In-person events are a powerful way to build customer loyalty – if you play your cards right. 2017 provided these lessons on how event marketers and organizers can use data to improve the customer experience.
In today's oversaturated digital world, it's becoming harder and harder for event marketers and organizers to build unique and successful events that create a lasting impression. With the advent of livestreaming, web conferencing and social media, attracting attendees to live events has never been more difficult. With 205 million Americans attending conferences each year, it's vital for marketers to figure out ways to deliver events that engage, excite and impress attendees.
As 2017 comes to a close, it's time to look at what event industry trends worked and what didn't, and what's to come for 2018. What role is data going to play in decision-making? How important is the CMO to the conversation?
The importance of the attendee experience
In 2015, 20 percent of B2B marketing budgets were allocated to in-person events. Executives are beginning to understand the importance of creating memorable and powerful events for attendees. However, measuring the effectiveness of that budget has always been a black box, as marketers were unable to utilize their data post-conference. But in 2017, we saw a shift in a different direction. New platforms are making it easier to put your event data to work, generating tangible results, including revenue and ROI, to make measuring and improving a whole lot easier.
Today's CMOs, brand marketers and event organizers realize the need to focus more on in-person event experiences that further engage attendees to build loyalty. Fifty-nine percent of CMOs recognize the importance of brand experience for customer loyalty. They are also spending more on live events, with more than 1 in 3 expecting to allocate 21 to 50 percent of their marketing budget on brand-experience marketing over the next three to five years. Live events have become a critical part of a company's overall strategy, as evidenced by HubSpot's INBOUND and Amazon's AWS re:Invent. The CMO is playing an even larger role in ensuring the success of events.
Unlike the events and conferences of the past, attendees want to contribute to the conversation and interact directly with speakers through live events that provide immersive, collaborative experiences.
Focusing on attendee behavior and personalization
In tomorrow's events and conferences, there will be an uptick in organizers making the attendees the central focus of the event. Elevating them will come in a variety of forms, including livestreaming, participatory workshops, interactive Q&A sessions, hashtags, and promotions or incentives. Struggling with how to boost engagement? A fast and savvy way is through your event's mobile app. Allowing attendees ways to provide real-time feedback and connect with others at the event may seem like small gestures, but they can go a long way, especially if you want to build upon the same audience for multiple events.
Furthermore, there is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach where each individual has the same experience. Prior to the event is the perfect time to drum up excitement for what's to come. By offering the chance to weigh in on sessions and activities, you can empower attendees to truly customize and personalize their event experience. During the event, offer personalized recommendations within the mobile app for sessions, activities or workshops you believe they might enjoy, based on past attendance or collected interests.
After your event is over, don't forget about your attendees. This is the time where it's crucial to follow up and re-engage with witty banter, post-conference surveys and potential sales opportunities. Increasing attendee engagement creates a better overall experience for everyone. By becoming a critical driver of the event rather than simply spectators, attendees are more likely to feel invested in the content. It also increases the likelihood that they will attend future events you produce.
Mobile will continue to thrive
Ninety-five percent of Americans own a mobile device of some kind, with 77 percent of those owning smartphones, up from 35 percent in 2011. We are always on our phones, and conferences and events are no exception. Attendees use their mobile devices to live-tweet, stream and interact with others while attending sessions. Because of this, it's more important than ever for organizers to create powerful conference apps that make the experience easier for each attendee.
Pay attention to the way attendees are engaging with your app and interacting with the rest of the attendees. Are they reviewing and rating speakers? Using the conference hashtag on their social posts? By analyzing their interactions, you can glean key insights that can then be used to learn more about your audience and further improve your event marketing efforts.
2018 is going to be another big year for the event industry, as event technology is only going to improve and proliferate. The event technologies that survive will enhance and improve the attendee experience, not impede the attendee's progress. The huge opportunity for the marketer is to utilize the event data collected to create a delightful experience for each attendee, and use that same data to achieve event success and improve ROI.