It was only a few years ago that Apple had launched the App Store and had said, “there’s an app for that”. That day onward, the way people use their smart devices has changed quite a bit. Today, there are about 2.2 million apps in Google Play Store. Apple’s App Store can boast of about 2 million apps. Market researcher, App Annie reports that by 2020, the app economy can grow to become double in size to $101 billion.
Now, it would be wrong to say that the event industry is immune to this massive growth. In 2016, more that 80% of event planners are expected to have an app for their event. So when every event professional is wondering what to anticipate from these apps in the coming year, let’s take a look at the seven big trends that can shape the future of apps in the event industry. Here’s our list to look out for in 2017,
- Apps should be a natural extension of the event plan itself, not just an afterthought
- Much depends on the user experience
- Social sharing needs to be seamless
- Virtual and augmented reality is what’s next for event apps
- Active participants can be gained by leveraging apps
- Integrating smarter networking techniques is important
- Instant messaging must be incorporated to facilitate smoother networking
- Personalisation and customisation are the keys
1. Apps should be a natural extension of the event plan itself, not just an afterthought
Just because you have built an app, there is no guarantee that event attendees will take an interest in it. A change has been noticed recently in attendees’ attitude towards event apps. They are more inclined to use apps that help to enhance the overall event experience rather than the ones that simply provide information.
Event planners must not look at an app as a way to save money and paper that are spent on printing schedules and session details. Rather they should understand that the app can be used to understand the target audience better, grab their attention prior to the event, boost engagement at the event and hold their interest after the show is over.
There is really no reason to develop an app for a trade show or a conference as an afterthought. Integrate the event’s fabric in the app and use it to run ads, run contests, gamify events, impart information, reward points and thank attendees, sponsors and exhibitors at the pre, at and post stages.
2. Much depends on the user experience
Early apps didn’t focus much on user experience or UX, which affected adoption for both admins and users. As apps have started becoming more integral to the overall experience that one can have at/about an event, much emphasis is being put on the usability and design of the apps too. Look, feel and navigation are major factors that are critical to user experience and in turn, are necessary for strong adoption.
Some factors to ensure are compatibility across multiple device formats, including iOS and Android, easy download and installation, reduced steps for verification and password registration, smooth navigation, clean design that will enable client to easily find what they are looking for.
3. Social sharing needs to be seamless
That social media is critical to expand an event’s reach is a known fact. However, how the content is shared on social networking channels differs from organisation to organisation. While some love that their attendees are posting event-related content in real-time directly on popular social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, there are others who would prefer to have the content posted on their in-app social wall.
The brands that prefer the former can do away with the prospect of attendees using third-party social media apps altogether. They can directly integrate their apps with social media channels enabling attendees to post once in the app feed, and choose where they want to post content simultaneously.
For the companies that would rather have their attendees’ content go through a filter before it goes viral, can go for the in-app social wall option. The social wall is an in-app social posting feature which allows attendees to post content (video, text, etc.) in real-time.
Social wall not only works as a live news feed but also enable attendees to like, share and comment on each other’s content and connect with fellow attendees, sponsors and exhibitors. Then, with the discretion of organisers, the same content can be shared on external social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Thus, only the content that is approved by the organisers go on to external channels.
4. Virtual and augmented reality is what’s next for event apps
More and more organisers are investing in hybrid events as they reach a broader audience than with the traditional “live only” meeting or event. Now, breakthroughs in telepresence tools allow organisers to make it easier for people to attend an event from a far away location. Event apps integrated with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can help organisers to create truly unique experiences for attendees who cannot attend the event in-person.
VR is becoming increasingly popular with organisers as it can help to easily create games such as scavenger hunts at the events. Interactive games can also be designed with VR which will encourage attendees to find more clues and win prizes. Though 3D computer models are used at exhibit halls to give off-site attendees a complete view of the event venue, VR can get them fully immersed in the environment.
For example, with VR, an off-site attendee can walk through the event venue while sitting at his home. Custom environments or even obstacle courses can be designed to engage attendees! Also, AR can help teams to view and manipulate objects together in real time, thereby boosting engagements and interaction.
5. Active participants can be gained by leveraging apps
Event attendees no longer want to sit back. They want to actively participate. Thus, they are preferring apps that have integrated gamification. Competition, achievements and rewards can boost engagement. Another good idea to increase engagement at events is to share user-generated content – pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts, and everything in between – through the app. These steps can not only increase app usage, but also add fun, interactivity and increase attendee participation at the events.
6. Integrating smarter networking techniques is important
Conferences help brands as well as individuals to share ideas, connect with like-minded people, and exchange information. The better the connection is between delegates, the more successful an event is. Relevance is of much importance in this context.
Rather than expecting individuals to randomly start interacting, organisers can get LinkedIn integrated in their app. Then the app can make networking smarter by connecting delegates that are mutually interested in each other’s fields. The app can also help attendees identify useful connections with networking tags which represent interest areas.
Whenever a new individual installs the app, the app can send a notification to other users introducing him to the community. The users can click on the notification to know more about him and connect to him. The real-time conversation of social wall can also be leveraged to encourage conversation among similar-minded attendees.
7. Instant messaging must be incorporated to facilitate smoother networking
Localytics states, “We also found that in-app messages drive 3.5x higher user retention. This means that these app owners are retaining nearly 50% of their users three months after their initial engagement, compared to their counterparts who retain only 13% of users.”
Push notifications are already popular as far as features of event apps are concerned. They can be sent out for general messages to all attendees and can even be sent to specific groups based on their preferences. The latter works perfectly if the event has multi-track agenda. Groups can be created with attendees for each track and relevant messages can be sent to them regarding changes in schedules, updates in programmes, etc.
Beacon-based notifications are also steadily gaining popularity. Beacons can be used by event organisers to deliver specifically targeted and relevant notifications to attendees based on their location. Major events like Mobile World Congress, Detroit Auto Show, Tribeca Film Festival, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Reeperbahn Festival have already implemented beacon technology through their apps for reaching out to more attendees, providing them with location based information, suggesting new things in an around the event venue they should check out, creating interest through games and rewards, crowd management and so on.
Another anticipated app messaging possibility is chatbot. Facebook has already revamped its bot platform for Messenger. More and more brands are investing in the conversational user interface that revolve around chatbots.
Information gathering, be it something simple as knowing more about a brand’s history or something a little more complex like looking at various speaker profiles and their sessions, need not be boring or time consuming any more. The bot can gather all the relevant information and present it to the user in a conversational format. It can even suggest an activity, a poll or a session to the user based on his search history.
8. Personalisation and customisation are the keys
Apps that enable attendees to create their own session schedule are understandably more popular. Event apps for mobile can also be programmed to provide attendees with personalised navigation and way-finding to get to a session based on their current location. Work is also underway on the development of apps that can deliver personalized second screen content experiences. Additional interactivity can be encouraged through teasers videos from speakers, polls and quizzes that will help the speaker to get a clear understanding of his audience’s preference.
Now that you know what to expect on the meeting or conference app arena in 2017, it’s time to put this knowledge to work. Invest in a robust app today to make your events the best they can be.