In a world increasingly influenced by technology, it’s become imperative that businesses across every industry identify and integrate necessary innovations that are capable of not just maintaining operations and expectations but surpassing them. And with today’s on-the-go mentality and over 250 million smartphone users in America alone, these innovations can now be found right at our fingertips.
More specifically, within mobile apps.
The exponential growth of smartphone users has led to a significant rise in the number of mobile applications used by consumers, now totaling over 3 million apps on the Android platform and 2 million apps on Apple’s iOS. The vast number of apps available presents a tremendous opportunity for sports event planners. From event management to internal communications, the capabilities of apps have evolved at expeditious speeds to reduce 85 percent of daily administrative tasks for event creators, saving on average 18 hours a week.
Event technology has also dramatically improved the overall attendee experience by simplifying registration and driving engagement. According to a recent report, nearly 50 percent of all event attendees adopt a mobile app and perform 34 engagements on average with it throughout the course of the event. And with 87 percent of time — three hours per day — spent in mobile apps, it’s evident that to find success, you need to be meeting attendees where they are; on their mobile devices.
However, before choosing to invest in event-specific mobile applications, understand the specific benefits each delivers and how to strategically and effectively leverage them in order to plan a successful sporting event.
The Breakdown of Mobile Apps
While the demands on an event planner are hectic and varied, apps can significantly reduce the time and effort in all areas of event planning — no matter the size of the event — while supplying attendees with the information and experience they desire.
It’s important to consider creating a brand new, event-specific app when embarking on the path of mobile apps. These technologies help attendees make the most of their experience, and in particular, facilitate conversations, consolidate event information, help users arrange meet-ups, and generally increase collaboration.
To keep it simple, event planners have one of two options: platform-based apps or custom event planning apps.
• Platform-based apps provide a generalized skeleton of the mobile application but offer customizable aspects by the client. This is going to be the most cost-effective solution, ranging anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to $10,000.
• A custom app is the other option. However, these options are typically more commonly used for larger, more complex events that draw crowds of hundreds of thousands, with multiple events occurring simultaneously. Custom apps are also very expensive, costing upwards of at least $100,000, and take a long time to develop.
While the idea of building a custom app may be appealing, when dealing with small-scale events, we advise to choose a platform-based application as they are more cost-effective, efficient solutions, and they allow businesses to scale or make modifications easily during any stage of the process. The development phase of these applications also has lower risks with minimal overhead since they have already been developed and tested. Utilizing a platform also provides a significant advantage for businesses as professional technical support is generally included as part of the service.
Keep in mind that using a platform-based solution means the application may visually resemble another app on the market since the design is not exclusive. Fortunately, marketplace options are becoming more advanced to ensure customization and offer a feature-rich, scalable and high-performance solution.
The Benefits of Mobile Apps
After making the decision to invest in a platform-based app or custom app for an upcoming sports-related event, the next step is understanding the benefits each mobile tool possesses, and the impact it can have on your budget, attendees and the event as a whole.
- Registration: The top two special features that event planners should look for in an event app include onsite registration and registration within app. What once was a manual process can now be automated and simplified in the most secure way possible.
- Ticketing: The integration of ticketing with a secure in-app payment portal makes it more convenient for attendees to purchase and receive event tickets — streamlining the entire process.
- Check-in: Long check-in lines can hurt the attendee experience. Now, mobile apps can digitize the whole check-in process and provide an unrivaled easy-to-use solution for staff and helping detect unauthorized members to enhance event security.
- Communication: Event planning apps can serve as a handy portal for various event information for both attendees and the event staff. In addition, mobile apps can also leverage a push notification functionality to help further streamline communication to attendees in real-time to boost audience satisfaction. For instance, if the schedule for an outdoor event is changed due to a rain delay, event planners can easily communicate to all event attendees about the change and any related updates.
- Social media: The mobile app can be directly linked to various social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter, so live updates can be posted on social media and be made available in the app itself to boost audience engagement and interaction.
- Event agenda: Growing in popularity, event agenda tools help attendees learn about, select, customize and navigate their activities during your event. They can also allow attendees to build their own schedules and then integrate them into their smartphone calendars.
- Athlete performance technology: Some apps can even include features specifically for athletes or their coaches. This may be, for example, video analysis technology to determine athlete trends, strengths and weaknesses to help perfect performance. More specifically, an app for an event like a marathon could contain information like the race route, notes about rest stops, a link to an evaluation and more.
- Event analytics: Detailed analytics reports of every aspect of an event app can be readily available. By using this data, event managers can monitor growth and attract new sponsors and new teams as well.
- Live surveys and polls: Garner feedback from event stakeholders and attendees by integrating live event surveys and polls before, during and after your event. This presents a tremendous opportunity to improve future events.
The Don’ts of Mobile Apps
As mentioned previously, mobile event planning apps are incredibly valuable. Apps reduce paper waste, simplify the planning process, enhance attendee experiences and ultimately cost less. However, with so many tools available within mobile apps, it can be easy to overlook, or overuse components that lead to the downfall of the mobile app.
In order to prevent such a scenario from happening, ensure you’re keeping the following in mind:
- Don’t be slow to adopt. Familiarizing users with your app early is the key to adoption, so start talking about it sooner rather than later. While we don’t suggest you share the event app before it’s built, you should share it early — even if some of the finer details are “TBD.”
- Don’t over-communicate. Yes, persistence is often key when explaining the value of an event app to prompt downloads, but oversaturating attendees’ mobile notifications will have them quickly deleting your app. Send one or two push notifications a day to communicate event details or updates, then leave the rest up to the attendee.
- Don’t ignore marketing. Having a mobile app is great, but if you don’t market it, you can miss out on hundreds of downloads. Start in advance of the event via various channels — e-mail, social media, organization website — to effectively reach your audience.
- Don’t do the bare minimum. If you approach a mobile app like it’s just an added perk, you’ll miss out on the adoption numbers and overall engagement rate. Make your mobile event planning app an essential by leveraging tools to create a community of users who are actively seeking engagement and information. Your app opens up a whole new way for users to see and interact with the event you’re hosting.
The power of mobile apps offers event organizers the opportunity to continue improving their craft through effortless tools that take tedious administrative tasks off their plate. In addition, mobile apps are a staple for today’s events and the ultimate way to increase attendee engagement to ensure a successful event by providing event planners with data-backed insights, streamlined workflows and increased attendee engagement.
Originally published in Sports Destination Management