The KBIS 2012 Digital Experience

KBIS, the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, is the best place to experience the newest and coolest kitchen and bath products and technology. Every year, one or more Hansonites hit the show floor in support of clients exhibiting there. As their digital partners, we pay close attention to the technology used to support the products and draw visitors into the exhibits. Here are a few digital experience observations I made this year from the floor of Chicago’s immense McCormick Place.

QR codes were everywhere.

Exhibitors used QR codes in the booths to link users to online product information. KBIS signage used them to promote products in the show, as well as for general support. The effectiveness of these codes were highly dependent on each user’s service provider though; users who did not have a strong signal in the exhibit hall could not get many of the destination pages to load.

Mobile is perfect for a sprawling conference center.

KBIS offered a free mobile app for iOS and Android users with wayfinding tools, breaking news, searchable exhibitor lists, and conference schedule. I’m interested in finding out how many attendees downloaded it and how much they used it.

Interactive touch screens are coming into play.

A number of exhibits included large touch screens. In some cases they were screens that invited users to interact with them, and in other cases they were best used as a demonstration tool.

A few used smaller screens or tablets for demo screens—I observed one booth using an iPad to play a video. Even in booths without touch screens, video was a popular element. The software vendors typically used computers for their demos.

Social is seamlessly integrated.

KBIS staff were live tweeting the event (@KitchenBathShow, hashtag #KBIS), along with a number of the exhibitors. Several booths were sponsoring scheduled tweet ups. One conference session was on how designers are using Instagram, and at least one other session featured a panel discussion with design bloggers.

As this was my first visit to KBIS, I was pretty impressed when I first walked in; the first booth I saw was Delta Faucet and the first rows of booths were fantastic looking. I talked to some show veterans though, and the popular sentiment was that the show seemed “smaller than it has been in the past” by people who had been there as recently as a few years ago to people who had been involved in the show 20 years ago. But with all the social in play, the conference likely reaches a bigger audience than ever.

Looking forward to next year, I’m expecting to see tablets really take off as a sales tool in the booths. Tablets can provide an interactive user experience for richer content at a lower price point than a touch screen; they can have the content loaded locally so that it doesn’t depend on an internet connection; and they provide a more personal tool for a one-on-one conversation with a prospective customer.