Times change, and exhibitions must change with them. International event organiser UBM is a global leader in the furniture and furnishings industry, its portfolio replete with class-leading shows such as Furniture China, MIFF … and, of course, Interiors UK.

How does UBM ensure that its event offering remains relevant? Furniture News is given an insight into the business processes behind the UBM Interiors portfolio …

1. Customer insight is vital

“UBM is committed to ensuring our customers are at the heart of our business at all times, and to using customer insights to help craft valuable customer experiences," says UBM's customer insight director, Cathy Oates. "It’s about becoming your customer, understanding what is happening in their lives, what challenges they face and how these are changing, and then responding to these with products and services designed to profitably improve their lives."

For example, Suzie Ager, brand director of Interiors UK, endeavours to work closely with the British Furniture Manufacturers' association (BFM) to continually develop strong relationships with customers. Interiors UK holds steering committees which open up communication channels between the customers and the Interiors UK team, facilitating face-to-face communication and enabling the audience to contribute their ideas toward the development of the event.

According to UBM, without understanding the audience’s desires, it is near impossible to gain an understanding of its needs, directly impacting the ability to acquire and retain customers.

2. Content is king?

Content should be shaped “by the community for the community,” says chief content officer, Adrian Barrick. UBM sees content as a revenue earner in its own right, enticing delegates to attend whilst generating exposure. Through content, an event inspires and connects with its audience, creating transactional 'thinking space'.

UBM's Sleep show steps away from traditional exhibitions. Grohe's Jan Shepherd says: “Sleep has created an evolutionary feature - the Sleep Hotel, giving visitors a unique opportunity to step into a live hotel environment and gain inspiration, and source from real-life hotel room sets, something no other event has delivered.”

3. CSR is evolving

According to UBM, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is no longer focused merely on a company’s impact on the environment, but is much more about the positive impact that businesses can have on their communities and society. UBM's Community Engagement Series (CES) is a series of events designed to encourage real partnerships between business and the voluntary sector.

As Caroline Jackson Levy, CEO of UBM Awards and Partnerships, says of the UK Business4Better event: "We are harnessing the power of our UBM brands and the skills of our people to make a real difference."

"It’s about becoming your customer, understanding what is happening in their lives, what challenges they face and how these are changing, and then responding to these with products and services designed to profitably improve their lives"

Decorex International selected Maggies as its official charity for 2011 and 2012. Maggies Centres are for those affected by cancer, providing practical and emotional support. In 2011, Decorex gave Maggies a £6000 donation and promoted the centres to exhibitors and visitors. Decorex invited the architect and designer from the latest Maggies centre in Nottingham to speak on the seminar programme. In 2012, Decorex raised over £4000 by donating part of the ticket fee, and also offering visitors the opportunity to double it and make additional donations themselves.

4. ROI is fundamental

UBM believes that return on investment is crucial to every customer - visitor or exhibitor.

Nina Wright, MD, UBM Live Built Environment, is a firm believer that a customer’s return on their investment (ROI) comes under ever-increasing scrutiny – and that it’s an area that, as an industry, we are only now getting to grips with. "At UBM, delivering measurable ROI to our partners is business-critical, and one that we are investing in, in order to ensure that not only do we fully understand our customers’ primary business drivers, but that we are positioned to exceed their expectations," says Nina.

5. Technology is friend, not foe

“It’s an enabler,” says Govind Sharma, director of event technologies, UBM Live.

The technology team at UBM is continuously working to identify new areas of growth. "Technology can unearth a variety of customer behaviours," says Govind, "and assist in developing a deeper understanding of customer needs. This leads to product improvement, subsequently increasing customer and exhibitor ROI."

UBM continuously constructs innovative ways to integrate social media into its events. The most recent example is Decorex’s #Silkroute. A social media campaign was launched via Pinterest to entice exhibitors, visitors and the online community to create their own pin boards around the theme of #Silkroute. The winning board was judged by influential design professionals and was featured at Decorex International in September.
?

Clearly, these five steps complement one another. UBM believes that by understanding their integration and impact on customers, an organisation can guide its own future and work toward a customer-focused goal.?

UBM Interiors portfolio works hard to create strong relationships with its customers – an attribute which is vital to success. As Caroline Jackson Levy, CEO of UBM Awards and Partnerships, says, "a little bit of magic" is what makes UBM's events unique, customer-focused experiences.