The role of event apps in an age of change

In the last decade, event apps have evolved into a versatile tool for planners and attendees that is now indispensable. They make event visits more productive, raise the ROI for all stakeholders, and provide valuable data that give event planners essential insights. But while the event app market is at its peak, the world of event technology is changing. Innovative technologies and booming acquisitions open up new possibilities for event planners. But what role will such a crucial and attendee facing tool as event apps play in this changing world? We’ll take a closer look at promising new platforms, how they compare to traditional approaches and predict what the 2020s might hold.

A Decade in Review

Before we address what is happening today, let us take the end of a decade as an occasion to look back wat event apps have come. Ten years ago, a new tool for conferences emerged: mobile apps with core features that focussed on programs and content. These enabled attendees to swap their 300-page printed programme for a mobile app on their iOS, Android, and even Blackberry device. While event professionals were initially uncertain whether this new way of conveying event information was the future, smartphone adoption outnumbered that of basic mobile flip-phones within a few years, and it was clear that mobile event apps were here to stay. Their core features evolved from a programme- to engagement focus, offering attendees new ways to engage with session content

Conference Compass Blog - Iphone on abstract books

and the ability to chat with their peers. With growing adoption and increasingly wifi-dependent functionality, new challenges emerged for suppliers and organizers alike. Attendees at some major conferences were even asked to disconnect from the wifi on their devices so that keynote presenters had enough bandwidth to complete their presentations.* Gladly, the arrival of 4G and 5G improved international phone rates, as well as venues that offer reliable coverage have made this a problem of the past.

Another crucial point in the evolution of event apps was the “App-ocalypse” of 2017. Apple updated its App Store guidelines and added new rules that banned all apps created from commercialised templates or app generation services. While some believed this would be the end of the white label event app, Apple soon published an amended version of the guidelines that clarified their intentions and sparked a movement to less quantity, and higher quality event apps.

Consolidation: The Future of Event Tech?

Today, a booming number of acquisitions is reshaping the event tech world. Influential event tech companies are acquiring small and new tech suppliers to form all-in-one solutions for event planners. This is especially the case in markets that have reached maturity, like event apps and online registration solutions. The consolidations are obvious: The resulting all-in-one solutions are administratively efficient as you don’t need separate RFPs, contract negotiations, or points of contact for each tool you decide to use. All your technology is connected, meaning you never have to leave your software to plan your programme, send registrations, or create your event app. Recent studies by EventMB confirm the trend: While only 8% of event professionals considered using all-in-one platforms in 2018, this number grew by more than 25% in 2019.²

What are all-in-one platforms?

All-in-one platforms offer event planners one system to plan their entire event. By combining multiple common event management technologies into one platform, event planners are able to sell tickets, register attendees, create an event app or plan their programme — all in one place.

Not all good news

But there is a catch. The research also showed that, while 37% of event planners prefer to use an all-in-one platform, it is more important to them that the provider has excellent support, integrates with other tools and – unsurprisingly – comes with a reasonable price tag². These are points where many all-in-one providers are lacking, especially when talking event apps.

Conference Compass Blog - Event tech provider preferenceThe pricing is often tied to a package, indicating that (1) there are no options for event professionals to negotiate for the best deal and that (2) the packages are designed to fit a broad range of clients. For event apps, this could mean that you end up paying for features that don’t align with your event objectives, while other features are missing because they are too niche.

When it comes to support, most all-in-one suppliers follow a 100% DIY model.³ Here, the customer signs up for an account within their event management software and begins his work e.g. with the guidance of an online tutorial. While the idea of more time-efficient and self-guided training is promising, it proves to be difficult in a world where 40% of event professionals are still uncomfortable with event technology² and support is one of the most deciding factors in their buying decision. Especially with an attendee-facing tool like your event app, it is crucial to have quick and knowledgeable staff available to help you with any problems that might occur.

Looking at the integration possibilities, all-in-one platforms are often created as closed ecosystems, where planners have everything they need to plan a successful event on hand. The downside may be that they won’t talk to other systems.

On top of that, many clients of acquired event app developers are unsure whether their app is future-proof or if they will be forced into bigger platforms that don’t deliver the same pricing, service or experience they previously agreed to. So, how can event planners take advantage of the rising number of all-in-one solutions without compromising on their event app?

To read about what event tech stacks are and how the future is custom, visit Conference Compass' blog here.



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