App-solutely necessary?

When it comes to event apps, it can be tempting to wonder if all the time and money spent on creating them is returning tangible results, EN asks if organisers should invest in an event app, or can a website work equally well?

 

In the era of mobile responsive websites, encouraging visitors to download an app can seem like an uphill struggle. EN spoke to four event profs to gauge their opinion on whether the event app is still riding the wave, or jumping the shark.

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Mike Piddock, founder, Glisser:


“Native apps - the sort you have to download and install - have their advantages for certain events that require specific technical features (for example, if content must be viewed offline). However, the huge downside is the need to download them, since audiences are increasingly reluctant to take up space on their smartphone home screen, now that the novelty has worn off. Mobile apps (using responsive websites) have improved significantly over the last few years. They look and feel as good as native apps and can include rich functionality such as location tracking.


However, the big advantage is just how easy and quick they are for audiences to access, which significantly improves usage, and gets to the heart of why the app is being used in the first place: communication, connecting and engaging audiences, and gathering useful data."

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Julius Solaris, editor, Event Manager Blog


“Apps and websites perform two different tasks. They also belong to different stages of the attendee journey. A website is largely used before an event, an app is mainly relevant shortly before and during an event. If you are asking yourself whether you need one or the other, you are not asking the right question.


Do you need an app to increase engagement, push notifications, provide quick access to personalised calendars, provide feedback or provide offline access? A website can do that, but in a clanky way. The life cycle is inherently different and while we know that attendees don’t like to download apps, and app fatigue exists, if the app has been properly conceived it will add way more value than a simple responsive website.”

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Maria Schuett, head of marketing, Central Hall Westminster:


“It’s easy to see how organisers can feel pressured into getting an event app as the latest must-have, but it isn’t always essential. In the end it all comes down to what your objectives are. If your budget is limited, you don’t need to track data for sales purposes and you have alternatives to provide audience engagement and networking, then a mobile responsive website can certainly do the job.


On the other hand, a native app is really valuable if data is required to report on ROI and to maximize activities at the next event. Also, if you have a multi-track content programme, or use peer-to-peer messaging, a dedicated app can add real value. If you can integrate the app with your wider marketing systems and create a seamless experience for your clients, from ticket sales and registration to post event rewards, it may just give you that competitive advantage for future events.”

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Robert Dunsmore – freelance creative director for live events:


“I employ the tech best suited to my clients’ audience: easiest to use, what would suit them best, how will it improve their experience or how might they intuitively participate more? I tend to view all tech as either automation or innovation – both is a rare bonus. In general terms an app needs a reason: a community, a specific brand, piece of design maybe, or some gamification.


The one single app advantage is it may not be reliant on Wi-Fi, aside from that it will be more expensive and statistically likely to be deleted within 30 days. Wi-Fi permitting, a truly mobile scaled website has the edge. It’s easier and more flexible, plus universal accessibility, compatibility and a life beyond the event in marketing and general public communications terms – not to mention it will be cheaper. But, if you want it to be used, your audience’s choice will be always be the right choice."

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