20 Sept 2018
High-Tech Trinkets Top Gift-Giving Preferences at Hong Kong Show
Novelty is giving way to utility in the corporate gift-giving sector, with innovative, affordable tech gadgets now seen as the best way to truly endear yourself to end-users and to make yourself truly memorable via mass-market merchandising.
The gift-sourcing economy continues to be strong, while adapting quickly to new technology and changed consumption patterns, according to industry experts at the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair. This confidence was supported by the expo's attendance figures. The largest event of its kind in the world, this year the Fair welcomed a record 48,316 visitors, as well as 4,360 exhibitors from 35 countries and regions.
Significantly, there were more buyers from the emerging markets, notably Russia, Brazil and India. At the same time, there was also an increased attendance on the part of the more mature markets, with the United States, Germany and South Korea all having larger contingents than in previous years.
The results of an independent on-site survey of 940 exhibitors and buyers gave further credence to this rosy outlook. Overall, 93% of respondents expected their sales to stay static or improve in the year ahead, although there was some concern over the increased pressure on margins, with 60% believing that production / sourcing costs were set to increase in the near future.
Such concerns, however, were hardly discernible on the showfloor. Now in its 33rd year, the event showed no sign of slowing down, thanks in part to the organisers' efforts to constantly update the format, which this year welcomed a World of Camping and Outdoor Zone for the first time.
Within its bounds, 90 exhibitors from around the world were showing a true gallimaufry of alfresco activity aids, including pop-up camping tents, digital barbecue sets and outdoor LED lanterns. There was also a foldable digital barbecue thermometer from Hong Kong's Prosper Source, bamboo baskets from China's Zhejiang Fenghui Bamboo and Wood Co, plus an incredible assortment of water bottles that light up, double as dumbbells and help you navigate your way home through the thickest of thickets.
Another recent innovation was the Start-up Zone, which was first introduced for the 2017 event. Clearly a hit, this year it once again provided the opportunity for new and innovative businesses to step into the spotlight and directly connect with buyers and investors.
Among the Smart Launch sessions held within the zone was a particularly memorable presentation from Good Season Creation, a Hong Kong-based technology company. The winner of a number of innovation awards, the company was keen to promote its nanotech-enhanced anti-bacterial treatment.
Setting the tone for the Fair proper was 2018's Top Five Global Digital Consumer Trends, one of the first presentations at this year's event. Hosted by Michelle Evans, Euromonitor International's Global Head of Digital Consumer Research, the focus was very much on how technology has changed the way consumers browse for and buy goods.
Highlighting this shift, its consequence and the appropriate response on the part of traders, she said: "Half of the world's population – 3.6 billion people – is now online, with 28% of all those connected consumers increasingly using their phones to compare prices and products on a daily basis.
"This has led to the development of Super Apps, most obviously in China. There, every aspect of a consumer's life, from making a doctor's appointment to shopping, can be conducted via a single platform – WeChat, the poster child of this particular revolution.
"As a consequence, tech companies are increasingly taking control of end-user contact, which is the reason why they are among the highest valued companies in the world. Put simply, they possess the most data – and data is the new currency.
"It is AI chatbots that will power the customer service of tomorrow, while the increasing popularity of subscription purchasing is reinventing consumption. This has obvious implications for both producers and buyers, with mobile wallets going global. In addition, physical outlets are adapting to the challenge by using near-field communication [NFC] tags, 3D imaging and augmented reality to reinvent the shopping experience."
While Evans was busy reinventing retailing, less ambitious reinvention was evident pretty much throughout the event. At heart, every Gifts & Premium Fair is about chasing the latest trend or coming up with something novel that could be Next Year's Big Thing. While last year was clearly the Year of the Fidget Spinner, 2018 seemed to have less of a focus, with Donald Trump-like bubbleheads and superhero accessories – including Black Panther clutch bags and Iron Man Bluetooth-enabled necklaces – equally ubiquitous.
Superhero-supplemented or not, Bluetooth trackers, complete with a GPS function, have suddenly become both stylish and practical. For Andrew Grunstein, International Strategic Partnerships Manager for Safedome, a Sydney-based tracking technology business, Bluetooth was on the cusp of transitioning from being an entertainment-related novelty to becoming a must-have travel and personal-security asset.
Introducing his own company's take on this – the Safedome Classic, a credit card-sized Bluetooth tracker – he said: "This is the world's slimmest Bluetooth tracker. Designed for people who like to travel light, it fits easily into a wallet or purse and ensures that you can always keep tabs on your valuables. Connectible to an Android or an iOS app, it can remind you that you have left your home or office without your wallet and can ring your phone if you can't locate it."
Another Bluetooth product that stood out from the torrent of new tech on show was the Music Hat, courtesy of Hong Kong's Easier Industry, which can connect a beanie to the user's digital player of choice. The wearer can then listen to music without the need for headphones, while keeping their head warm no matter how wintery the weather. Easier Industry Manager Stephen Chen said: "We used to produce a hat with a flashlight, but then we thought of doing this instead. Crazy idea, right?"
A superficially saner appliance of science was on offer from Fazup, a Swiss start-up with a focus on smartphone safety. Founded by twin brothers Mathieu and Antoine Samakh, the company offers a passive antenna phone patch that is said to filter out handset-generated electromagnetic radiation, protecting users from a range of supposed side effects, including headaches, sleep disorders and an increased likelihood of cancer.
Formed in 2013, Fazup's impressive client list includes Singapore Airlines, Nestlé and BNP Paribas. It was attending the event alongside Intermed Asia, its Kowloon-based partner and distributor.
Commenting on the reception the product received at the show, Mathieu Samakh said: "It's been getting a lot of attention from buyers, which is understandable, given everyone has a phone, even kids. There is also widespread concern about the potential effects of electromagnetic radiation, which we have clearly tapped into. It's a big worry for many and we are one of the few offering a solution."
High-tech, health-enhancing and easily corporately logoed – what more could you ask for when it comes to commercial gift-giving?
The 2018 HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair took place from 27-30 April at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Jules Quartly, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong