7 things app statistics don’t mean for event apps ?

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.

The full Comscore report can be downloaded here.

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.

1. General statistics over all categoriescomscore_f67903e623b4c046fa884cc93ac053fc

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.

3 observations on the trade show industry

After a little over half a year of activity at adekSpo and some completed and running consulting projects – small and bigger, at least in my eyes – I found it time to make a round up of my experiences so far.  Of course they’re my observations, so I would love to hear some more.  And it’s just the 3 most remarkable to me, I bet there’s a dozen more to write about.

The trendsetters

Increasingly you can find amongst organizers, which in my opinion, have been for so many years, very traditional about their work methods, procedures and approaches, people that feel the need for a new breeze.  Often these people are outsiders, starting a new career in the event or trade show industry.  Events and trade shows still have a tremendous gravitational force on job seekers, mostly because it’s a work intensive industry, strangely and astonishinly having a low automation level.  That means higher employment security than average, which in today’s economic and employment situation, is a safe harbour worth steering to.  These new recruits are typically vertical specialists, and less horizontal generalists – which are so desired in this line of work – bringing along from previous jobs, experience and interests in relatively new domains for the trade show industry.  This makes that more organizers, especially smaller companies, are more excited about new and bold ways of organizing, promoting and staging their events.  These new and bold things still include quite traditional aspects of the event organizing game, like registration and promotion and booth sales and finding speakers, etc…  But they strategically and tacticially use new technology to handle that like : NFC, social media advertising, social CRM, conversational marketing, big data, twitter walls, mobile apps, voting systems, iBeacons,…

For one of these brave, small organizers, I did an interesting prototype using NFC tags and LinkedIn profile exchange as a fast way to register people entering a free seminar.  But it wasn’t just about the prototype, which by it’s name might suggest a pure technological nature of the project.  No, it was much more about the open, eager and innovative attitude towards registration and collecting personal information about attendees.  Even for free events, most organizers stick to, from a sense of tradition, lengthy fill-out forms including the most common fields like company, name, sex, address, phone, email,…  These hard facts data give a – sometimes false – sense of security : “I have the data and can use it again for next time.”.  But data changes over time, increasingly rapid and people sometimes lie or don’t fill out the complete form.  There’s less chance of that happening on their LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter profile, especially in a B2B context.  On the contrary, the chance of that data still being accurate one or two years later, even after having changed company, is so much higher when you have your attendees’ LinkedIn data, than when you collected and processed that data yourself.  Exactly creating this awareness was the turning point for this organizer to start this project and analyse the technical possibilities and future feasability of such an approach.

The sceptic

Oh, I can hear you, dear readers, thinking : “What about compatibility, the Apple users and people that don’t have a smartphone ?”.  Because being sceptic and downright negative about innovation, is something we’ve all become (almost) used to in this industry.  But I’ll reply to you as I did to some people at this organizer who eventually did the prototype.  How many people still don’t use a smartphone ?  Really ? According to Nielsen studies the number of smartphone users worldwide is inching towards 45%, in 2013 in Europe and the US 69% of recent mobile phone acquirers bought a smartphone – even 80% for those aged below 35.  In B2B environments the use of a smartphone is close to obiquitous.  If you provide a solution for Android and iOS you cover about 93% of all devices used, according to another Nielsen survey in 2013. And Apple fans are known to be early adopters of any new kind of technology becoming available to them, so how long can it still take for them to get on board as well.  So that should provide an answer to all those “concerns”.

Even if it’s not entirely realistic to use something new right now, at least by investigating it thoroughly you’ll be ready when the time comes.  Which today sometimes happens faster than you anticipated.  And I firmly believe that being ready and using or testing a proven technology to the benefit of your attendee’s experience, will give your event the edge it will need.

What’s striking, but not surprising if you think about it, is that many of the sceptics are really big event companies.  Although they have the financial and human resources to be at the forefront, they’d rather wait and see.  I guess because they can – having these financial buffers and still being large trade shows (inter)nationally – and because there’s too many people defending their traditions.

The dawning

I’m positive that in the next months and years there will be growing numbers of trade show organizers, small and big, opening up to the idea of doing things in a new way, embracing technology and data.  I’m not saying we’re there yet.  But I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The traditional reflex of sticking to “what’s known and has worked for so long”, and the firm belief – or is it frantic hope – that the need for human face-to-face contact will perpetually require trade shows being organized, is fading and being replaced by the recognition that “different” and “modern” can mean “better” and “more profitable”. I experience, in the last weeks, an increased interest in better data management, higher efficiency in work processes, greater transparency, better analytics, new business models and real customer focus.  Not yet as a big tidal wave of interest going through the industry, but more like ripples in a bath tub.  But it has to start somehow.

I truly hope this trend continues, for I really believe in the strength of trade shows and events and not just because it provides me work opportunities as a consultant.