In April we attended Phase 1 of the 117th Canton Fair in Guangzhou, China. In the 3 months since returning we’ve had some time to reflect on the experience and put together our thoughts and lessons learned. Here’s our Canton Fair Wrap-up.
Look, listen and learn.
From a product design perspective there is so much to learn at these big trade events. Getting out of the studio and walking the halls provides some great opportunities and insights:
- See the products being traded on the global marketplace
- Identify which products and companies are the big sellers, what are they doing right?
- Look out for emerging trends, technologies and products you just can’t find back home
- Spark creativity, inspiration and new ideas for your next product
- Meet with buyers and manufacturers to understand their needs
- Get to know the market you are designing for
Stand out from the crowd.
After only a few hours of walking the halls you begin to tire of seeing the same items over and over again. There are only so many fluorescent tape measures and red hammers you can look at before losing interest. Because of this, the products, displays and booths that stand out in the crowd have the best chance of getting noticed. As product designers, we have a great opportunity to create a real competitive advantage for the manufacturers and brands selling at these shows. Point of difference can be created through innovation and a fresh design approach.
Face to face is best.
Correspondence with international clients can often be limited to emails and Skype. The Canton Fair offered the opportunity to meet a large number of contacts in one place. We took advantage of this by setting up numerous face-to-face meetings. Most importantly, we discovered personal interactions, valuable introductions and insights that just wouldn’t have been possible through electronic communication. Looking back, we can see it was these face-to-face meetings that helped us accelerate projects and strengthen our business relationships (both new and old).
Customise for buyers.
Buyers walking the halls are usually looking for something new, and when they see it – they often want it exclusively. Manufacturers know this and look to produce designs that are easily adapted to suit multiple retailers in multiple regions.
Bring Value back to local clients.
By the time we returned to Australia we found ourselves armed with a wealth of new information, new ideas, new contacts and a mountain of catalogues. For us, it was important to identify the bits of information that would be valuable to us and to our existing clients. It might be a new material, an idea for a design improvement or the details of a new contact.. We looked for anything that could add value to the service we provide as design consultants.
- The exhibition halls are huge (112.5 hectares in fact) so wear comfortable shoes and bring a bag with wheels!
- Beware of OEM factories that are happy to inform you they “make for Makita and Bosch”
- Beat the end-of-day traffic by taking the boat along the Pearl River back to the centre of Guangzhou. Or stay at the Shangri-La located on site if your budget allows.