In April, Messe Berlin, organisers of the leading consumer electronics and home appliances trade fair, IFA, confirmed that the event would go ahead in 2020 but with a new concept.

One month later, IFA Berlin executive director, Jens Heithecker announced the details of the 2020 format which will incorporate a physical event in Berlin, as well as virtual experiences for those who are unable to attend.

Appliance Retailer recently conducted an exclusive interview with IFA executive director, Dirk Koslowski to receive more details about the upcoming show and discuss the response from international partners including retailers and exhibitors.

“We figured out a way how to do a trade show in a very successful and efficient way for our all of our international partners including the media, the exhibitors and of course the retailers, because IFA was one of the first shows for the consumer electronics business,” Koslowski said.

“Since 1924, it has been based on the fact that for the end of the year’s season, Christmas and Chinese New Year, the orders will be done during the show where the retailers and the industry partners are together.

“So in late April this year, we announced that we won’t just be optimistic, but confident to find a way to make a show possible – purely B2B driven – dedicated to retail purposes and innovation purposes and one of the most sad things, to keep the audience out of the show. That was the price, but it is even possible, that’s what we announced in late April.”

IFA activities split into four key sections

“How can we be of use to retailers and serve them in a way that they can figure out what is new in the market, what they can bring into their stores and bring onto shelves for consumers at the end of the year season. Bringing that together, we decided to split the major B2B IFA activities into four different sections.

“Section one is informing the broader audience through the media while inviting our global media partners from all over the world to Berlin – we would normally do this in late April. The principle is quite easy  setting up two stages in parallel and bringing the most significant industry speakers on stage to present what is new into the market – keynotes or press conferences and one by one we are bringing them on to the stages.

“Section two is purely directed to the business case for retailers, setting up meeting rooms where they can meet in a cosy atmosphere to set their orders and discuss philosophies and strategies for the remainder of the year.

“Section three is the innovation part of IFA, some of you who have walked the show floors know the IFA Next Area where the magic of IFA happens. It’s an area where people from different industries come together from mobility and telecommunications and mingle with each other.

“Section four is the Global Markets serving the OEM and ODM brands. Unfortunately, we had to announce that we are unable to do this format any more due to travel restrictions in place for our major exhibitors.

“We are very patient because as we all know it is far from being a normal show, so the flexibility at our end and our partners is still quite high. We have had some appointments at an early stage with exhibitors such as BSH and Miele, who want to be part of it, while others have come in late. It is still possible to be one of our partners on the stage.

“There are ongoing discussions because the health care situation and the travel situation is changing day by day, so this kind of flexibility is quite normal and it is the new way of life at the moment, so we are still open for business. We are having some back-ups according to space, if someone is approaching us within the next 10 days – it is still possible to be a viable part of the show and be embedded – so that comes along with our philosophy.

“I have been with IFA since 2005 – we made the decision to move from a bi-annual rhythm to an annual rhythm, we brought a package of new investment decisions into a completely new focus and I can assure you in the last 15 years – I didn’t experience a situation what it is like today – it is far away from normal – it is very special.

“IFA could be the first show in Germany since the outbreak of Coronavirus – the first big show not just for consumer electronics but for the digital industry within the whole of Europe which could bring the consumer electronics industry into the limelight.

“This is an essential role not just for Messe Berlin but also for the entire trade show landscape, we want to highlight and showcase that it is still possible even under this circumstances to do trade shows in a very safe and healthy way. We are collaborating with the health organisations here in Berlin and we are doing everything which is required and necessary to make sure that our participating guests will come in and will go out to their respective countries in a very healthy and safe manner – that is our major point of doing this type of trade show.

“Besides that, knowing it is essential to have security standards here in place – we all know in Germany, we are in a very special situation because Germany is not as affected as other countries and we are well aware that countries like the UK, Spain and Italy have suffered a tremendous loss – not only lives but ongoing instability and awareness of Covid-19 pandemic.

“Having this in mind, we are grateful to have this kind situation in Germany – it brings us into the duty to show others what could be possible for the new normal, what could be possible for the new way of marketing shows and products, as well as marketing the best of technology and then in the end how we can fight Covid-19. If you want to answer this question, technology is one of the cornerstones and we want to do our best to be a vital part of this.”

Preparing for 2021 and beyond

“We are in preparation for 2021 and 2022 and I can assure you in 99% of all of our meetings, talks with our clients and partners – would it be possible because we would be like to be back to normal and to come to Berlin and join the trade show. This gives us the energy and hope, and of course the power to give such a tremendous act.

“Nothing is set in stone at the moment and everyone is experiencing a new toolset of activities according to the preparation of this kind of show. If you are asking us, sure, 2021 will be a big show, a great show and hopefully most of our partners will be back in Berlin. We are crossing our fingers, we will do our best but there is still a lot of work to do.”

Message to retailers

“Sometimes it seems obvious that every critical situation provides a chance to change yourself and your business, as well as your adaptation to overcome specific services and behaviours and this kind of learning is a great chance for all of us.

“So don’t take this kind of event as a big hurdle, it is one, but we will overcome this. Why will we overcome this because we are working together in the best of the industries that is digital technologies and we can be happy to be part of it and to fight Covid-19 and bring much more service to our partners and friends.

“You can join our activities in a virtual way, because we have created the IFA Extended Space which will be released where every single retailer and partner of IFA can join our activities virtually and hopefully you will see what we are doing.”