Apps will only be used if they bring obvious benefitsGoogle recently confirmed that in ten countries, including the US and Japan, more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers.
Couple that with research from Nielsen’s latest Smartphone App Report, which explained that adult smartphone users were spending an average of more than 43 hours each month accessing content via applications, and it’s easy to see why the events industry is trying to utilise the power of the mobile and, with it, apps.
The problem, however, it that event apps are ephemeral in nature. Plus, the majority of event applications that have surfaced so far haven’t really had a clear purpose or benefit to the user – which is probably why research suggests that a third of young professionals actually dislike downloading them.
The success of a show is predominantly down to the experience of the attendees. If the contents of an event app don’t really add anything to that overall experience, downloading is unlikely. When you consider the quantity and variety of apps already available, the task of making an event app unique and attractive to attendees presents quite a challenge.
So how do organisers transform an event application from a novelty into a necessity?
Firstly an organiser must realise that attendees have the ‘what’s in it for me’ mind-set and ‘because it’s the official app’ doesn’t necessarily carry any weight. As the downloading of an app is going to take effort (no matter how small) and uses valuable space on a personal device, there really needs to be a valid reason or benefit to get people to install.
So you have to have interesting, useful and valuable content for the attendees. There are all sorts of things that you could consider, but it really depends on the event and the audience. It will cost money and could take a large amount of time if you’re going to do it really well, but it can have a lot of benefits.
Remember that every feature you add into an app needs to have a clear purpose and benefit to the attendees, but that you also need to cover the basics to make sure that there aren’t glaring gaps in the content of the app.
If you have sessions or seminars – make it easy for the attendees to find out what’s coming up and where those will be. If possible, allow them to book their space in each seminar, but then make sure you allow the booked people in first so the benefit is evident to everyone.
You can use the app to send push notifications of keynotes and other information but be really careful you only send the most important information in a timely fashion – people don’t like being bugged too often.
Of course, one of the most difficult parts of this for an organiser is not only creating and managing this valuable content but communicating that to the attendees to convince them to install the app. Even at events where the apps are good we still see people wandering around with printed schedules because they’re easier.
Of course, the app should also benefit the organiser. If it’s done correctly then you should be able to get all sorts of metrics and information about the audience. Just don’t make the mistake of doing it for those reasons – the intelligence you get from the app should be an extra bonus.
Do it well and the event app will pay dividends to all involved. Do it poorly and it will just be a cost to you without really empowering or connecting with the audience.