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INTERVIEW: Alexandra Sinson, DISTREE Events

by Stuart Wilson, Friday 15 January 2016

The 14th annual DISTREE Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) channel event takes place in Monaco from February 24-27th 2016. Firmly established as the premier event for vendors looking to manage, build or launch volume routes-to-market for consumer technology products, DISTREE EMEA continues to innovate to respond to the latest market trends and channel business strategies. Alexandra Sinson, Event Director for DISTREE EMEA 2016 participated in a recent Q&A session, providing an update on what to expect from this year’s event.

Q: What makes DISTREE different from a traditional trade show? Can you explain how the event format works and what it involves?

Alexandra Sinson (AS): The DISTREE event format is actually very simple when you take a step back and look at what we actually do. We bring together hundreds of consumer technology brands in one place at one time. These range from start-ups to established multinational corporations, but they all have one thing in common: a desire to manage, build or launch their sales through volume channels in the EMEA region.

To help them achieve this, DISTREE EMEA 2016 invites senior executives and buyers from the leading consumer technology distributors, retailers, e-tailers and online marketplaces to attend the event. Then we give all delegates – vendors and channel partners – access to an online one-on-one meeting scheduler prior to the event. This allows each delegate to create a personalised agenda of pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings tailored to their precise business needs.

The difference from a traditional trade show is that DISTREE EMEA is laser-focused on channel management and channel development. If you want thumping music, LED displays, balloons, free gifts, a few business cards from some random meetings and sore feet, visit a traditional trade show. If you want to spend a few days in a professional environment having in-depth business discussions with contacts and companies that are relevant to your needs, attend DISTREE EMEA.

Influential partners

Q: How has DISTREE EMEA grown and evolved as an event in recent years?

AS: DISTREE EMEA is taking place for the 14th year in a row in 2016 and during that time we have continued to improve and refine the event format and content to ensure maximum business benefits for all attendees. This year’s event will reflect the fundamental changes taking place within the go-to-market ecosystem for consumer technology products in EMEA. Brand identity, channel models and time-to-market are now critical factors determining the success of a product within the multiple markets that make up the EMEA region.

The wider go-to-market ecosystem will be fully represented at DISTREE EMEA. This now includes online marketplaces, logistics and fulfilment specialists, group buying sites and a range of marketing services providers. DISTREE EMEA 2016 will give participating brands a unique opportunity to meet a wide range of companies capable of improving their consumer reach and sales volumes. Utilising DISTREE Events’ extensive EMEA channel database, senior executives from the most influential volume distributors in 60-plus countries will be invited to attend. They will be joined by senior executives and product buyers from e-tailers and retailers spanning 40 European markets.

If you’re a consumer technology brand, the opportunity to meet so many influential partners from so many different markets in such a short space of time is unrivalled. For channel partners – whether it is distributors, retailers or e-tailers – DISTREE EMEA 2016 is an opportunity to meet both existing and potential new partners in one place at one time. Hundreds of new business deals and plans originate from meetings that happen at DISTREE EMEA each year.

Brand proliferation

Q: What product areas will DISTREE EMEA 2016 focus on?

AS: DISTREE EMEA is committed to covering the full range of consumer technology products sold through volume channels. This ranges from core technology categories such as laptops, tablets and smartphones and related accessories through to new and emerging areas. Fast-growing product categories including wearables, drones, audio and smart home products will be allocated more space within the exhibition area in 2016.

We’re seeing a proliferation of brands in the market. The commoditisation of the manufacturing process in some categories means that brand perception and channel enablement are now major differentiators in the market. DISTREE EMEA 2016 is a focused, trade-only event that enables brands to position themselves for success in multiple markets.

Q: DISTREE EMEA also runs a number of awards programmes? Can you explain how these fit into the overall event format?

AS: DISTREE EMEA 2016 will also include a series of awards programmes designed to identify rising stars, hot new products, best-in-class brands as well as distributors and retailers that have excelled in the EMEA region during the previous year. The DISTREE Diamond Awards will allow delegates to select the outstanding brands by product category based on their presence and interaction at the event.

The Fresh new technology showcase, hosted by Sightline Group, will introduce delegates to some hot new brands and products. The ’60 Seconds to Convince’ awards will give a number of exhibitors the chance to deliver a one-minute elevator pitch to the entire DISTREE EMEA delegate base, with the winners determined by a live electronic vote.

In addition, DISTREE EMEA 2016 will also host the ‘EMEA Channel Academy: 2016 Awards’ as part of its overall programme. These awards recognise distributors, retailers and e-tailers for channel excellence and will take place for the 8th consecutive year in 2016.

Conference sessions

Q: What sort of conference programme takes place at DISTREE EMEA, or is it just based on one-on-one meetings?

AS: The conference programme is an important part of the overall format. We understand that all delegates need to stay up to speed on the latest market trends and concepts, to ensure they continue evolving their business so it can survive and prosper in a highly competitive industry. So, we have a range of keynotes, workshops, panels and briefings that delegates can register for and build into their personalised agenda.

Event partner GfK will deliver an opening keynote, plus two workshops and a lunch briefing during DISTREE EMEA. In addition, CONTEXT will host the Smart Channels Summit, which will focus on the role of the retail channel in the delivery of smart technologies, solutions and services to consumers. This is a focus area for 2016 as we see a proliferation of connected devices and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions come to market. The channel will play a pivotal role in determining the speed of consumer adoption and purchasing.

There will also be a special vendor briefing session at DISTREE EMEA where channel experts from each sub-region will provide an update on market conditions in the territories they cover. We also have workshops from Quadmark and Zyme focused on new channel models and channel data management (CDM) respectively.

Q: Does the conference programme and event provide opportunities for start-ups to get involved and accelerate their business development?

AS: Yes, absolutely. We have announced an event partnership with start-up rating agency Early Metrics ( The alliance gives start-up and early stage companies in the consumer technology space access to professional analysis of their business. In addition, we also have a panel discussion and workshop hosted by Rude Baguette – a company that is a true expert on the European hardware start-up scene.

Product lifecycles in the consumer technology space are getting faster and faster. The journey from start-up to ‘must have’ product can be rapid with crowdfunding and new channel models accelerating the process. DISTREE EMEA is a gateway for hardware start-ups looking to enter the region, build awareness and also secure partnerships that will drive their growth.

Channel evolution

Q: Do you see any fundamental changes happening in the channel and are these reflected in the planning of the event each year?

AS: The channel is constantly evolving and anyone that does not see that and adapt accordingly will be left behind. That’s why we keep talking about the go-to-market ecosystem. The pace of change is accelerating and companies need to keep their options open and explore all opportunities. This year’s hot new product could be a crowdfunded start-up that is sold through a pan-European online marketplace by a regional distributor. What we’re seeing is that traditional distributors, retailers and e-tailers need to become more proactive in terms of their business planning and managing their vendor portfolio.

That’s why DISTREE EMEA is more important than ever for all delegates. We’re bringing all the stakeholders together, facilitating business conversations that span the entire channel from sell-in to consumer sellout – and we’re doing it in a highly focused way. There’s one thing we always work towards internally when we’re planning the event. We want to make sure delegates at DISTREE EMEA can achieve in three days what would otherwise take them three months. And we want to deliver these benefits at a fraction of the cost they would otherwise incur if they were traveling around the region trying to set-up these meetings.

Online marketplaces

Q: What else are you excited about ahead of this year’s DISTREE EMEA?

AS: I am quite excited by some of the new sessions that are taking place this year. We’re bringing in Nick Sohnemann from Futurecandy to deliver a keynote and workshop. Nick is one of Europe’s leading experts in trend and innovation research.

There will also be a session looking at the dynamics of Europe’s online marketplaces, led by Oliver Prothmann, President at BVOH, which will provide some deep insight for all attendees. No company can ignore the growing importance of online marketplaces as a route-to-market for consumer technology. All vendors, distributors, retailers and e-tailers need to formulate a strategy for how they sell through these high volume, high traffic sites.

DISTREE EMEA will also have a strong media presence with product review websites and channel publications from across the region attending. The European Hardware Association (EHA) - a partnership organisation comprising the region’s leading technology publications - will also deliver the results of an extensive consumer survey looking at purchasing intentions for 2016.

We also believe that 2016 will be a big year for wearables in EMEA channels. We’re seeing distributors in Europe such as Tech Data in the UK establishing dedicated teams to address the fast-growing market for wearable technology. DISTREE EMEA will provide the link that allows wearables brands from around the world to meet the channel partners that can order significant volumes and raise their brand awareness in major markets. Category expert Laurent Eymard will also run an extended workshop session focused on the wearables category.

Q: Can you give us some insight on the type of channel partners that are attending DISTREE EMEA 2016?

AS: The list of confirmed attendees grows every day. For us, the quality of the attendees is of paramount importance and there is a great deal of work behind the scenes in terms of the recruitment process. We need to make sure the channel delegates are senior executives with real decision-making authority. The research we do into the channel landscape is of critical importance. We would also encourage any retailer and distributor executives that have not yet received an invitation to attend to apply for a place at the event through

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