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Exhibitions go digital

Spring Virtual Expo
The Spring Virtual Expo will bring the exhibition to the screen

The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted business activity across the globe, with hundreds of exhibitions worldwide being postponed or even cancelled, depriving many companies across the board of opportunities to promote themselves.

Adapting to this new reality, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is deploying technology and online platforms to connect businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in Hong Kong with the world. The HKTDC will host a month-long Spring Virtual Expo from 1 April, launch a support progamme for local SMEs, host a series of insightful webinars for Hong Kong enterprises and boost efforts to support start-ups.

Virtual fairground

Margaret Fong
Hong Kong Trade Development Council Executive Director Margaret Fong

HKTDC Executive Director Margaret Fong said: “To help enterprises tie over the COVID-19 outbreak, we are launching a series of digital initiatives, including webinars and virtual exhibitions. We are also offering online-to-offline (O2O) promotion packages for companies to participate in our physical exhibitions and conduct promotions through our online platform, offering a double opportunity to expand their customer base and capture orders. In addition, to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs, we are launching the “T-box” which stands for Transformation Sandbox. This is a free SME support programme providing advisory service, networking, capacity-building and practical opportunities.”

Ms Fong said the digital Spring Virtual Expo will give Hong Kong businesses a new channel to maintain and establish contact with global buyers, and capture orders during the traditional peak sourcing season. “This will enable SMEs to continue to expand in mature and emerging markets. The HKTDC’s online marketplace, hktdc.com Sourcing, has won multiple international awards. The site features around 130,000 quality suppliers and more than 2 million international buyers, with over 24 million business connections made every year. Supplier information is verified by third-party organisations to enhance buyers’ sourcing confidence,” she added.

In addition to existing users of hktdc.com Sourcing, the Spring Virtual Expo aims to attract other active online buyers. The HKTDC will promote the Spring Virtual Expo through its 50 offices worldwide, including those in the mainland. The HKTDC will also invite buyers from all over the world to participate, including VIP buyers and those who have participated in HKTDC fairs.

Multiple sectors

To further enhance the effectiveness of business matching, the Spring Virtual Expo will focus on four themes: technology – lighting and electronics; gifts and houseware; lifestyle; and fashion and beauty. The 33 groups of products covered under the four themes will include lighting, construction and hardware, electronics and computer accessories; home products, gifts, toys, baby products and stationery; jewellery, watches and glasses; and fashion accessories, clothing, and health and beauty products.

To help meet their different sourcing needs, global buyers will receive personalised product recommendations through online channels such as social media, online advertising and email, helping buyers and sellers to seal deals more quickly.

E-commerce fast-track

Ms Fong said the HTKDC has launched a series of e-commerce webinars, giving SMEs practical information and expanding their knowledge of e-commerce. Representatives from multinationals such as Google are offering comprehensive insights into online promotion strategies, including search engine optimisation (SEO), omni-channel retailing, designing attractive websites, and the precautions needed when taking online orders. The HKTDC will also organise the MarketingPulse webinar series to help businesses to build brands and to define new marketing strategies.

Omni-channels

Online channels offer many ways to establish connections
Online channels offer many ways to establish connections

The HKTDC is offering a range of O2O packages combining online and offline promotion. “Exhibitors can showcase products at the exhibitions and promote online at the same time. This extends the fair period so businesses can reach more buyers and field orders,” Ms Fong said. With subsidies from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSAR), local businesses can join the introductory package free of charge or join the “Showcase Display + Online Promotion” [https://sourcing.hktdc.com/] package at half price.

“We hope that the online promotion together with the upcoming trade fairs can create synergy to help SMEs promote their products and field orders,” Ms Fong said. She added that the HKTDC will organise a Summer Sourcing Week from 25 to 28 July. Featuring nine fairs located at the same venue, it will provide a one-stop cross-industry platform for global buyers to replenish their stocks. Additionally, the HKTDC is looking into O2O business-matching services at its fairs so that overseas buyers who cannot come to Hong Kong can locate target exhibitors in advance. Video conferences will be arranged between buyers and exhibitors to discuss business deals.

Commercial hub

“We remain committed to help local businesses overcome all challenges,” Ms Fong said. “When the pandemic is over, we will focus on rebuilding international confidence in Hong Kong. We will work with the HKSAR Government and other partnering organisations to organise major events in mature and emerging markets to promote Hong Kong as an international investment and business hub while helping local SMEs capture global business opportunities.” The Council will also organise high-level business missions to open new markets and underlines Hong Kong’s role as a global business hub.

In addition, the HKTDC will conduct research on offerings in various industrial parks and organise outbound relocation/investment missions to countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc to help Hong Kong companies explore manufacturing expansion and investment opportunities. It will also enhance the “In Style • Hong Kong” promotion to showcase Hong Kong as a two-way investment and business hub, and organise a series of promotional campaigns to help local SMEs expand into ASEAN retail markets.

Help SMEs upgrade, transform

The free of charge “T-box” service aims to help SMEs explore any of the four transformation goals – branding, e-commerce, new markets and manufacturing relocation – with HKTDC’s advisory services and market intelligence. The business advisory service covers various areas, such as intellectual property rights, export credit management and financing methods, business law, operation of letter of credit, product design, marketing and licensing, government regulations in the mainland, customs declaration and taxation, as well as market profiles for the mainland, Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Participants in the T-box programme can also join HKTDC events at a discount during their three-month participation period.

Start-ups

Start-ups play a role in almost every industry
Start-ups play a role in almost every industry

The HTKDC is also committed to nurturing start-ups in Hong Kong. The number of beneficiaries in this year’s Start-up Express programme – which is already open for application, with the awards to be made in June – will increase to 20 from the 10 laureates last year. The HKTDC will enhance business matching for the winners and support the enterprises in tapping new markets and securing funding. The HKTDC will also offer a “Free-trial” online package to help start-ups and entrepreneurs expand their network of buyers and partners through the “hktdc.com Sourcing” platform.

Check out how to use the expo with this video.

Related link
HKTDC Exhibitions Online

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