The Right Contacts, the Right Ideas

Exclusive interview: IFA Executive Director and Messe Berlin Vice- President Jens Heithecker

The success of a trade show such as CE China can be measured by its “Key Performance Indicators”. But just what are the KPIs for this show? We put the question to Jens Heithecker.


It’s not a usual KPI for us to have more and more and more visitors. That’s more or less easy in China. You can go to the universities and fill the room. The idea is really to get high quality trade visitors combined with public who are really interested in new technology. It’s not about mass, or the largest number, it’s all about the right number. It means we try to measure how many retailers we address, how many retailers we have in the room, and the atmosphere between the retail and the brands. That’s not directly measurable, but it’s a kind of KPI. One must also not forget the coverage of new products of the industry in the market. That’s the next step, because whenever we bring the industry together with the retailers, the products have been shifted from the manufacturing sites to the retail sites, but how does the consumer know there are new products? We have to help and support the industry with promotion for the products by this incomparable media effect a trade show as a neutral platform for industry can have, and it’s this combination that determines the success of the event in my view.

In China, there are other specific points about which we have to be aware. Developing the right contacts, networking with the right people from the industry, from the retail, from the media, that’s much more important for us. That’s our valuable and very fragile KPI for the next editions. In a couple of years, when the growth accelerates, it might shift, and will shift into different directions, but not yet.

How do IFA and CE China complement each other?

It’s about connecting the networks on both sides, getting access to the Chinese market even from the Berlin side. It’s like having another hand in the Chinese market, getting in contact with, and shaking the hands of all the major movers in the Chinese market for IFA in Berlin. On the other side, it’s our blood, our knowledge we bring in.

What can European retailers learn from Chinese retailers and vice-versa?

What you can learn from Chinese retailers is the combination of bricks & mortar and online retail, which they have more or less solved. They still have their challenges of course, but they are very strong in this combination. These retailers are also curious to introduce new technologies in their shops, such as cashier-free payment systems. On the other hand, a question mark still often hangs over the service aspect. Whenever you go into a Chinese retail store, you will see a lot of sales people, but they are often paid commission by brand, so they are not necessarily neutral. While that may be good for driving sales, in a connected world, if the consumer is looking for fair recommendations by the retailer, this is something that is very well done in European retail. It’s also all about up-selling, because often the benefits of a higher priced product will be much more important for the consumer, if they are correctly explained. For this, you need knowledge in products, knowledge in brands, their ‘stories’, and in service.

China is by far and away the most advanced when it comes to people interested in new ideas and concepts. Why so, do you think?

It’s true, Chinese consumers are very open to new technology. I think the major point in China, and that’s a huge difference when it comes to other markets, is that here we have a huge construction industry with a huge number of new apartments and houses being brought into the market all the time. And whenever you erect a new building, it’s much easier to talk about connected home, and all the smart home functions, before you build the house, than to do it afterwards. That’s a big advantage in China. They are also much more open with their data usage than in Europe.

Photo: Jens Heithecker – IFA Executive Director & Messe Berlin Vice-President