The Last Mile


The term “commodity” has evolved to refer to any item or service that is generally available, and is purchased primarily on the basis of cost.

A whole family of trade show display products is now viewed as a commodity. Companies search the web, find the exhibitory item they’re looking for, compare prices, and make the final decision.

This isn’t necessarily a bad purchasing model. But … and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you … when you go to complete the sale, things change.  You generally need to click the “Contact Me” button and have someone from the online resource connect with you to finalize the details, graphic templates, shipping, etc.

It’s this “Last Mile” that can make or break your online exhibitory purchase.  Here are a few important things to consider:

  • Many of these online exhibitory resources are not really “companies” in the traditional sense. They are essentially drop-shippers, who pass through orders and take their commission/margin. There’s nothing wrong with this, but they have no real knowledge of the event business. They cannot guide you toward what you need, or away from what you don’t.

  • They may take from a few days, to a few weeks, to get back to you. This is never good. You were ready to purchase NOW, and to get that task off of your To-Do list.

  • These resources are often anonymous. It’s almost impossible to find credible testimonials from verifiable sources. Reading that “Nancy M. in the Food Industry” swears by their service isn’t enough.

  • What you see is what you get. And nothing more. No advice on warranty (or any warranty at all), no recommendations for care, maximized use, or chance to customize. Often, if the unit you’re purchasing requires graphics, all you get are the size specs with no additional advice (or resource) to fulfill your graphical needs.

  • A great number of online exhibitory companies do not practice “safe” online purchasing. Often, you will not find an SSL Certificate on the check-out page. (This certifies that the site is secure) Other red flags of are; broken web links, pages that load erratically, or Shopping Carts that are clunky and not ergonomic.

  • And when mistakes happen (because they sometimes do), a reputable company can and will fix them. A drop-shipper doesn’t have the ability (nor, often, the desire) to make things right.

This is not a finite list.  When it comes to ensuring that your online exhibitory purchase is successful, you need to connect with a resource that is well-known & experienced, and who can offer real-world advice about your purchase–the kind of advice that can’t be quantified on a webpage. This is important, because if the wrong thing arrives at your Receiving Department, you are SOL.  (SOOO out of luck … what did you think I meant?)

The Last Mile of this post is this: while certain exhibit products may now be a commodity, the expertise and service that supports them is not, and it’s this expertise and service that separates the Pros from the … well, you know.