Ever since mobile event apps emerged in 2008 to enhance the printed event guide in a digital form, they have steadily evolved into sophisticated interactive mediums. Enabling organizers to engage attendees with dynamic content publishing, polling, and other communication features, event apps now facilitate interactions between sponsors and attendees and networking through LinkedIn profiles, in-app messaging, and face-to-face meetings.
As event apps have become mainstream, organizers still struggle with low user downloads. Even the value of apps for events is being called into question. Some in the industry question if apps have reached their potential or if improvements will just be more evolutionary than revolutionary. Has the event app reached a stasis? Will VR or some other innovation become the next exciting technology frontier for events?
As for the promise of event apps, the events industry is only witnessing the early days of these tools. The event app is here to stay because mobile devices are here to stay. It is hard to imagine any event attendee these days who doesn’t carry a smartphone. The ever-present mobile device presents compelling opportunities for all event stakeholders from organizers to sponsors, exhibitors and attendees. Events are the most engaging, exciting and most importantly, profitable activity of any community. Apps that support events can collect an enormous amount of insight about event participants, such as their profiles, interests and activity (while preserving user privacy when done appropriately).
In contrast to registration systems, which only touch attendees once when they register—and because of mobile devices’ ubiquity, event apps are poised to become the primary basis from which innovation with event technology will spring.
From tactics to strategy
The problem today is that event apps are islands unto their own—disconnected from the rest of the tools that organizers and event attendees use to interact with each other. They don’t connect with the rest of an organization’s marketing campaigns or integrate with CRM tools. Embarrassingly, event apps are even disconnected from themselves in which insights from one event cannot be correlated with insights from another event. To get to the next stage, today’s event app as we know it must become part of a larger toolset.
Relationships are key for business, and relationships are equally essential for successful events. Considering the “relationship” that attendees have with their mobile devices, imagine the event app as an extension of organizers and event attendees that allows relationships to be nurtured among all stakeholders in every direction. The event app becomes an “event relationship manager” that helps build relationships and keeps events alive.
Event apps will extend into more complete technology platforms that support event relationship management (ERM). These platforms will focus on event relationships and share many similarities with CRM tools that are today widely successful and adopted. Similar to CRM, which was created 20 years ago, giving organizations a 360-degree view of their relationships with customers, ERM platforms will offer event stakeholders a 365-day view of their event relationships.
Event relationship management will deliver two main benefits:
Increased relationships between organizers and event goers – today, organizers don’t know who is coming to their events and why people are coming. Events are planned in basically the same way year in and year out. No organizer will doubt that if they can know more about who is attending or sponsoring and improve relationships with them, they will achieve dramatically more loyal audiences. Event relationship management will enable organizers to develop deeper, more personalized relationships with participants.
Increased relationships between event participants – events were created to connect event goers such as sponsors and attendees on a variety of levels for business opportunities, whether for partnerships, sales leads, learning about an industry, or even finding a job—in short, relationship building. More effective tools and techniques that enable event participants will increase event ROI and increase event value.
Whether as organizers or participants, not only will all event stakeholders want to develop relationships at individual events, they will also want to track and develop relationships across multiple events.
Events that are relationship-based will become the way that innovative and successful events are run in the future.
Relationship marketing – while event brands are important, relationship marketing applied to events will be more critical. Targeted and personalized marketing over broad-based marketing techniques to draw participants to events will be essential because organizers need to constantly market and attract people to their events. Event relationship management will provide customized marketing approaches from better understanding of behavior and activity of participants involved with events. Sponsors and exhibitors want to have access to this marketing, making their event investment more profitable.
Relationship data – effective relationship marketing collects data to understand how attendees behave around events. Event apps can collect a tremendous amount of information about attendee behavior. More reliable than surveys or polls which participants are often hesitant to answer, event apps will reveal data about topic interests, and certainly, relationships that are important to them. Many organizations run a calendar of events from large to small. While apps have mainly been deployed for the largest events in a portfolio, there will now be value to using them for medium and small events—made possible because event apps are becoming easier and cheaper to deploy. They can support the “community” that exists before, after and between events. Event relationship management systems will not only integrate with registration systems, agendas, and so on, as outputs of event coordination, they now provide attendee behavior data and capture leads that can be entered into CRM systems to form coherent profiles of attendees. Organizations will begin to look at every event as opportunities to learn more about their customers.
Relationship intelligence – executives are awash in data these days; there is too much of it. Relationship data has to be distilled into actionable insights that help event stakeholders become more successful. Organizers want to have more attendees, more sponsors, and more square footage sold. Event attendees want to know how and with whom they should target interactions for business opportunity. Once relationship data has been collected, such platforms will generate insights exposing accurate attendee interests, areas lacking activity that need improvement, and recommendations where the event experience can be improved. Intelligence will be available down to the individual level to tailor experiences to all stakeholders. Intelligence will allow them to take proactive actions in the event marketing cycle toward progressively better relationships and outcomes.
These days, there is hardly an event that doesn’t advertise “networking” as a primary benefit of attending, emphasizing the importance of relationships. Events that become relationship-based will gain a competitive advantage over their competitors. Event relationship management platforms, from which event apps will evolve, will be about all event stakeholders generating more ROI from events.