Everything You Need to Know About Event Apps for 2017

A mere eight years ago, Apple officially introduced “there’s an app for that” into our vocabulary with the launch of the App Store. Flash forward to today, and there’s now 2.2 million apps in the Google Play store and 2 million apps available in Apple’s App Store. According to App Annie, by 2020 the app economy could double in size to $101 billion. There truly is an app for
everything—can you say Pocket Fishpond?

The event industry isn’t immune to the rise of apps. Eighty-six percent of event planners
expected to have an app at their event in 2016.

So during this time of when many break out their crystal balls and make predictions for the year ahead, we’re here to do the same. Continuing our “The Insider’s Look at Event Analytics” series, here’s everything you need to know about seven big trends in event apps for the coming year.

Trend #1: Weave Apps into the Event Fabric

While the line, “If you build it, they will come,” might have worked for Kevin Costner’s character in the movie “Field of Dreams”, the same doesn’t hold true for event apps. Just having a mobile app doesn’t mean your attendees will use it.

A shift has been happening recently, which we expect to continue in the future. Instead of thinking of an event app as a way to save money and paper on printing schedules and session materials, event organizers are planning upfront how the app will be integrated throughout the overall event to enhance the experience. And when we say integrated, we don’t just mean at-event. Event organizers are beginning to market their app pre-event to build engagement with attendees before even arriving on-site.

For example, an international not-for-profit corporation with over 14,000 women members started a pre-show photo contest within the app for one of their largest events. The contest encouraged attendees to snap a pic of the shoes they were bringing to the show for a chance to win special prizes. Hundreds of pictures were posted pre-event. And, even better, attendees arrived at the show with a significantly higher app adoption and usage rate.

Get ahead of the trend: don’t make your event app an afterthought in your event planning. Think carefully how to use the event app pre-, at- and post-event to authentically improve and enhance attendees’ experiences. It’s a win-win for both organizers and attendees!

Trend #2: It’s All about the UX (User Experience)

Because they were seen as a cost-savings tool for organizers, early event apps didn’t focus much on the user experience. As a result, adoption suffered for both users and admins.

As apps become more integral to the overall event experience, we’re seeing event organizers realize they can no longer afford to skimp on user interface and design. Attendees have too many other intuitive and easy apps at their fingertips and will quickly delete any hard-to-use app. Design, look and feel are critical to a superior user experience – and strong adoption.

In the coming months, watch for UX to become a bigger buzzword, with more organizers focused on a seamless user experience that includes:

·             Native compatibility across multiple device formats, including iOS and Android.

·             Fast and simple download. No one has time for a complicated install process.

·             No more multi-step verification or remembering registration passwords.

·             Beautiful and clean design that makes it easy for users to find what they’re looking for (and reflects the event brand and identity).

·             Intuitive layouts, menus and navigation. Remember: your attendees range from tech geeks to technophobes who need encouragement so the user experience needs to accommodate everyone.

Trend #3: Seamless Social Sharing pexels-photo-154147

I don’t have to tell you how critical social media is to extending a live event’s reach. But right now most attendees use third-party social media apps and other tools to share event content.

If we want social sharing to become seamless, event apps need to directly integrate with social media channels. No more attendees manually posting social content in both the event app, and Twitter or Facebook. Embrace this trend and attendees will be able to post once in the app feed, and choose where to simultaneously post content in other channels.

The streamlined experience will drive more attendees to share more content—expanding your event presence to a larger audience of remote participants and even non-attendees. There’s nothing like a little #FOMO (fear of missing out) to drive virtual attendees to use the app and experience the event as if they were attending in person.

Trend #4: Personalized and Customized Mobile_Ad

Thanks to Amazon’s “Recommended for You”, personalized websites and other forms of targeted marketing, the concept of personalization and customization are hot topics—including for events. Since you can personalize and customize just about everything, the newest thinking is event attendees should be able to personalize and co-create their event experience to reflect their personal affinities or interests.

Beyond event apps that allow attendees to create their own personalized session schedule, look for this kind of personalization and customization to continue to expand and grow. Some event apps already allow attendees to build a list of who they want to specifically visit in the expo hall or exhibit floor – and then provide personalized navigation and wayfinding to get there based on their current location.

We’re also just starting to scratch the surface of using event apps to deliver personalized second screen content experiences. Beyond serving up written or video content to supplement sessions, in the future, apps will deliver additional interactivity. Think teaser videos from speakers, polling questions and quizzes that help the speaker understand the audience’s topic familiarity, and much more to create a rich personalized and customized content experience.

Trend #5: Using Apps to Create Active Participants unnamed(4)

For hundreds of years, learning and education has remained relatively the same— passive and one-way. Just as other industries have shifted to experiential learning, organizers realize the same-old static approach at events isn’t very effective or engaging. Event attendees aren’t content to sit back and watch. They want to be active participants.

Luckily, event app technology is making this shift to active participation possible.

Expect more event apps bringing gamification principles—competition, achievements and rewards to guide attendees toward desired behaviors—to conference-based learning. Users will be rewarded for participation, like accumulating points for consuming and sharing content.

Another way attendees can become more active participants is by promoting them to share user-generated content—pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts, and everything in between—with fellow attendees and non-attendees through the event app.

Using gamification elements and encouraging the sharing of user-generated content not only promote app usage, but also add fun, interactivity and boost active participation—enhancing the experience for attendees, other event participants and even those who aren’t there.

Trend #6: Smarter Matchmaking and Networking networking

One of the biggest reasons attendees go to events is to network. For the last several years, in-app event networking and matchmaking has improved the process. One future trend on the horizon for smarter networking and matchmaking? Artificial intelligence (AI).

For many, it’s too futuristic to think computers and machines can become “smart” enough to perform tasks that normally require a human. But companies are betting big on AI. During his keynote at the recent Microsoft Ignite event, CEO Satya Nadella shared an example of Volvo using AI to make cars less dangerous by analyzing motorists’ faces to ensure that they’re alert, undistracted, and in a mood conducive to safe driving.

In the future, AI may serve as the backbone for smarter in-app matchmaking and networking in event apps. As attendees start meeting and networking each other, the app learns and gets smarter about the kinds of interactions happening. (Think an IRL application of the movie “Her.”) At the end of the event, attendees will have a whole new group of valuable connections thanks to the app’s networking intelligence. Sure sounds like a match made in heaven!

Trend #7: In the Moment Messaging EA16yDoR2veKrc-nNDodNgFpIZh5LVLDnY9AyyStKrm5fcPqybcCof4HlTXk74rUHCJj-qCXbyhio_Xqv0FOXUQCOeb8b_IpYGj72ZA=w640

App messaging techniques are key to reaching the right user at the right time with the right content. Many event organizers currently use app push notifications–messages sent to users when they aren’t using the app with the hopes of convincing them to return to the app. Push notifications are a great way to keep attendees in the know about new, relevant or timely information, such as upcoming session reminders, special event messages, schedule updates and more.

But there’s much more in the moment messaging to come. For push notifications, we’re seeing an uptick in using beacons to push specific location-based notifications. For instance, beacons are placed throughout exhibit halls, general sessions and other event spaces. Event organizers use the event app to deliver specifically targeted and relevant notifications to attendees in certain locations instead of a broad message to all.

Another area experiencing growth is the use of in-app messaging. In-app messages are notifications displayed while someone is actively using the app. This contextual messaging take a user’s actions into account and is highly targeted. Research shows apps utilizing in-app messaging drive higher engagement and higher retention. I predict in-app message usage will soon rival push notification adoption.

But one of the most exciting and anticipated app messaging possibilities revolves around chat bots. Facebook has beefed up its bot platform for Messenger, including a new bot that makes it easy to send a message to the President. Chat bots very well may fundamentally change how event apps are used for customer service. For example, with a bot built into the event app messaging capabilities, an attendee might send a chat asking for “keynote session room location” and the bot would reply with the answer.

Need help making sense which of these trends make sense for your audience and event?
Schedule a demo with Core-apps to learn more by filling out our contact form.