Furniture News #380

Page 46


EVENTS VIRTUAL SHOWS Spokesperson: Karen Goi, general manager, Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF), Informa Markets Give us a brief summary of your event The second edition of MIFF Furniverse took place in March as an online sourcing alternative to our physical show for global furniture buyers. The next edition will take place from 1st-4th September this year, in tandem with our live event. When and why did you get involved in the online event business? Our business digitisation journey started early – before the Covid-19 era – when we diversified our marketing focus into the online community. The development of the global pandemic has affected human life – it changed the way we live, the way we work and the way we do business. In 2020, MIFF had been postponed twice, until September 2021, due to international travel restrictions and other business uncertainties. In order to stay connected with the global furniture markets and help our exhibitors to continue doing business with international buyers, our team have been responsive and adapted to the change by rolling out several digital solutions for MIFF’s community. Our first online offering was the launch of MIFF Digital Showroom in April 2020, enabling MIFF’s exhibitors to upload their details to an online portal through which buyers could make enquiries. At the same time, we organised a MIFF webinar series. To date, we have organised six webinar sessions. We then helped our exhibitors and visitors onboarding to digitisation with another big step forward – MIFF Furniverse, the MIFF online exhibition, a virtual event platform for a real-time communication between buyers and

Karen Goi

MIFF FURNIVERSE sellers, where both parties log on to the platform and stay online during the live event period. After browsing the product photos, brochures and videos uploaded by exhibitors to the online platform, buyers can connect with exhibitors immediately via live chat or video call. MIFF Furniverse provides exhibitors and visitors an online, real-time trade experience. From exhibitors to content, interface and engagement, there’s a lot to consider – but which is most crucial? For virtual events, there is no one-sizefits-all model. We learned from our experiences that content and data are key to success. For our industry, the main content is the furniture suppliers’ offering – the products/designs available for buyer sourcing, great images or videos with in-depth information are an important part of the sourcing experience. On the other hand, a simple and straightforward platform with easy-to-use features is equally important, to achieve a better user experience. Should online shows try to mirror physical events, or go their own way? Online shows are not able to mirror physical events. It is a totally different experience. At a physical event, you will be able to meet face to face and carry out activities together with someone in a common space, through five senses – whereas, at an online platform, both are connected via internet from different locations (even timezones) in isolation. What works well at a physical event might not be suitable in the virtual environment. There will be a new set of user behaviours among participants, however – and it is important to understand these behaviours and manage expectations in order to avoid disappointment. What do you do better than anyone in the virtual furniture show business? So far, we have organised two editions of


MIFF Furniverse, and the result is getting better each time – especially from the buyers’ side. Although our participants still prefer face-to-face meetings due to the nature of this industry, where touching and feeling the products is so important, exhibitors and buyers are grateful that we have taken the initiative to provide an alternative to fulfil their sourcing and selling needs – especially when the physical show has been halted for two years. There are no geographical boundaries around the virtual environment – MIFF Furniverse helps us expand our reach beyond our traditional community. We have received over 30% of new buyers logged on to our virtual platform to source from our exhibitors. We have also attracted new exhibitors outside of Malaysia who have not participated in MIFF’s physical show before – such as Ashley Furniture from the US and Sofa Source from Ireland, both of whom took part in our latest virtual exhibition. Do you think physical exhibitions will ever be the same again – and what future do virtual shows have? We will complement MIFF’s physical exhibition by adding digital components to the show, and the virtual show will be part of the offering – both exhibitors and buyers will be able to participate in MIFF online and off. Besides meeting buyers in person on the show floor, exhibitors can also get in touch with those buyers who are not able to attend in person via our online platform during the physical show period. Vice versa, international companies can also exhibit at MIFF virtually, to offer their products to our wide range of buyers on our online platform. To date, MIFF has built its online community throughout the entire digitisation journey

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