What Makes a Successful Trade Show Booth? How We Nailed Our Booth at NRF!

Now that Retail’s Big Show is over, it’s time to take a look back at our experience. NRF 2019 was a huge success this year, we learned a lot, took note on all of the things we did right, and are already looking forward to next year’s show.

After seeing all of the event buzz – or maybe checking out one of our articles – you might be wondering…what makes a successful trade show booth?

Well, we were wondering the same thing when we were preparing for NRF!

At any trade show, you can count on plenty of product announcements. This was true at NRF, with plenty of exciting news from retailers and service providers alike.

Our team was really excited to showcase our new self-service POS and mPOS offerings, but how would we stand out among a sea of exhibitors, all with their own product announcements?

Luckily, our NRF booth made waves and our team made a lot of great connections. Read on for tips from our team how to create a memorable, successful trade show booth.

1. It’s all in the experience

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “trade show booth”? You’re probably imagining the traditional booth — a curtained backdrop, a draped display counter, and free swag covered in corporate logos. On their own, these traditional booths can be really successful! They’re a great way to connect with consumers on a more personal and hands-on level.

But it’s all too easy for trade show attendees to pass over your booth when you’re surrounded by dozens of similar setups. In most cases, standing out at a trade show requires much more effort than buying really fancy swag. Move away from the traditional booth and create an experience. In our case, we opted to transform our booth into a free self-checkout candy store.

Erply had 2 broad goals in mind:

  1. Showcase our new self-service POS and mPOS
  2. Get people talking about our business

Those goals can’t be fully accomplished with a traditional booth.
“Customers” were able to walk up to our booth (ahem, store), grab as much free candy they’d like, and use our self-service POS to “check-out” their order.
It was fun, unique, and stood out from traditional walk-up booths. Plus it included free candy, which is always a winner.

Most importantly, the self-checkout candy store setup got people using our new self-service POS. Encouraging these interactions didn’t just help us get our product in front of retailers, partners, and analysts – it also helped us gain valuable feedback on our software!Customers can scan candy using our self-service pos

2. Be bold

Gray and light blue definitely make for a sleek look, but in a trade show full grays and blues, it’s easy for those colors to get lost in the crowd.

We broke away from our typically light blue logo and went pink. A handmade pink kiosk, a pink rug, and a pastel LED backdrop designed with a cartoon-style candy store.

Is pink part of Erply’s identity? No. And that’s okay! While we’re definitely a fan of brand consistency (even our website matches our product), we know when it’s time to break out the creative guns.

The results? Lots of attention — and photos! (yes, please keep photographing our company logo)

An interesting point to note is that we didn’t purchase a large island booth. Our candy store operated out of the classic 10×10 booth space.

Small space aside, visitors consistently commented on how eye-catching out booth was, especially compared to the muted colors that surrounded us.

To us, that was a pretty good indicator that investing in a booth experience is key to booth success.

Read more about those comments in our booth media blog!

We do think it’s important to note that you should refrain from going too bold. Flashing graphics, an overly bright booth, or aggressively clashing colors can definitely deter visitors.

Think: if you wouldn’t want to stand in your booth for too long, neither will visitors.

3. People appreciate authenticity

Given that Erply is a software company, creating a recognizable, authentic candy store experience took a bit of thought and internal brainstorming.

We very easily could have gone with standard trade show furniture, displayed bowls of candy, and called our booth a self-service candy store. As long as people are using our self-checkout app, it’s still a success, right?


Comparing past NRF experiences to our self-checkout candy store taught us that allocating more resources into the experience yields more successful results. With that principle in mind, we did our best to give our booth a true authentic candy shop feel.

Front-and-center of our booth was a giant M&M character. It might seem silly (some of us were admittedly skeptical at first), but it got people talking! Candy stores typically are filled with fun, silly props — our M&M fit right in.homemade self service pos kiosk As much as visitors loved the M&M character, without a doubt the real star of our booth was our handmade self-service POS kiosk.

Our very own hardware specialist Erik put a lot of time and effort into creating a kiosk, and it really paid off. The kiosk was put together from hand-cut wood, then given a shiny coat of bubblegum pink paint.

If anyone had told us that the handmade kiosk would draw as much attention as it did, we would have made 3 more. Plenty of visitors made special note to admire the handiwork () and ask if we sold similar kiosk.

Lastly, our candy jars were a big hit, too! While it was fun for visitors to dig through our giant pile of scannable candy, we found that a lot of people really enjoyed diving into buckets of their favorite candies.

We’re not listing all these things because we like to hear ourselves talk (err..type)! We wanted to highlight what people were attracted to and why they found them interesting. Your next booth might not be a self-service candy store, but these insights can help you plan your next trade show booth accessories.

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