The proliferation of trade show display websites makes buying a portable display easy. Perhaps too easy. Most exhibitors, especially new ones, know very little about display hardware and graphics. They see beautiful images of displays with great prices and the convenience of point and click. What arrives, however, may not match the pretty picture or the online description.
Putting the Cart Before the Horse
Sadly “putting the cart before the horse” is a common mistake when buying an exhibit. Displays buyers become fixated on size and price instead of asking the following:
- What are our marketing goals for the show or shows?
- Is this a short-term or long-term purchase?
- Will we need accessories like shelves, locking storage, tablets, or monitors
- And, who will be assembling the booth?
Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to start shopping. There are two options: an online display website or a local provider. Both can supply you with similar products and prices. Much will depend on your short and long-term trade show marketing plans and whether a provider can support your evolving trade show program with products and marketing advice.
How to Avoid the Most Common Portable Pitfalls
#1. Too Good to Be True Prices.
Otherwise known as the devil is in the details. We’ve all made this mistake. Many portable display websites show really low prices, which are merely the starting point. You then have to add graphics, accessories, cases, shipping which can increase the price by as much as 3X to 6X.
Not all portable websites are constructed this way so it’s important to compare the “build a bear” pricing with the “what you see is what you get” pricing.
Unlike cars or appliances or smartphones, there’s no Consumer Reports for portable displays. And let’s be honest, the rating system on most websites is suspect. Sure you can watch a video, which may or may not be helpful.
You might not like to hear this, but price is a pretty good guide. Higher-quality systems with a proven track record tend to cost more. They use sturdier frames, stronger connections, and better cases and packaging (but more on that later).
Always ask about the warranty and the return policy. Quality display products are backed by strong warranties and reasonable return policies.
Assembly matters but probably not as much as you think. Some require tools. Others do not, which shouldn’t be the only determining factor when choosing a portable display. Is the assembly process intuitive? Are the parts labeled and numbered? How stable is the display when it’s done?
Remember… you will be assembling the display multiple times over months or even years. Each time it should be faster and easier to setup. If not, then the overall fit and finish may be suspect and/or the materials of questionable quality.
Most portable systems rely on fabric graphics for the larger images (like the main backwall) and direct print graphics for smaller images (for counters or headers). If you’ve shopped for a TV recently, you know the same size screen can vary in price, often by hundreds in not thousands of dollars. Graphics vary too. Low quality graphics are printed on older machines, using thinner materials, and use less ink per square inch. They may look fine until you place them next to higher quality graphics, like your competitor in the booth beside you.
Just as important is the fit on the frame. It must be perfect or near perfect. Too loose and the graphic appears sloppy and cheap. Too tight and the images are distorted and fitting them to the frame is like putting pants on a sleeping bear.
#5. Replacement Parts.
Just assume you will misplace or break a display part at some point. Because you will. It happens. When considering a portable display, always ask the following questions:
- Are replacement parts available? Is there a catalog with prices?
- How long will it take to receive the replacement part?
- Is the replacement part guaranteed to fit?
Some portable systems are considered disposable by the manufacturer. If you lose a part, then your only option is to buy a whole new display. With others, getting a replacement part to match your frame is nearly impossible.
Better portable displays are designed and manufactured with exact-fit tolerances and interchangeable parts. The parts are available via quick ship.
Very few buyers consider packaging when buying a portable display. A HUGE MISTAKE!
Poor packaging contributes to lost parts, damaged components, dirty graphics, assembly frustration, and overall long-term satisfaction with a portable display. The vast majority of portable displays are shipped using temporary packaging like shrink-wrap, paper, disposable foam, and tape. These are all tossed away at the first show. Then what?
Some portable systems use reusable packaging, like foam inserts, nylon bags, and heavy-duty corrugated boxes. Everything has a spot and every item is protected during shipping. This ensures that the display looks new for much longer and makes it easier to assemble since the components are organized and protected.
Purchasing a trade show display, regardless of the size or price, is a sales and marketing investment. If you’ve ever walked a trade show floor and said to yourself, “Seriously dude?!” about someone’s display then you know the harm a cheap portable display can do to your image. Before buying a display, consider meeting with an Trade Show Exhibit Professional to discuss your needs and marketing goals.