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May 20, 2014

IMEX QuickMobile Survey: How Are Planners Using Event Apps?

IMEX Group and QuickMobile today released the findings of their first annual mobile event technology research study. According to the survey of international meeting planners, mobile event apps are seeing notable growth, with 60 percent of the event planners surveyed using a mobile app for at least one of their events in the last two years. But while the popularity of events apps is clearly on the rise, some industry pros believe that adoption is far lower across the entire portfolio of meetings and events.

Corbin Ball, one of the industry's premier meetings technology consultants, indicated the 60 percent adoption rate is probably true of larger, flagship events with more than 250 participants. "There are 1.8 million meetings in the U.S. each year, many of which have fewer than 100 attendees. It will take some time for event apps to be utilized in smaller, corporate meetings, but it is definitely coming," stated Ball.

“Every meeting is unique,” QuickMobile CMO Robin Jones (pictured right) told International Meetings Review, “but everyone wants high engagement and interaction. We believe app usage and adoption is still in its infancy. When the early adopters embraced the technology two to three years ago, it created a rush of other planners to catch up and ‘get the latest’ for their higher profile meetings and events (where we see the greatest adoption today) – regardless of their comfort with, and ability to  manage the process for creating an app.” 

Jones has seen “a lot of uncertainty and anxiety” from planners using event apps for the first time, she added. “But as planners get more and more comfortable with the technology and move into second- and third-generation deployments, they will begin to utilize it in all of their events both large and small, internal and external.” Jones believes that this technology, combined with standardized integration points, will help simplify the planning process rather than adding more work to the planner’s plate—“Which is how it is often perceived today,” she said. “We are seeing some of our larger, corporate clients begin to roll apps out across the enterprise using the multi-event app platform, where they can build unique apps on demand, in hours.”

RELATED: IMEX and QuickMobile Partner for Event App Research Study

And while planners who are less tech-savvy than others might be intimidated by apps, Jones emphasizes that it doesn't require a lot of work to deploy an app once a planner understands the process and how to best utilize their content. “In fact, apps can be your best friend when the doors open and the unexpected arises. Last year during the Hubspot conference in Boston, they had a surprising number of walk-up registrations and found that the session schedule had to be completely overhauled to accommodate more people, room changes, and repeat sessions. All this was possible after-hours because they had an app and could easily go in and make the changes to the schedule, and then notify everyone via messaging. A good event app platform has a simple-to-use content management system that empowers any planner and his/her team to quickly make changes as needed to adjust to the many surprises inherent in meetings and events.”

By the Numbers

The research indicated that there is enormous room for growth, as just over one-third of respondents have mobile apps in their budget only "some of the time" and a full 42 percent have never included an app in their event budgets.

Approximately 92 percent of the planners surveyed manage three or more events per year, and of those, 54 percent host more than 10 events. Despite this, 70 percent of meeting planners have used event apps for less than six events in the past year.

Among the key findings of the research is that despite having significantly less experience with mobile event apps, meeting planners across EMEA are much more concerned about security and data privacy (78 percent) compared to their North American colleagues (69 percent). For both groups, security concerns decrease once they have used an app. Below are additional key insights from the research:

o  Only 28 percent of North American (NA) planners include a mobile app in their event budget most of the time or always, compared with only 20 percent of planners elsewhere.
o  Respondents indicated the top three most important reasons for a mobile event app are organizer-to-attendee communications, eliminating paper and attendee-to-attendee communication.
o  75 percent want to use the app to start conversations before an event, and 78 percent want to keep them going after the event.
o  The biggest barriers-to-entry for mobile event apps are Wi-Fi accessibility and budget, followed closely by the perceived time it takes to produce an app.
o  Experienced app users value user-friendly content management (95 percent v. 86 percent), analytics (88 percent v. 78 percent) and social media integration (80 percent v. 71 percent) more than non-users.
o  NA planners (42 percent) are more likely to use a multi-event platform than their EMEA counterparts (35 percent).
o  26 percent of EMEA planners were unaware of any mobile event app vendors, compared to 8 percent in NA.
o  QuickMobile is the best-known vendor in ROW; neck-and-neck with CrowdCompass/Cvent in NA.

Looking Ahead

At the moment, Jones estimates that there are more than 100 vendors selling what she calls “different flavours of event apps” in a market that still see's apps as "shiny objects." But as the market matures and data is more robust and accessible, she added, and as engagement and community usage evolves and becomes increasingly measurable, and the ability to integrate with other event-critical technologies improves, the value of apps should increase. “As is the case with any new market, when customers get more sophisticated, their requirements rise,” she said. “Most new and existing vendors will underestimate the real complexity of designing, delivering and supporting mobile event apps, and competing on price, feeds, and speeds will no longer be the norm.” 

To help increase awareness of event apps and their value, the tech community must continue to refine and strengthen the data and analytics from event app usage, Jones said. This will provide planners with “real ammunition to prove that engagement is increasing and that meetings and events are getting real results for the business and/or organization,” she explained.

When asked how she expects event apps to change over the next five years, Jones said that five years is a lifetime when it comes to mobile technology. “There will continue to be innovations like iBeacons and micro-location determinations technology, augmented reality, and mesh networking, but the real longer term value-add is in the ability to create a community around the event that stays engaged year-round,” she said. “The experience will continue to get more and more personalized, while attendees are empowered to stay connected with the event owner and each other.” 

In a statement, QuickMobile CEO Patrick Payne noted that the technology research study confirms that mobile event apps are entering a new stage of market acceptance and are moving from the “early adopter” to “early majority” phase. "While more event planners are using mobile apps and seeing them as 365-day communication tools, they are just beginning to discover their strategic value. We definitely have room to grow," he said. "We wanted to establish a baseline for future research about mobile event technology," concluded Payne. "As a result of this study, we now have the data that we can use to contrast and compare the adoption of event technology and its potential impact on the industry in future years."

The results of the study will be presented at IMEX Frankfurt on May 20 from 12:30-1:15 p.m. and again from 2:00-2:30 p.m. (local time) at stand G680 in the IMEX Inspiration Centre. 

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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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