SEMA News—November 2020


SEMA360: Best Practices for Buyers, Manufacturers and Media

By Chad Simon

The Digital Platform Will Help Fill the SEMA Show Void for 2020 and Could Serve as a Companion to the Live Event for Years to Come

On their Manufacturer Showcase page, manufacturers can highlight feature vehicles for which they’re supplying products so that buyers can see their products and direct application on the vehicle.

It’s old news that the SEMA Show could not take place this year in Las Vegas due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The silver lining, however, is the emergence of SEMA360—a digital solution that will allow users within the convenience of their own schedules to interact with participating brands, attend educational and networking sessions, view new products and spot industry trends.

SEMA360 is not necessarily a short-term fix for this year only, nor is it designed to replace the live event. If the platform turns out to be as promising as it now seems, SEMA360 may be used in conjunction with the live SEMA Show in the future as a tool to significantly increase brand exposure by opening the proceedings to a qualified buyer base around the world.

“This is a learning curve for all of us, and I think that’s one of the important parts of this whole endeavor in a year when most of the trade show industry has had to cancel or postpone their live events,” said Tom Gattuso, SEMA vice president of events. “But this is a perfect scenario for us to be able to explore this solution, learn a lot, and then leverage it for future years so it can be a perfect companion for the Show into the future.”

How It Works

One of the biggest advantages of SEMA360 is the ability for users to connect on a one-on-one basis and, without having to leave the platform, be able to view manufacturer websites, conduct video conference calls and view online presentations. The digital solution affords the potential to increase a user’s reach for years to come.

SEMA360 will be supplemented with tutorials, FAQs and how-to videos for exploring and best leveraging the user’s experience with the platform. From the beginning, users will find a welcome message that helps orient them to what the platform can do and areas they may find interesting. They will always be one click away from a how-to, tips, tricks and recommendations so that the entire experience will be specifically catered to the individual. After the event, both manufacturers and buyers will receive reports on companies they’ve had interactions with so that they can continue the conversations in the weeks and months following the event.

Much like the live event, the hours of operation will be Monday–Friday, November 2–6, from 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (PST). The difference is that the platform itself will be open 24 hours a day during that week. Users will still be able to connect with manufacturers after operating hours, but it may not have the immediacy that it would have during event hours when manufacturers are in their showcases.

Although buyers and exhibitors won’t be able to physically meet face-to-face, SEMA360 will still afford them the opportunity to interact virtually on a one-on-one basis. Without having to leave the platform, buyers can view manufacturer websites, conduct video conference calls and view online presentations.

Manufacturer Best Practices

Within the platform, all manufacturers will have their own unique Manufacturer Showcase page where they can integrate their company website with their showcase presentations and add the products they’re debuting or ones that are best sellers. They can also highlight feature vehicles for which they’re supplying products so that buyers can see their products and direct application on the vehicle. Manufacturers can also conveniently offer product brochures and more downloadable information about their company. With the new platform, buyers can directly connect with manufacturers, so it’s a good idea to set aside staff to be available for questions and interaction with buyers in order to help build their businesses as they move into the final quarter of 2020 and into 2021.

SEMA is also curating a New Products Showcase, with opportunities for companies to submit a number of products at no charge. Additional products can also be submitted at an affordable rate so that manufacturers can showcase all of their product innovations and tie them directly back to their Manufacturer Showcase page. Manufacturers will also have the ability to take buyers to a private virtual meeting room to have specific conversations about their products and what they’re currently working on.

Besides submitting their new products into the New Products Showcase area, manufacturers can attract buyers by sponsoring vehicles to be displayed in the feature vehicles area and also ensuring that their manufacturer’s showcase is easy to see and understand.

For those who need technical assistance, a customer concierge program was set up for manufacturers. The platform is designed to be fairly simple, but just in case manufacturers run into any difficulties, they are assigned a customer service representative when they register for a showcase, ensuring that they have a direct contact to help them with uploading their information and streamlining the process.

Buyer Best Practices

For buyers to utilize the platform and get the most out of SEMA360, Gattuso suggested scheduling time free of distractions so they can experience all that SEMA360 has to offer. To help build your business, determine what your priorities are and connect with manufacturers that can fulfill those needs so that when you come into the SEMA360 environment, you already have a checklist and strategy of where to start.

If you’re trying to find the newest products to fill your shelves, maybe your first stop is the New Products Showcase. If you’re looking for trends, your first stop could be Feature Vehicles. If you’re trying to find new partners and manufacturers in a specific segment, your first stop might be the SEMA360 Marketplace or manufacturer showrooms.

SEMA360, to be held November 2–6, was created to fill the industry’s need for a trade environment exclusively designed to connect manufacturers with qualified worldwide buyers and media.

Media Best Practices

When SEMA360 opens November 2, there will be a Media Center where members of the media can check in. However, they should continue to work in conjunction with SEMA’s public relations department and connect with them regarding the use of press releases on the SEMA360 platform. Press conferences will continue to take place, and SEMA will alert the media so that they can participate.

The media is also going to want to take advantage of the new products, feature vehicles and Manufacturer Showcases to help them find new trends and have one-on-one conversations with manufacturers about what’s happening in the industry.

Advance Preparation

All participants should set goals for what they need in 2021 and try to build plans around them, then come into the platform and learn how SEMA360 can help them achieve their goals.

From a buyer standpoint, those goals might include finding new products, identifying new trends, and exploring new company offerings. As you set these goals, build a plan that will help you reach them. So if your aim is to find new products, start with the New Products Showcase, and from there, you’ll be able to find manufacturers to talk with about building those products into your business.

Pre-event promotion is one of the most important tools manufacturers can use to build some of their own momentum so that buyers know they can visit them and have conversations once the event opens.

“Marketing their participation in SEMA360 prior to the event can help give manufacturers traction with what they showcase within the platforms,” Gattuso said. “Much like the live event, this is not something where you just come in and wait for it to happen. You’ve got to be prepared and have a plan.”

Readers will find a partial list of participating manufacturers on p. 106 in this issue, but since SEMA News deadlines fell early in the development of the SEMA360 platform, buyers interested in building their list of companies to meet with may refer to for the latest news.

Managing Your Schedule

The SEMA360 platform will feature a function where users can manage their own schedules and decide exactly what they want to do based on preferences they receive from exploring the platform on their own. At the same time, a recommendation element will accompany the user’s schedule.

“Users will receive recommendations about educational sessions they may be interested in, people they might like to meet, and manufacturers they might want to visit—much like Amazon and Netflix do as they learn your preferences,” Gattuso said.

The education that happens at the SEMA Show serves the need member companies have to build their businesses, so SEMA360 will offer an array of speakers who are focused on helping companies in these unprecedented times and leveraging today’s unique opportunities to increase their business.”

“We’re going through the speaker roster that we had planned for the 2020 SEMA Show, taking the best of those and putting that into an online education system that will be second to none,” Gattuso said,

The SEMA Show typically offers countless receptions and networking opportunities, and so a feature will exist within the platform to schedule networking events. Users will be able to organize themselves into smaller groups and go from one small group to another one and have online conversations with each other.

Companion to the Live Show

In the long run, according to Gattuso, SEMA360 may develop into an ideal companion platform for the live event as a means to exponentially grow SEMA’s worldwide reach.

“We’re excited because we’re going to be able to create content at our live event and directly upload that into a digital environment so that people around the world will be able to participate while maintaining the value, excitement and passion that happens at our live event,” he said. “At the same time, we’ll be able to increase the amount of exposure that a brand can have and bring the specialty-equipment aftermarket to a much broader audience.”

In addition, Gattuso acknowledged the demand for a marketplace to occur between manufacturers and buyers and also for manufacturers to introduce new products and builders to showcase their cars. SEMA360 will feature several hundred cars with photos, videos and builder biographies, where users can view the vehicles, learn about the builders and specifically see the parts involved in the build. From there, they can connect directly to the manufacturer.

“Identifying that demand and building a platform to help satisfy that need is what SEMA360 is all about,” Gattuso said. “We did not go into this thinking that it would be a direct replacement for the live event—because there’s no way to replace that iconic week that happens in November—but rather to help fill this need and do it in a different way.”

For more SEMA360 information, visit

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