Germany 2019: A good fit for the industry

German trade fair companies will again be working intensively on their digital offerings in the coming year. Examples from Cologne and Essen illustrate this. 

At incube8, startups address specific questions that companies have to deal with in today’s business world. (Photo: Koelnmesse)
At incube8, startups address specific questions that companies have to deal with in today’s business world. (Photo: Koelnmesse)

Aiming to bring established companies and startups together for joint projects in future, Koelnmesse recently launched incube8, its “digital campus”. Space was made available for this on the eighth floor of the trade fair centre’s second administrative building in the district of Deutz: 540 square metres for events, co-working, meeting rooms and offices, where the old and new economy can come together. It is intended for exhibitors and young startups, primarily companies with digital business ideas that haven’t yet been through any funding rounds. “These startups address the kind of concrete questions at incube8 that companies have to deal with in today’s business world,” explains David Oldfield, who is the project manager responsible for digital development. “The aim is to develop solutions together,” he emphasises. The focus is on digital startups in Koelnmesse’s main clusters, which are furnishings, nutrition, digital media and entertainment.

In the early part of next year, incube8 will be going through a kind of pilot phase. “We want to gather experience and learn what works and what perhaps doesn’t,” explains Oldfield. The first proper phase of the project will start later in the year: up to five project pairs consisting of a startup and an established company will be able to work together on a concrete business idea or innovation for a specified period. They will be supported by internal and external mentors. Each project cycle culminates in a trade fair for the relevant industry. There, startups can present their business idea and thus gather opinions from within the industry. “This direct access to the market distinguishes the programme from typical incubators,” emphasises Oldfield (

Messe Essen: Apps for trade fair visitors with interactive hall plans are standard nowadays. (Photo: Messe Essen)
Messe Essen: Apps for trade fair visitors with interactive hall plans are standard nowadays. (Photo: Messe Essen)

In addition to the obligatory digital offerings such as apps or site maps, Messe Essen also offers a variety of other web-based solutions that make it easier to prepare for trade fairs. It will continue to develop these in 2019. “Among the most important new developments on which we are currently working is a new platform for the German trade fair industry,” reports Daniela Mühlen, who heads the communications and advertising department at Messe Essen. “It will be the first B2B social network for a single industry,” she explains. “As the organiser of a leading global trade fair, we want to bring the industry together without being limited to the dates and venue of the trade fair.” There are certain processes involved in the development of digital projects. A peak behind the scenes reveals them. “Our Digital Media team observes what is going on in the market and other industries and also keeps an eye on the general trends in digital communication,” explains Mühlen. “Based on that, we develop and then promote our own new solutions.” Suggestions and the needs of exhibitors and partners are incorporated, she says.

At Messe Essen they believe that the obligatory digital offerings of trade fairs have to include a responsive website that presents information clearly and in a way that allows it to be used intuitively. Ideally, visitors should also be able to find content produced by the exhibitors. “That’s why we have set up a closed exhibitor section, where exhibitors can create a profile and provide product news,” continues Mühlen. Apps for trade fair visitors that show hall layouts and include lists of exhibitors and an event programme are now standard equipment. In addition, it is important to have an appealing and target group-focused social media presence to ensure a trade fair is perceived well. “Our Facebook fan page for the Essen Motor Show, for example, has over 220,000 followers, which it makes it the most successful of any European motor show” (

Author: Peter Borstel

This article was published in TFI issue 4/2018

2019 at Messe Offenbach: a special year

An anniversary is coming up in Offenbach from 16 to 18 February. The 150th ILM international leather goods fair, which was first held in 1949, will be taking place: ILM Winter Styles. However, some of the celebrations will be delayed until September and the 151st edition, ILM Summer Styles. There won’t be too much of a fuss made, though. The international leather goods fair remains an industry-only fair where companies place orders. “We will be recognising the work of our retail industry visitors,” says Messe Offenbach managing director Arnd Hinrich Kappe. In concrete terms, that means adding two categories to the existing ILM Awards in recognition of pioneering retail concepts. “Traditional retailing in leather goods is undergoing a transition,” argues Kappe. “Successful examples of best practice offer approaches that others can adopt.” There is a lot that online competitors can do, but there is one thing that they can’t do: they can’t have any face-to-face contact with the customer. Efforts are also being made to upgrade the accompanying programme of events in order to add value for the ILM’s target groups over and above providing a platform where orders can be placed. Work will also be done in 2019 on improving the quality of Offenbach as a place to spend time in for a trade fair. A car park with 350 parking spaces is being built, which will improve the parking situation (


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