When it comes to planning for an upcoming event, regardless of whether you are part of an international exhibition company or a small business hosting a local event, engagement is a key concern. It is precisely for this reason that many event planners create dedicated mobile apps for attendees to download.
There are also demonstrable benefits from doing so. According to research from GES, 91 percent of event planners say that adopting an event app provided them with a positive return on investment, while app-powered events also generate 42 percent more impressions on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
However, there are challenges related to getting attendees to download the app in the first place and actually use it on the day. Below, we offer eight tips to help you achieve this.
1. Make the Benefits Clear During Registration
The first step to driving event app engagement is to promote the app to attendees and highlight the benefits of downloading it. While this can be done at various stages, it makes sense to start early.
Promote your app on the page that appears after somebody registers to attend the event and include a link to your app on their confirmation email. Take the time to actually outline some of the benefits of downloading the app and let them know that people will be using the app prior to the event, and afterwards too.
2. Go Paperless, or Close to Paperless
Another excellent way to encourage app downloads is to announce that your event will be paperless, or as close to paperless as possible, ahead of time. Inform attendees that the important information they will need during the day, such as the event schedule, directions to the venue, speakers’ presentation times and useful phone numbers, will be made available on the app only, rather than being supplied through paper handouts.
With 75 percent of millennials willing to spend more with eco-friendly brands, there are clear financial rewards up for grabs for event companies that embrace paperless events. There are also additional benefits too, as the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) found out after hosting their first ever paperless conference in 2016.
During a case study, the conference manager, Kylie Bierman, revealed that going paperless led to ‘tens of thousands of dollars saved’ on print costs, storage and freight, and stated that using the event app instead saved many labour hours associated with the creation of conference booklets.
3. Provide Download Links Everywhere
While promoting the app is important, it is also vital that you make it as easy to download as possible. For this reason, you need to provide direct download links in as many places as you can, so that people can download it easily, rather than having to go out of their way to search for it on the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Add links to the app on your website, include links to your social media pages and add a link to any relevant emails you send out. If at all possible, create a QR code for the app. This will direct people to the download page when scanned using a smartphone, meaning QR codes offer the ability to add direct links to physical advertising.
The ability to add QR codes to physical mediums opens up the potential for promoting an app on billboards, which can be good for targeting local people. QR codes also allow brands to get truly creative with app advertisements, with examples from Instagram and Angry Birds highlighting this potential.
4. Use Push Notifications Effectively During the Event
To increase engagement with the app during the event itself, you can make sensible use of push notifications to remind people of it and to highlight interesting or useful information contained within.
Sending occasional push notifications is a great strategy, but there is a fine line between reminding people of the app and annoying people with the app. Send too many push notifications and you may find people do the opposite of what you want and delete the app instead. Stick to one or two reminders, or send relevant messages only.
5. Include a Social Element in Your App
Next, it is important that your app does not just come across as a substitute for the main event company website. To ensure this, you need to include social elements. This means allowing people to communicate and network with each other through the app, or providing integration options with social media.
‘Attendee engagement on all the big social networks both drives engagement and creates buzz around your event,’ says Maura Canavan, writing for Localytics. ‘Your mobile event app can integrate with attendees’ social networks, so they can easily post, tweet, or Snap your event, with all the right hashtags.’
6. Use Geofencing to Send Location Messages
One of the biggest technological innovations of recent times has been the rise of location tracking and geofencing. Geofencing allows certain automated messages to be triggered and sent when people enter a specific location or area, and this technology can be effectively combined with an app, in order to pre-qualify recipients.
Geofencing technology is particularly useful with events, because it allows messages to be sent at the point they are most relevant, based on the recipient’s physical location. For example, they can be used to alert people to an aspect of the event that is close to them or to let the people upstairs know that there’s something occurring downstairs.
A good example of the use of this technology came from the restaurant chain Elephant Bar, which used geofencing to send alerts to members of their loyalty club, who had downloaded their app and were within two miles of one of their chains. The result was that 30 percent visited one of the chain’s restaurants that day.
7. Encourage Non-Attendees to Use It Too
Inevitably, with any business event, there will be people who want to attend, but are unable to fit the event into their schedule. Yet, they may still be able to engage with the event without being physically present, especially if the app provides information about speakers, key moments and perhaps even video content.
The trick is to get the balance right. You need to give enough information to be useful to non-attendees, but if you give too much away, you may discourage attendance in future. Providing for non-attendees is especially important for an international exhibition company, however, because overseas customers may otherwise feel left out.
8. Ask People to Download It In Person
Finally, it is worth remembering that app promotion does not need to stop when the event starts and people can still be encouraged to download the app on the day, even in the middle of the event itself. It is, therefore, sensible to as people to download it in-person, providing them with Wi-Fi access and a QR code or a search term.
‘The mobile app marketing plan reaches its peak during the actual event because this is when the app will be most widely used by your attendees,’ says Stephen Kim, writing for the Bizzabo Blog. ‘Include a QR code attendees can scan to download the app. Don’t be afraid to ask them to download it face to face.’
Reno is a founder and director of an international exhibition company Enigma Visual Solutions, specialising in event production, event branding, exhibition services, modular exhibition stands and much more. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming event marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.
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