Event apps have been around for a number of years, and will likely be part of the meeting and event industry for the foreseeable future. But how does a company stay relevant and competitive in a saturated market, where one must not only keep up with technology but stay ahead of it?
Enter Attendify, a five-year old app development company that gravitated toward event apps after finding that event planners had a common need for certain features and capabilities that were not being met.
“There are a lot of competitors out there and it’s a very cluttered and fragmented market, with no real leader but a lot of companies doing the event app thing,” said Jared Bodnar, VP of marketing. “When we gravitated toward the event-app industry, we decided it made much more sense to create an event-app builder for clients rather than creating a one-off app for every customer.”
The company created a five-step app builder that meeting planners can go onto the website, sign up, and create a free account. There it’s possible to build an event app completely for free, preview it on a mobile device or a desktop computer, and then only pay for it when it’s submitted to distributors, such as Google Play or the Apple app store.
“There are a couple of companies out there that allow you to build an event app, but mostly it’s you working with a provider and having that provider build the app for you,” said Bodnar. “People have become much more DIY and they want to be able to dictate the process and the timeline.”
With Attendify, meeting planners are not at the mercy of a vendor and can set the timetable for the app’s development, building the app and uploading or importing information at their own pace. They have much more control over the final product.
Once the app is created and available for use, it’s possible to measure all manner of analytics on an analytic dashboard, but a direct measure of success is the number of people who download the app, how many people interact with it, how many photos and comments about the event are posted, and how many PMs are sent between attendees.
“You can measure things like attendance at sessions, which sessions and speakers were most popular (per attendee rating and review), and even run polls asking attendees what they thought of a certain aspect of the event or the event as a whole,” said Bodnar.
It typically takes seven days for an app created through Attendify to be published after it’s been submitted to and published on the app stores, something Bodnar says takes much longer with competitors. In addition, customers are able to instantly prescreen their app on a desktop or mobile advice so they’ll know right away how it will look.
“There is no guesswork or risk associated with that,” said Bodnar. “You know exactly how it’s going to interact with people’s mobile devices. You can build (the app) with no obligation or long-term commitment. You build it for free and only pay when you submit the app to app stores, unlike with some competitors who lock you in with multi-year contracts.”
Standard features such as a schedule, list of speakers, exhibitor and sponsor listings, interactive maps, etc., can be added to the app, and customers can also use the web-view feature and add a section to the app, linking it to a website or external, web-based portal to provide further customization.
“We try to counsel our clients to keep it simple and not go too crazy,” said Bodnar. “When we look at the data and results from our client events, a lot of people go to schedules, the agenda, maps, speakers and sponsors. People also really love to post, like and comment on photos, and connect with others via private message.” The social aspect of the event app allows attendees to interact with the activity stream and then connect with each other directly to facilitate face-to-face conversations.
Attendify helps event organizers monetize events and demonstrate their success through a number of ways, including sponsor listings and sponsor posts that look like activity stream posts, complete with a photo and logo as well as a call to action, driving traffic to things like an ebook, white paper, app download, web form or demo request. “We also have a lead retrieval product we recently launched that exhibitors can use to capture leads at an event, with all the social information and activity they have in the event app pushed into their records,” said Bodnar.
Scan an attendee’s badge, and get not only contact information but see all the photos he or she posted, and what contact was “liked” or commented on, all leading to better-tailored conversations during the event and follow up after the event.
“There is a subset of people who want to just be passive observers and not really jump into the fray and interact with the event app, but for the most part we get really good engagement,” said Bodnar. “It depends on the event, too. If it’s a financial event, you may not get a lot of selfies and photos of people but if it’s an internal meeting or employee conference we typically see a lot of high engagement, posting of photos and interaction.”
“It’s a very easy and intuitive app,” added Laura Ozuna, content marketing specialist. “As soon as you log in, it takes you directly to the activity stream after creating your account and you can start posting from there.”
Once companies purchase and publish their Attendify event app, they are provided with a landing page they can promote directly. Event planners may send out targeted emails to an attendee list, letting individuals know the app is available for download. It may also be promoted on social media to engage attendees.
“We’ve seen our clients do some really fun things at an event,” said Bodnar. “One of them, Nextiva, printed instructions to download and access the app on the back of attendee name badges. Other clients will actually have a session at the beginning of an event or during the initial keynote speech on how to download the app, its major features and how to use it.”
Ozuna added that event planners create their own accounts so they can jump start the activities, posting the first few pictures and sending out push notifications or quick polls to get the ball rolling. “It’s a really good way to get people accustomed to using the app ahead of time so they are familiar with it when the event starts,” said Ozuna.
At Nextiva’s event, Nexcon, they encouraged people to use the event app by donating money to the company charity, Nextiva Cares, every time someone used the hashtag on social media. This was paired with a social wall Attendify offers, which shows all the posts on the activity stream on a big screen. People could see the hashtag being used while a second screen stated how much money was being raised.
Companies using Attendify’s event apps run the gamut from Google and AstraZeneca to Sotheby’s, event agencies, associations, colleges and universities – various industries, sizes, and organizations. The tech industry was an early adopter, but more associations are using the apps during multiple events throughout the year.
“This isn’t really a good fit for companies hosting events for more than 10,000 attendees, and certainly not for festivals,” said Bodnar. “The activity stream tends to get lots of posts, and with that many attendees it’s just like noise, not a very clean narrative, just people posting a ton of stuff. When it gets to be that big of an event it’s really hard to connect with other attendees and build relationships.”
Attendify has products in the works that will help event marketers and marketing leaders use event data more effectively and it is currently the only company offering a lead retrieval device that works on everyone’s smartphone. “So, you don’t have to use a clunky piece of hardware that you are unfamiliar with. Then, when you scan a badge, you get all that lead contact info and all their engagement on the event app, too,” said Bodnar. “You can have contextual and targeted conversations with those people based on that.”
Attendify also has technology and tools so that customers can provide their event website’s URL and the company will build a demo event app for them. They’ll build a free foundation for customers and then they can start building out the app from that point. Alternatively, if customers build an event app with Attendify, the company will create a free website for them, which can be used to promote the app, sell event tickets, register people at the event, show the agenda, sponsor listings, etc.
“Passing information back and forth between the event app and the website is something we can do really seamlessly,” said Bodnar. “We can do global updates through the event website or on a widget customers can install on their existing websites.”
When something changes on the event app, such as a speaker, room number or venue change, it can be entered on the event app dashboard, be pushed to the event app and also to the event website. Event planners can make just one update and it appears where it needs to.
Most customers utilize the event app but the lead retrieval device is receiving more attention as is the event website. Pricing for the event app is $999 for one event, and if a company runs multiple events a year it’s $2000 for the first event and $500 for subsequent events each year.
Two options for lead retrieval (which is $199 per exhibitor) are either to enter into a revenue-share agreement with Attendify (customers set the price, Attendify sells exhibitors on the lead retrieval and then splits the revenue with customers 50-50), or customers just buy licenses for $199 each and sell them to exhibitors at whatever price they want. “The only difference is the revenue-share agreement carries no risk and no upfront cost, while the per-license fee is an upfront cost,” said Bodnar.
The event website it a free value add Attendify offers to customers – a standard format that can be customized. Through the event website, customers can measure the number of registrations or tickets sold by using the website to promote the event. Analytics from the event app also help illustrate the ROI, and the lead retrieval helps offset the cost of an event as an additional revenue stream.
“We give really deep analytics in terms of usage of the event app, very detailed information that can be viewed on our dashboard or exported and used to run pivot tables to compare ROI over several years,” said Bodnar.
When customers require assistance or support with their event app or website, Attendify staff is available 24 hours a day, five days a week through a team of support staff in the U.S. and in Kiev, Ukraine. “With our app, you have a designated success manager who is assigned to your account and can help you, whereas some of our competitors charge extra for this feature,” said Ozuna.
“We are really all about building relationships, and we believe that is what live events are all about,” said Bodnar. “It may seem like we are using this technology for technology’s sake but we use our technology to actually get it out of the way and facilitate people having conversations face-to-face. We want to enable and empower people to do that, and not necessarily have their faces buried in their smartphone screens.”