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Virtual Events and Platforms Buoy an Industry in Transition

While there may be no true replacement for in-person meetings or the crucial connections made at industry trade shows, events are migrating online as a means of mitigating coronavirus disruption.

On Tuesday, Womenswear in Nevada, ADORN and ILOE Las Vegas⁠—a trio of trade shows scheduled at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas for August⁠—were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help replace the face-to-face interactions that buyers and suppliers attending the event rely on to make their decisions, Womenswear in Nevada (WWIN) simultaneously announced the roll-out of WWINdow Shopping, a new online platform.

The platform will facilitate these interactions through curated online exhibitor showrooms, personalized recommendations, an “experiential” interface and live video chats that can support groups of 50 people, according to WWIN.

An entirely new event, the Thin Air Outdoor Media Show, is taking a similar path from June 24 through June 26.

Although Thin Air said the new virtual trade show is not meant to replace in-person events, the company acknowledged that the announcement comes in the wake of the cancellation of Outdoor Retailer.

“Media will engage with brand representatives in the form of hyper-realistic avatars, learning about trends and experiencing product launches while creating content in real-time, driving millions of impressions and click-throughs,” the company said in an email sent to Sourcing Journal.

Thin Air founder Erik Boles has invested nearly $500,000 in the platform and worked to launch the event for several years prior to the pandemic, a spokesperson said.

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Notably, Thin Air said the platform will also be open to new media content creators, such as social media influencers and bloggers.

The Thin Air Outdoor Media Show will rely on a number of cloud providers including VirtWay, Google Firebase and Amazon AWS, according to the company.

GS1 US has also stepped up to the plate with a new virtual conference, the GS1 Connect: Digital Edition. The free online event will help supply chain, technology and e-commerce experts stay up to date on the latest industry trends and best practices, the organization said.

“This virtual format will offer highly curated program content and the flexibility for attendees to learn when and where they choose,” GS1 US president and CEO Bob Carpenter said in a statement.

GS1 Connect: Digital Edition will include keynote addresses and educational sessions for professionals in retail, innovation, technology and more⁠—along with a Startup Lab Pitch Competition, which will award funding to new technologies that leverage solutions like drones, Internet of Things and machine learning.

Additionally, attendees can ask questions about GS1 trading partner requirements through roundtables enabled by an interactive video conferencing platform.

NuOrder, a B2B wholesale solution provider, also announced the launch of its new Virtual Showroom platform on Tuesday. Through the platform, brands and retailers can conduct wholesale buys with the benefit of 360 degree, 3D product imagery.

“Virtual Showroom is a tool that allows the industry to continue to conduct the wholesale buying process in the absence of face-to-face interactions and restricted travel,” NuOrder co-founders and co-CEOs Heath Wells and Olivia Skuza told Sourcing Journal. “Enhanced technology creates a fully immersive and virtual buying experience combining the brand narrative with that of robust buying functionalities like 360 photography, interactive virtual showroom and shoppable hotspots.”

The co-founders said the platform was already in development before the pandemic began but the company accelerated its launch once it became clear the technology was in demand.

Retailers will be traveling less going forward, Wells and Skuza said, and NuOrder’s platform will help provide a fresh start for an industry in transition.

“Brands are starting to design in 3D,” the co-founders said. “So we think it’s going to move from two-dimensional sketches to 3D images as brands are designing their products.

“Virtual showrooms will continue to evolve quickly over the next 12 months and will become the new normal,” they added.