1.5 Assumption of the Study

A number of assumptions in the study are as follows:

Based on the research problem and objectives, it is hypothesised that customers are sensitive to service quality, and prices. They, therefore, perceive the value of given events based on the cost and quality associated with the products and services of a particular event. Positive factors that attract customers are related to maximum satisfaction as an output of the cost incurred in accessing the product of service. Therefore, all the factors that affect the retention and acquisition of new customers with an increase in customer base are related to satisfaction.

The other assumption is that a theoretical approach on the understanding of customer retention and customer attraction basing on marketing principles is going to be applicable to the current research. The reason for holding such an assumption is because the psychology of customers targeted through annual conference events are same that participate in other business activities. Thus, inclusion of a theoretical framework in the dissertation that points to the understanding of the consumer buying behaviour as an end in itself formed a good basis for the present research.

1.6 Value of the Study

In developing this study, the key gaps in knowledge were used to build pathways that can strengthen existing research regarding customer retention and customer satisfaction strategies in Summits/Exhibitions/Annual Conference Events. Therefore, the completed masterpiece shall become a rich library resource that can be used to inform future scholars about issues of customer behaviour and retention and/or attraction strategies for issues related to annual conference events. The value is in anticipation of the fact that there may be few empirical studies that have been published in the past that cross-examined factors affecting customer retention or customer acquisition in annual conference events and summits/exhibitions. On the other hand, the findings of the present study are going to be used by future marketers and organising committees of annual conference events and/or summits/exhibitions on building effective strategies towards creating a customer value-driven platform that benefits both the clients and the potential customers. The researcher holds this belief because annual conference events are meant to create a tacit branding that can be used in specific businesses to attract and retain new customers. For instance, in trade fairs, for instance, different merchants come together to showcase their product portfolios; and in the process potential customers come to such events and establish product contact and use the same to purchase in bulky stocks such goods or commodities in future through the warehouses of the exhibitors. Thus, the study clearly outlines plans and strategies for short-term goals and long-term goals for customer retention and acquisition in Summits/Exhibitions/Annual Conference Events.

1.7 Dissertation Structure

The dissertation structure consisted for five chapters. The first chapter is as shown above which explains the key problem analysis, aims and purposes, research questions and objectives. The same chapter captured the assumptions of the research. The second chapter refers to the literature review: it presented a theoretical framework examining consumer buying behaviour and decision making, customer retention theories and strategies, and customer satisfaction. The chapter contains literature findings on factors Influencing Customer Participation, Retention and Acquisition in Summits/Exhibitions. The same chapters evaluated empirical studies as regards customer retention and customer attraction in the context of annual conference events. Gaps in knowledge were discussed as well as building of a conceptual framework to guide on relationships of the variables and the would-be hypotheses to be tested in chapter four. The third chapter was the research methodology part where the following were presented: research design, research philosophy, research approach, data collection and instrumentation, data analysis and ethical issues in the study. The fourth chapter was the part where the key data findings from the surveys administered were discussed in detail and discussions made to establish the corroboration with established empirical studies. The fifth chapter consisted of the conclusion, implications and recommendations. Hence, the researcher used this chapter to make summaries of the main findings and propose models that can be a guide for annual conference events planners to implement strategies that would guarantee customer retention and customer attraction of the participants. In other words, how annual conference events in themselves can be used to drive value such as in creased sales or repeated sales, positive word-of-mouth among others.


In the literature review, the focus is to evaluate in detail theories around the key variables of the study. Therefore, a theoretical underpinning of each shall render the researcher to develop a critical conceptual model that links the dependent and independent variables. Apart from the theoretical perspectives, the researcher has further explicated research from empirical studies in regard to retention strategies in annual conference events and exhibitions/summits.

2.1 Theoretical Framework

In this part, a theoretical framework on customer retention, customer attraction and customer satisfaction has been profiled. In the assumptions of made in chapter one, it was alleged that customer attraction would be as a result of customer satisfaction; this is the reason why each has been considered as an independent variable.

2.1.1 Model on retention/attraction/satisfaction in exhibition industry.

Central to the satisfaction process is the weighing of expected results with the actual product or service performance; in the traditional context, such a process was denoted as the “confirmation-disconfirmation” process (Ekinci and Sirakaya, 2004). Therefore, customers create expectations before they can purchase a product or a service; secondly, the consumption or use of the product or service leads to an experience. As a result of such experience, customers develop a perception of quality that is adumbrated by expectations (Petrick, 2004). For instance, applying this to the current dissertation is that exhibitor expectations would be that perceived quality created after they take part in an exhibition activity. In the event perceived performance is less compared to the expected performance, then the latter adjusts upward or levels up with expectations. On the contrary, in the event perceived performance supersedes expectations in a substantial manner, there emerges contrast, and perceived performance falls down (Reimer & Kuehn, 2005). On this backdrop, in the case of annual conference events/summits/exhibitions, for example, the organisers of such events should endeavour to ensure they exceed expected performance of the exhibitors so as to increase perceived quality.

Figure 2.1: Model for the satisfaction function, Source: (Google Images inspired by Grigoroudis and Siskos, 2009)

From the model above, it can be asserted that satisfaction takes two horizons: (a) subjective determinants which include emotions, and customer needs and (b) objective determinants which incorporate the features in a product or service (Yoo and Park, 2007). In history of research on customer satisfaction studies such as Atkinson (1988) and Knutson (1988) demonstrated the influencers of customer satisfaction. For instance, the former asserted such to be cleanliness, value for money, courtesy from staff as well as security and the latter settled for room cleanliness, location convenience, comfort, safety, prompt service and employees’ friendliness (Grigoroudis and Siskos, 2009).

The above may be construed as old sources in the dissertation but the authors are mentioning important issues about customer satisfaction that cannot be overlooked in the present research. In fact, in due course of the literature review it will be seen that for studies evaluating exhibitor satisfaction evidence will show that convenience is a major boost of repeated exhibitor participation; while, value for money component which comes in the guise of ability to network and transact onsite business for the exhibitors.

2.1.2 Importance of studying customer/exhibitor behaviour.

The importance of studying customer behaviour in Summits/Exhibitions/Annual Conference Events has been explained in this part of the research. The belief is that without proper understanding of exhibitor behaviour and key issues that affect their level of satisfaction and retention, annual conference events or exhibitions would not last for long. The reason is because there would be a negative perception from potential exhibitors and visitors because they do not see value in them. Therefore, in the present dissertation, the quest to understand exhibitor behaviour and the position of the organisers is key to building future strategies for high satisfaction rates and retention rates. In addition, the quest to understanding exhibitor behaviour provides a critical approach to event marketing which exhibitions and annual conference events may be categorised.

2.3 Empirical Studies on Exhibitor Retention, Attraction and Satisfaction in Summits/Exhibitions/Annual Conference Events

In the study by Qi and Hog (2017) the authors performed an empirical study on exhibitor retention in the context of industry exhibition. The researcher in examining this research was keen on their conceptual model shown below:

Figure 2.2: Conceptual model by Qi and Hog (2017)

In creating such a model, the authors were keen to highlight in detail the differentiation across two groups of exhibitors i.e. objectives and (dis)satisfaction elements. In order to understand the model, the authors performed an empirical study and the findings have been summarised in this study. The application was on AgroChemEx which is an annual agrochemical symposium and exhibition managed by CCPIA; it is usually a prominent event in crop protection industry in China. AgroChemEx has received international reputation hence affirmed as among the largest exhibitions across the Asia-Pacific region. One of the results indicated that repeat exhibitors emphasised on the relevance of marketing; for instance, the participants perceived AgroChemEx as a platform that allowed them to promote their companies and products alike while at the same time enhance company visibility. On the other hand, new exhibitors opined that they participated in the exhibition because of the potential to exchange information i.e. acquisition of recent trend in terms of upcoming technologies and new products (Qi and Hog, 2017).

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