Comscore’s yearly statistical report on app downloads and usage, which arrived 2 weeks ago, can be – and probably was -interpreted as bad news. In general numbers for downloads and usage per device are dropping. The overall graph line is still on the rise, but only thanks to a still growing number of devices. The relative growth rate is decreasing.
Being an event organizer or app provider for events, one could draw the wrong conclusions from those numbers and downplay or ignore the effectiveness of implementating a mobile app. Knowing the industry a little, after 20 years of experience, and considering the focus on costs, I would say these premature negative conclusions were drawn in many boardrooms or marketing departments. I would however argue the opposite, and here’s why.
The Comscore report, although extensive and elaborate, doesn’t focus on the event app category, simply for it being absent as a seperate category in any of the mobile app stores. Overall the app market may be stagnating, or to be more precise, not growing anymore at the same pace, that doesn’t mean all app categories behave in the same way.
In analogy, in a declining economy viewed on a macro-scale, some industries are growing rapidly.
On top the report only looks at the US market. Yes, by far the biggest market but maybe not entirely comparable to the geographical target of your event in terms of mobile beheavior.
2. You’re special
Even if the event apps category would be highlighted seperately and proving to decline – hypothetical, still your app could be doing great. You just have to provide a really useful, well promoted app that enhances the user experience of your attendees. In analogy, in a difficult and suffering automobile market, some car makers are doing great.
Only one healthy reflex can help you draw the right conclusions : measure the download and use of your event app yourself. And give it some time to have valuable, objective numbers to go by. Prevent yourself from drawing any conclusions after one or two editions of your event.
3. A great mobile marketing strategy
Any app has to have a purpose, and so does an event app. This purpose has to fit into the overall marketing strategy, which enhances the mobile and social promotion of your event. Commonly used tactics for this purpose are social media integration, coupons, treasure hunts,… Let’s face it : you need to have a mobile marketing strategy.
But the purpose of the app should also be functional. The app must help your attendees with the primary problem they face when they enter your event : searching the information, places, products and people they want to find !
Consider how an app fits in your marketing strategy in terms of extra visibility opportunities a mobile app presents to your exhibitors and partners and how that can generate new revenue for you as an organizer.
4. The best search tool
An event app is the interactive and modern form of a show catalogue. Gone should be the days that every visitor carries a 250+ pages book around the fair grounds for a couple of hours, going back and forth flipping pages to search what he/she was looking for – if ever found.
Your app should be the Google for your event. Users must have access to all information available on your event. Only the relevant information on site. Don’t bother putting the complete description of your event in the app – yes I know examples that do. People using your app will know which show they’re visiting, why they should visit and what they can see at the show.
Allow them to search for exhibitors, find a specific stand, search for certain products or product categories, search for lectures and seminars, speakers, demos,… Put the entire list of attendees in your app, allowing visitors to meet each other.
In the best of cases your app was downloaded before the event, meaning there’s opportunity to give special offers and tickets through the app, exhibitor promotions, reminders and navigation from within the app.
5. Make it smart and interactive
Don’t build an app that waits for a user to search for the next piece of information he/she’s interested in. Have the app make suggestions to the user automatically, based on what was searched for previously. Use reminders, messages and pop-ups, only when allowed by the user, and when useful. I’m sure an attendee having looked up 3 individual exhibitors that belong to a certain product category, wouldn’t mind getting asked the question if he/she wants to see all other exhibitors in the same category. Would you ?
6. Embed into the online customer experience
Use your event’s mobile app as a logical extension of your event’s website. Allow the online purchased entrance ticket to be transferred to your mobile app, instead of routinely sending it to the buyers e-mail address. Also a good way to promote the use of your app. Give the app user seperate access to the list of preferred or favorite exhibitors he/she prepared on the event website. Flag these exhibitors in the global exhibitor list displayed in your mobile app.
7. Audience quality
Let’s assume that the Comscore numbers are also valid for event apps. Let’s assume the reluctance to isntall yet another app is high amongst your potential visitors or attendees and only a small percentage has actually downloaded – let alone used – your app. I would argue that this small group of attendees is a very valuable, both to you and to your exhibitors or partners. They’ve shown above average interest in your event and have opened up to enhanced and more meaningful engagement with your event. They’re most probably – especially if your app is designed for efficient use – well prepared visitors, getting more out of their time spend at your event. These are the visitors or attendees your exhibitors or partners have been waiting for. The likelihood of deals made with this type of visitors, or the quality of leads for them, is much higher.
That’s why I recommend you – in spite of seemingly disappointing numbers and statistics – to build a mobile app and do the analysis yourself, together with your partners, exhibitors and visitors. Focus on what’s important for them in terms of reasons to use the app. Build in the desired functionality and promote those to your audience. Monitor the usage in meticulous detail. You’ll see the numbers rising, in contradiction to the deceptive overall trend.
A few other tips on mobile event apps, can be found in this article from a fellow blogger.
Do you have other reasons why you would still provide an app for your next event ? Just post a comment.