IBS 2019: Our Key Takeaways

The NAHB International Builders’ Show is always an exciting event for our team and clients and this year was no exception.

Garnering the largest attendance in years (topping 100K attendees), the show was jam-packed with impressive exhibits, new innovations and plenty of energy. In this post, you’ll find our collective thoughts and takeaways from the biggest IBS in more 10 years.

bill rossiter, ceo and principal

We saw plenty of energy and crowded walkways this year. That’s because it was the largest audience in more than 10 years, drawing together more than 100,000 attendees. It’s great to see the momentum and excitement coming back into the industry.

There were more demos this year to help trial the performance of products but very little focus (except for KBIS booths) was placed on color and aesthetic trends, which engage the influential female customers. However, the decking category seemed to be one that had upped their game. There was AR all over the place but with limited benefits in most cases. I was surprised that I didn’t see more emphasis on productivity or new installation practices to address the labor shortage. I also thought I’d see more around multifamily given the forecasted growth rate over single family.

And while there was more excitement and traffic, I was struck with how many of the exhibitors’ employees had no energy — sitting in chairs, on their phones, talking to each other. Many had absolutely no story to tell about their brand or products. If you’re going to spend thousands of dollars to attend, make sure you have a differentiated story and then spend the time to train and hold your team accountable to tell it powerfully — or don’t waste the money.

Loved the energy and traffic but felt many brands are still promoting mere features of their products and stuck in the sea of sameness with their competitors.

anita holman, executive creative director and brand strategist

As a female in building materials, I couldn’t help but notice the overabundance of middle-aged, white men working the booths and walking the show. I don’t think companies are aware of how quickly things are shifting and most are not prepared.

With millennials slated to take over the majority of home buyers in the near future, companies need to be relatable and understand their purchase approach. Most of the booths displayed products in traditional ways, touch and feel. But what happens when a shopper wants to purchase an entire kitchen online? Most companies are not prepared to create an amazing digital shopping experience. Beyond changing the shopping experience, millennials are also swimming in debt and unable to purchase a home. Companies who figure out ways to help support this first purchase will win the business and loyalty.

jeff petit, director of client services

Even though this was the International Builders Show, there was a lot of interest and talk by builders attending, and brands exhibiting, about the remodeling, renovation and repair market. Still feeling the sting of the 2008-2009 new home construction meltdown, the industry is watching closely economist’s predications that new housing starts in the U.S. will plateau at 1.2 million annually at least until 2023. So, builders and brands are looking at opportunities as homeowners may decide to stay in place and look at remodeling projects rather than building new.

matt davis, associate creative director

There was far less printed material available for attendees. Nearly everything has gone digital including badge scans to get on the email list, “Learn more online at...”, touchscreens and more. This shift makes sense. It provides a treasure-trove of user analytics. But I still miss the occasional printed piece, to remind me of the company and product booth experience after the fact.

jen molnar, senior copywriter

What I noticed was the continued and even expanded emphasis on personalization, including the role of women as decision drivers in the home-buying process. For example, Café appliances (“Making appliances personal”) offered a rich hands-on, mood board creation experience that included not just a jewelry-like selection of appliance hardware and kitchen surfaces, but actual jewelry, sumptuous fabrics and other decorative objects to create a luxurious and completely personalized style capsule. It was surrounded by female visitors, eager to engage, create and design.

ashley mcmahon, copywriter

From a social media standpoint, I noticed that some of the top brands weren’t very well represented. This year, our team put a lot of effort into social content. Whether it was to raise awareness for the brands’ booths or events, we were very active. Other brands – not so much. This surprised me because a large trade show like IBS is a great opportunity to capitalize on the active event hashtag but also encourage check-ins and engagement through social media. It leaves me to wonder if these big brands are just so comfortable at the top that they phone it in during trade shows or if they’re really not prioritizing this critical marketing initiative. If the latter is the case, then this leaves big opportunities for smaller brands to swoop in and gain traction through a space that has lots of eyes at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.

through our eyes

check out our experiences on the show floor

Day 1

Day 2

but wait… there’s more!

Stay linked to our social media pages for more insights from IBS 2019 and as always, the latest industry news.

More Good Reads

The Big Disruptor - Conversational AI

With Conversational AI, brands can have more meaningful conversations with their target audience and customers — as long as they are set up to live in this world. They also have an opportunity to learn more about customer intent by how customers or potential customers are verbalizing their ask, which leads to better and more personalized marketing efforts.