In life, there are some pretty important purchase decisions we make—and we typically give them considerable thought. Buying a family car, for example. You don’t (hopefully) choose the vehicle that will be ferrying your loved ones from place to place each day at random. First, you select one within your price range. Then, you make sure that your new ride is safe, spacious enough, gets good gas mileage and has all the features you need.
When it comes right down to it, the scenario above is similar in many ways to what event professionals go through when choosing an event app. They’re looking for technology that “drives” the momentum of their event in the form of enhanced attendee and stakeholder engagement. In the process, they must consider:
- Their ever-shrinking event budgets
- The wants/needs of different organizational stakeholders (i.e., their own marketing, sales and IT departments) in regard to issues like the app’s user experience (UX), content management system and data analytics capabilities
- Whether the platform is equipped to help their event scale over the long haul
- And—perhaps most importantly—will their attendees get on board and actually use it?
Add to this laundry list two undeniable facts—no two events are alike and event apps are far from a one-size-fits-all purchase—and you run the risk of picking the equivalent of an “event tech lemon” if you’re not careful.
With that in mind, here are the top five mistakes event pros make when choosing an event app, and how to steer clear of them:
#1: They’re sucked in by “economy models”
A full 67 percent of event planners surveyed reported that cost impacted their decisions when choosing event app providers. But keep in mind that when it comes to event tech, cheaper is not always better. That’s because hidden behind that lower price tag could be a poor UX or faulty technology. And free or “freemium” versions of event technology—which offer basic features with the option to pay for advanced options later—can leave event pros wanting when it comes to support offerings, functionality and an innovative product roadmap. Not to mention the risk of falling prey to a bait-and-switch scenario, where you’re constantly paying extra for every little upgrade.
Buyer’s tip: Do your research, and watch out for hidden fees. Whether the vendor offers pricing options on their website or works up a customized package just for you, make sure you know exactly what features you’re getting before you sign on the dotted line. Vendors that value transparency offer materials clearly stating what features come with what products. What’s more, their sales reps respect your time by admitting early on in the process if their product just isn’t right for your needs.
Quick fact: A recent study found that the average minimum app cost was $1900, while the average maximum price was five times that amount.*
#2: They don’t take a test drive first
You’d never buy a car without taking it for a spin first to see how it handles, right? Likewise, you don’t want to get saddled—or risk the satisfaction of your attendees—with an event app you’ve never fully tested. Does it have an intuitive interface? Are the features compatible with your needs and workflow? Find out before you buy to avoid an event app that stalls your event experience.
Buyer’s tip: Look for an event app provider that offers a free build before you buy. Ideally you should be able to create your own app before you even schedule a demo, then pay to publish once you’re sure it fits the bill.
Consider this: “Promotional videos may be great for informing you of what features are included, but user experience is the best test of how well the program will actually work,” said Jody-Ann Rowe, owner of the Event Certificate, to the Planning Pod blog. “Always test new event technology before purchasing, even if the cost is not significant.”
#3: They’re blinded by bells and whistles
This is the flip side of mistake number one: You’ve been spending a lot of time at the Bugatti dealer, despite the fact that your event clearly calls for a minivan. And with buzzword-worthy tech like facial recognition, AI-powered chatbots, and virtual reality on every trends list, who can blame you?
But stop for a moment and consider that the best of today’s event apps are built around one tri-tipped theme: They foster engagement and enhance the event experience for both attendees and administrators, via an immersive and intuitive platform. Therefore the technological prowess and high-level needs of both your attendees and administrators should be a primary focus as you shop. “The biggest [technology] trend is mindfulness and intention, which planners are starting to use both to design experiences [and] make event technology decisions,” said Elizabeth Glau, CMP, Director of Strategy at EGCX Group. “Make the job it is doing the focus, not the technology itself.”
Buyer’s tip: To avoid shiny-object syndrome, go into your event app search with a clear list of must-have vs. nice-to-have features. Take a moment for some #realtalk and map out the features that will truly help your event scale over the next three years.
Quick fact: The top three features event planners look for in an event app are engagement capabilities like live polling, push notifications and an interactive floor plan, a recent survey reveals.
#4: They forget to look under the hood
All show and no go is not a recipe for success when it comes to cars—or event apps. That’s why when you’re deciding on an app, it’s just as important to take the backend data platform into account as it is to explore the user interface. After all, you’ve worked hard to engage your attendees, and deserve an app that allows you to put that data to work for future event optimization and personalized follow-up campaigns.
Buyer’s tip: Ask a vendor how their app puts your event data to work for long-term ROI.
Consider this: Leading event app vendors are making machine-learning capabilities a priority on their product roadmaps in order to squeeze predictive analytics from event data.
#5: They pick a model with few qualified mechanics
When your car overheats on the side of the road—or you just can’t find the trunk release button—you want a friendly service experience that quickly gets you back on track. Depending on their price point and feature set, event apps come with a range of free and premium support options. What’s more, the quality of providers’ customer success initiatives vary dramatically. Word to the wise: Look for a vendor that offers a robust onboarding plan, as well as comprehensive self-service support (like a knowledge base), in-app help and responsive live-agent assistance.
Buyer’s tip: Free help is always better, but not always realistic. To manage expectations, ask the event app provider exactly what type of support is included with your plan. Then complete a thorough review of the vendor’s customer service ratings on the app stores and rating sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra.
Quick fact: When asked what influences their level of trust for a company, consumers ranked customer service as the number one factor.
For today’s busy event professionals, choosing an event app can be an exciting—yet overwhelming—journey. But with a few handy rules of the road on your side, you’ll be positioned to make a smart choice that offers lasting value for the long haul.