Why Data Sits at the Very Heart of Event Tech’s Future
A few weeks ago we launched our Session Registration tool. Like all big releases, this one was a herculean effort. But it also stands out in my mind because it’s a critical jumping off point for the next chapter of the Attendify story, a story that’s tied closely to the evolution of the events industry as a whole.
We’re making a bet that event technology and marketing technology will eventually merge at the nexus of the attendee experience. Successfully arriving at this convergence depends on data. And access to that data depends on the event tech industry’s ability to capture an all-encompassing view of the attendee journey — a trek that starts way before an attendee ever gets to the event, and ends long after the event is over.
But let me back up a bit and show you how our perspective on the future of event tech has evolved. Read on to learn how Attendify cut its teeth, where we stand today and why data lies at the heart of “Attendify 3.0.”
Making event apps more accessible
Not too many people know that Attendify was actually launched in 2011 as KitApps. The vision back then was to create mobile apps for small businesses that wanted to make headway against their larger competitors. We didn’t focus on event apps at first; we only stumbled into that vertical after a client asked us to develop one. At the time, custom event apps were selling for $25k to $100k each, and we saw a serious opportunity to build a better product (for less).
Like most startups, the Attendify team at the time had a strong bias for action and very little to lose. We quickly developed a self-service platform and offered branded apps for $249 a pop. I’m sure most people thought it was a scam, and I don’t blame them.
We gained traction with early adopters, learned more and more about the event industry, and iterated on the product. In 2013 we rebranded as Attendify, an event tech company that was differentiating itself with a self-service solution. Soon we came to realize that this wasn’t just a novel idea, but rather a revolution in the way most event planners thought about event technology. They were used to the status quo: Event apps were expensive and tedious to create, and somebody else was going to have to do it for them. They didn’t realize they could roll up their own sleeves and create amazing attendee experiences.
Flash to almost seven years later, and there’s still not enough self-service event tech in the marketplace. And that’s hard to believe, because event technology providers are serving an industry that revolves around people and hospitality. You’d think more of us would be hip to delivering an intuitive user experience.
Building a better mobile experience
As we dug deeper and deeper into what the event industry needed to engage attendees, we continued to hyper-focus on developing event apps that were easy to create, manage and use. It wasn’t until after we developed the industry’s first self-service app — and later on the first private social network within an event app — that we realized we were solving a much bigger problem for our customers: a lack of insight into their attendee engagement.
Coupling a self-service platform with a social network turned out to be a powerful combination; it encouraged data-rich attendee interactions and allowed event organizers to easily act on them. This functionality ended up being much more than just a few bullet points we could slap on our website. It’s fueled our thinking about event data ever since and led to our current product vision.
In this nascent stage of Attendify we were also being pulled in 100 different directions by clients who wanted us to build and adapt features to their specific requirements. I’m proud that we didn’t fall prey to this very common startup trap. While we’ve listened closely to the pain points of both our current customers and the events industry as a whole, we’ve never chopped up our product to meet the needs of one or two clients with deep pockets. Instead, we’ve kept to our original strategy: designing our product roadmap around solutions that can add the most value. In hindsight, I’m confident we would have burned out if we had chased those other opportunities.
Bridging the gap between event marketing and digital marketing
Which brings us to where we are today. The event industry continues to morph into an environment that’s less reactive and more strategic, a critical component of any marketing play. And yet on average, event marketers are way behind digital marketers in their adoption of technology and the use of data to amplify their event impact.
And that’s a problem, because regardless of whether they have “hard” KPIs such as an increase in ticket revenue, or “softer” goals like a boost to brand awareness, it’s critical that today’s event organizers are able to (a) capture their entire attendee journey, and (b) leverage that data to personalize individual attendee experiences. They’re going to need technology to do it, specifically a solution that thoughtfully captures data and puts it to work.
For a number of years, we’ve been methodically reinforcing our platform to be a solution that can effectively bridge the gap between event marketing and digital marketing. Sure, we’ve had setbacks — the change to Apple’s branded app guidelines in 2018 put the whole industry in a tailspin — but we’ve marched forward. Our mission? To be a company that’s not just an app provider, but rather a data-first event management platform.
Don’t get me wrong, apps are still a big part of the overall equation. They help us collect attendee data, which is critical to fueling Audiences, our product suite’s backend analytics platform. We’ll continue to make sure our apps are feature-rich, intuitive, elegantly designed and affordable. But the bigger question we’ll be asking ourselves is this: What can we do to help our clients capture and house more actionable data in one centralized solution? Or in short, how can we empower them to do more with data?
We’ve got to keep our eyes fixed on the fact that a key pain point for our customers is acquiring and retaining attendees. It’s an existential need for them, because they’re either:
- In the business of running events
- In the business of running events for others (agencies), or
- Eating up a hefty portion of their company’s marketing budgets with their events
Any way you look at it, they need to see more success — measurable success — and that means understanding what’s happening on the ground before, during and after their events. But understanding year-round engagement is pretty damn near impossible if you have no data.
It’s a start, but not enough, to consolidate attendee data from a grab bag of integrated event tech and martech tools. Moving data around is not the solution; it doesn’t give you a 360-degree view of the attendee. The Attendify product roadmap is primed to develop a holistic platform that captures the end-to-end attendee journey, then mobilizes that data to drive attendee personalization at scale.
Up to this point, no event tech company has dedicated itself to investing in a data platform built around the attendee. The reasons are numerous: Legacy solutions have been cobbled together through acquisitions and aren’t optimized to handle a single data view. And some event tech brands just don’t think event professionals are ready to embrace the entire data picture yet. In fact, I spoke to some of the biggest industry leaders at IMEX America, and they told me that Attendify was too far ahead of the market. I nodded my head, watched them walk away, and then turned around and demoed Audiences for event managers who were blown away by the concept.
And that brings me back to the good old days — namely the passion and sheer grit involved in producing technology that’s still in the early adoption phase. I think I can speak on behalf of Team Attendify as a whole when I say we’re excited to be a part of what’s next.