You Can't Not Have an Event App in 2019. Here's How to Choose the Right One.

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If you’re running an event in 2019 you have to have an event app. There is no real alternative to this, other than a zillion annoyed attendees saying “wtf, it’s 2019, how is there not an app for this.” And let’s face it, that’s not really much of an alternative.

We can prove this. We can prove that event apps are helpful both to you and your attendees. We can prove that event apps have become an industry standard. We can prove that 91% of event organizers found that having an app resulted in positive event ROI. But you probably already know all this and we know you have better things to do than read about a point you already agree with, so we won’t harp on it.

In 2019, we’re no longer asking if, but which. Since event apps have become nearly ubiquitous so have event app providers, widening the field and allowing you to select exactly what and how much you need in your mobile experience— and making it way, way harder to choose.

We broke down a few key factors in choosing which event app makes sense for your situation, whatever it may be.

 
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While Label or Branded Universal

This is important to start with for expectation setting, more than anything. You see, back in 2017 Apple decided that it would no longer approve apps that were made from a template, i.e. white-label apps generated and uploaded by any of the major event app providers.

For most providers, the solution to this was offering branded sub-apps within one universal app. This means that your attendees download the provider’s app (ex. Swoogo’s Attendee Mobile) and then navigate to your app within it. This doesn’t interrupt the experience much, but does add an extra layer to the process, and it involves a step that isn’t necessarily representative your company’s brand.

If you prefer to have a fully white label app, some providers may be willing to “hand off” the app files created within their system, allowing you to publish it in the App Store on your own. This is typically handled on a case by case basis, and is basically a loophole in Apple’s rules, but it comes with some key downsides.

 

First of all, most of the time this will come with a big extra price tag. More importantly, the provider can’t control what happens after the files are handed off— they can’t control the publishing process, help with any bugs, or jump in if something goes wrong. This puts a lot of onus on you, and unless your team has pretty significant technical chops, it may not be worth the risk.

All in all, having your own branded app within a universal app is simpler and more cost effective, as long as you’re willing to give up that tiny fraction of control.

Event Information or Networking

Before you come at us with pitchforks, yes, we realize that many of the best apps have both event info and networking built in. Our own event app combines agendas and speaker information with 1:1 meeting scheduling. We’re not dumb. We get it.

It’s still worth choosing an event app that was designed primarily to do your preferred thing, whether that’s providing event information or helping your attendees network, to ensure that what you really need it for is it’s best feature.

This is mostly true when you’re using an app that is associated with your event registration or marketing provider— for example cvent’s Crowd Compass or Swoogo’s Attendee Mobile. Because apps are secondary products for event reg and marketing tools, they tend to be a little less comprehensive and more focused on straight event information provision.

When you’re looking at standalone apps, the products are often designed to do a lot more. Our friends at eventmobi, for instance, include your event guide along with gamification, polling, networking, analytics, etc. etc; a robustness that comes from being a tool dedicated to creating the best mobile event experience.

While both standalone apps and provider apps are good options, sometimes it can just be easier and more cost-effective to get your app from the same company as your registration software. This ensure your analytics are combined, that you’re not stuck filling out your information twice, and that you’re not paying a premium for a standalone when you could just be tacking an add-on to your existing bill.

If you do decide to use a provider based app, you’ll find that many event registration companies will tell you their app does both. While this is probably true, it’s a good idea to ask:

  • Which capability came first

  • How many of their customers are using which/each of the features

  • Whether it costs more to use both features instead of one

This will give you a clearer picture of what the app does best, and whether it’s in line with your needs.

Polling, Surveys, and Gamification

Three more “add-on” features you may want to consider when choosing your event app are polling, surveys, and gamification.

For the sake of keeping things brief, we’ll roll polling and surveys into one— it’s pretty unusual for an app to offer one and not the other.

Both polling and surveys allow you to capture lots of information about your attendees and how they think, what they want, and how you’re doing; but more importantly, they allow your attendees to interact and get involved with your event, keeping them engaged with your content and (hopefully) ensuring they’re getting the most out of your speakers and exhibits.

Think of them as conversation starters— if you want your attendees collaborating with your event, your speakers, or each other, having polling and surveys in your event app is a great place to start. Again, our friends at eventmobi have a great solution for this, as do other products like glisser and Slido.

Gamification, on the other hand, is less about conversation and more about activation. Gamification let’s you set up goals and objectives for your attendees to meet throughout your event for a chance to “win,” whether that’s prizes or just clout. Those objectives could be checking in at a certain number of booths or sessions, scheduling a certain number of meetings, “finding” your preferred partners, etc. etc., and allow you to “move” your attendees around your showfloor without you having to literally herd them. After all, they’re not cattle— creating a game is a much better way of ensuring circulation.

The payoff in gamification mostly comes from sponsor or exhibitor satisfaction, and is an excellent selling point when you’re trying to attract more of them to your event for next year.

Like polling and surveys, gamification is a more often found in standalone provider apps, but if you think they’d be great features for your event it’s worth asking whether your software’s app includes them. Swoogo’s Attendee Mobile, for instance, does have basic surveys.

Attendee Data

Ok ok, we know data collection and analytics isn’t always the sexiest feature you could look for in your event app, but we’d argue it’s one of the most important.

One of the best things about event apps is the sheer wealth of information you can gather from them. As Corbin Ball recently said to Bizzabo, “every touch can be trackable on an event app. There are mobile polls and surveys that instantly collate the results.”

Some apps are made with data at the core, like Certain’s Touchpoint, which is built for attendee tracking. Apps that are built more for the “fun” side of attendee engagement typically have pretty robust reporting as well, though the onus may be on you to sort and analyze that information.

In some respects, the need to collect and report on attendee data can be a strong argument in favor of using a provider app instead of a third party— while both options will collect and report data from your event, it’s often easier to have all attendee information in a centralized location. This makes it easier to sort the data into the reports you need, versus pulling various reports from each location and doing your own sorting and analytics.

Some registration and marketing software providers may not have their own app, but a partnership with a third party app. If the tools are integrated, this type of arrangement can be a great bridge between functionality and in-depth reporting. Before choosing this kind of set up, make sure to clarify which company will be supporting you through event set up, whether both companies will have support available day of event, and how the tools are connected from a data-sharing perspective.

Swoogo & Attendee Mobile


Looking for a registration partner and a great event app? We’re offering new 3+ user customers a free event app when they sign on with Swoogo before February 4th.

Molly Falco