Texas Restaurant Association

TRA Marketplace

Event Page News Page Specialty Areas

Now in its 80th year, TRA Marketplace is the largest restaurant and foodservice trade show in the Southwest.

But to retain this mantle—and to ensure TRA Marketplace remains a revenue-generating and reputation-building event—the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) decided to shake things up.

So they came to TradeMark Media for a TRA Marketplace makeover. (Try saying that five times fast.)

Who goes to trade shows anymore?

TRA is broadening its target audience to a younger demographic—millennial, more brand weary, more skeptical of the “old guard,” less inclined to travel to a trade show. But they’re also a digitally astute audience, proud to exhibit their foodie credentials.

In other words, TRA’s target audience is likely to respond to a well-designed website full of helpful content. (Just as they’re equally likely to ignore an event advertised on a confusing, outdated, or ugly website.)

If we could recreate, online, the same vibrant, leading-edge vibe of the TRA Marketplace event itself, we could drive more people, sponsors, and exhibitors to it.

Information architecture matters.

After producing TRA Marketplace for eight decades, the Texas Restaurant Association knows how to run a trade show in its sleep. The logistics aren’t a problem. But organizing those logistics on a website is a novel design challenge.

We began, as always, by thinking of the user:

  • What could the TRA Marketplace offer a small restaurant owner from Dallas who’s considering opening a second location?
  • If an aspiring chef from Odessa wanted to open his own cafe, how could attending this huge industry conference help her?
  • Why might an exhibitor—say, an industrial appliance retailer—want to attend TRA Marketplace and show off its products to the attendees?

… and so on. Asking and answering these questions allowed our Information Architects to make two critical design decisions:

  1. What content to include on the website
  2. How to group the content in a way that directly supports TRA’s goals

Ultimately, this is what every architecture decision is about—i.e., separating the helpful content from the fluff, then organizing it in a way that spurs action.

The New PB&J: Photos & Social Media

Images online get consumed about 10x as frequently as their accompanying text. And because the restaurant industry is highly photogenic—food, dining rooms, bustling kitchens, etc.—we made sure to stuff Marketplace’s pages with plenty of opportunities to showcase images of the event, the people, and most importantly, the food.

The homepage will make your mouth water.

But the homepage also features a third-party tool called “Juicer,” which allows TRA Marketplace to display content from all of its social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. This approach lends this very seasonal website some evergreen status—and links users over to the TRA’s main website (which we’ve also redesigned.)

The Verdict

One of the largest professional associations in Texas now has a big, bright, user-friendly, and mobile-responsive website to drive more people toward its seminal industry event, TRA Marketplace.

Like what you read? Interested in what we might do for you?

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