Trade Show vs. Consumer Show: Three Key Differences

iStock_000056178470_Large.jpgAmid your research, you stop to take a look at the list of shows you have compiled so far for your event program – the Seattle Home Show, CES, the State Fair of Texas, ICUEE (a.k.a. The Demo Expo), Comic Con, SEMA Show. It is a solid list filled with shows in top markets with impressive attendance numbers. Yet there is one major red flag. Can you spot it? (Hint: look at the title of this blog post.)

If you guessed that half of the shows on this list are trade shows and half are consumer shows, you are absolutely correct.

Through the eyes of many, a show is a show. All shows are not created equal though, and in the world of event marketing, recognizing the differences between a trade show and a consumer show is essential.

 Let’s take a look at some of the key differences.


First and foremost, trade shows are B2B. Registrants are like-minded, industry colleagues. Individuals attend trade shows to network, and learn about new products, the latest trends and recent advances. Generally speaking, those attending have invested anywhere between $100 and $1,000 to partake.

These shows offer a great opportunity to interact directly with your target audience and build lasting relationships.

Consumer shows are B2C. Attendees go to consumer shows to have fun, shop, see product demonstrations and stimulate new ideas. There are some shows with no entry fee, however, tickets normally cost $5-$15.  

These shows see a higher foot traffic than trade shows and help create/build brand awareness in the marketplace. Brands benefit greatly from direct feedback from potential consumers.


At a trade show, individuals will typically see big and complex exhibits. Brands often take this opportunity to demonstrate new, exciting products and showcase just how “trendy” they can be with lightboxes, holographic technology, projection mapping, etc.

Attendees at a consumer show will certainly see larger exhibits, but smaller exhibits are more representative of these shows.


Team members who staff a trade show exhibit are often sales and upper level management. Many registrants look forward to the opportunity to speak face-to-face with company decision makers. Pre-arranged meetings are standard. All aspects of the product/service, such as costs, benefits, and projected return on investment are discussed. The sales process is habitually lengthy and extends beyond the show.

At consumer shows, exhibits are staffed by a variety of people – sales, staffing agencies, and owners of the company (family owned businesses). If sales is the lead objective, the sales process is quite speedy and takes place at the show. Attendees looking to shop are simply looking to buy and continue making their way through the show.


Is your brand best suited for a trade show, or consumer show?

If you need help determining which is right for you, we can help. Speak to one of our event experts today.

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