Event apps: the awkward truth

Apps are a potentially great idea for the events industry, but unfortunately, only “potentially” for the most part.
The truth is, only a tiny fraction of the huge variety of apps available seem to have been developed with an awareness of how event marketing actually works.

The result has been a dense thicket of apps of variable usefulness, and a lot of industry professionals and event attendees who are tired of sorting through them all.
Survey results bear this out. A recent one found that only 59 per cent of event marketers even bothered to use a mobile event app; and of those who did, only 33 per cent could report that 50 per cent or more event attendees had used it.
Obviously, very few are hitting the spot. But why? What are most of these apps missing?
The answer is “flexibility” – the ability to customise functionality, look and feel. This is especially clear when you consider the core purpose of our industry: to create unique stories, images and experiences to support each client’s unique goals and aims. Increasingly, these experiences are “360-degree”, with each element integrated into a seamless whole.

There’s simply no effective place in this picture for a rigid, generic app.
Customisability, then, is one solid signifier of an event app that has been developed with, rather than just for, its users. And for many of us in the industry, “developing with” may just be the key to getting what you need out of an app: forget the hit-or-miss approach, and outsource the development of your own app to your own specifications.
Of course, that’s not every company’s cup of tea either.
What event organisers or marketers need is an event app which offers plenty of customisation – notifications via message or sound triggered by location or by the content, tailored visitor interactions, customisable event promotion – on top of a full range of baseline capabilities like event registration/check-in, visit planning, event tracking, instant feedback and audience profiling. It’s the next best thing to a truly dedicated app, right out of the box.
It’s also a sign that, slowly but surely, effective event apps are emerging. The challenge is finding these pearls in a sea of mediocrity.

Daniel Wu is general manager of Pico Hong Kong

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