At one point in the not-too-distant past, a bright-eyed salesman tried to sell a website to an event planner. “Why would I need a website?” he was asked. “We have our direct mailing lists, and people are used to registering by mail. What’s the point of being on the web?”
Today, it’s hard to imagine. Your event must have a website; nobody would take you seriously if you didn’t. Nobody wants to register via mail anymore; they expect to sign up on your website.
Mobile event apps are following in the footsteps of the conference website. No, they aren’t going to replace the website, but they are quickly becoming an integral part of any event in the same way that a website is. I spoke with two of our account executives, Page Trimble and Pete Skeele, about the important differences between an event website and an event app, and why it is important to have both.
“I’m a fan of event websites,” Pete said. “You need that website for promotion and registration. But beyond that point—once someone has registered for your event and committed to going—a website does zero things better than a native app.”
After all, the native app is an instantaneous feedback loop. It informs and engages your attendees, and every time they are informed or engaged, it provides you with data points. “It’s hard to over state how valuable this data is to marketing,” he continued.
Once your attendees have arrived at your event, they are almost certainly using their cellphone or tablet over their computer. Do you have resources available on your website? Great. But very few web developers develop with a mobile-first mindset. And even if they do, the odds of getting a mobile website that works as well as a native app are quite low.
Native event app users can access personal itineraries, download session presentations to their phones, receive push notifications from event hosts, send messages to each other, post photos, and join in on discussion boards and live polling. A native app is designed with that in-the-moment experience specifically in mind—with a solid nod to flexibility, personalization and data security.
Page concurred. “You’ve also got to think about connectivity with a website. What happens if the Wi-Fi goes down at your venue? A native app is still there, and still working even without the internet. What if people want to build their schedule while on the plane? Or maybe they’re traveling from another country, and they don’t have connectivity when they’re away from Wi-Fi? These are major roadblocks for your attendees if you are relying on a website.”
Native event apps create a central place for attendees—cutting through the noise. They can use social media, access logistics and documents that might be on the website, but there’s the extra benefit of engagement.
Page sees mobile apps as a modern revolution. He told me that attendees are expecting an event app now, and that it has very quickly become the industry standard. “If you want to be cutting edge, you need to join the revolution. Native, downloadable apps are where everyone is going."
That revolution has created momentum that you can take advantage of. Your attendees are already utilizing social sharing on their phones; when you provide a place for them to share photos and experiences to connect with people, they will know what to do with it. “These things tend to snowball as well,” Page told me. “If I see someone is earning badges, then I want to. If I see someone posting photos, I want to post photos. This allows you to take the things that your attendees are already doing and showcase them.”
This snowballing effect increases your ROI. The more your attendees use your app, the clearer the picture you gain of them, allowing you to take further steps to improve. From a marketing perspective, it gives you further insights into their interests and activities. From a community perspective, it allows you to further increase networking and a sense of community, giving your attendees more bang for their buck…and more reason to attend again next year.