Tech action, now

September 11, 2018

This article first appeared in Exhibition World UK, Issue 4, 2018.

By Matt Coyne, Engagement Technology Architect at GES EMEA, and Grant Morgan, Senior Marketing Manager at Poken by GES

Now is a tumultuous time for the events industry, as every week we read about a new acquisition, particularly in the event technology landscape.

Many marketing disciplines are going through rocky times, as new business models, go-to market strategies, and thick-skinned consumers are challenging traditional marketing methods. The result is that seasoned and once ‘proven’ disciplines are experiencing less and less traction.

Though change is a constant, we are seeing a fastened state of evolution, where everything is being questioned and needs to be proven. Now the modern marketer is turning away from traditional methods, such as advertising or direct marketing, and instead of spending more on events and exhibitions.

Events are face-to-face and can offer genuine connection with people, brands, experiences and education. They tap into all five senses (check it out here) and when well-executed, are one of the most immersive forms of communication.

There is of course something else happening here

Being event and marketing professionals means we are not surprised by the headlines of mergers in industry media. Digital products and services that enable the events industry are maturing. Registration and engagement technology is coming of age, not just as a service, but as a data centre of behaviour-based insights that feed into wider marketing and strategic functions.

Exhibitions and events are not only opportunities to drive sales and build brand awareness, but offer marketers a way to learn from their consumer base, across markets and demographics.

So what has changed? The tools used to gain such insights have become more robust, more accurate, and most importantly, they are working together. Previously, it required too many resources to pool event tech all together, and clients championed or dismissed it. Now differing technologies that offer value to diverse event stakeholders are merging to create complementary experiences, as well as feeding a platform of data points.

Many start-ups have blossomed into healthy, self-sustaining companies. and are now working together or expanding their traditional product and service suites. With more connections between users of event technologies on the show floor, there is more data available. Could this be the grand epoch of event technology? Let’s take a few technologies on offer such as online registration, exhibitor lead capture apps, visitor event apps and smart devices, such as smart badges and NFC readers.

With a platform of technologies pooling information together, it is possible to gain insight into:

  • Visitor profiles and demographic information relevant to region and interests

  • Industry trends and topics

  • Traction of specific company or product information sets

  • Traction of key messages

  • Onsite visitor behaviour

  • Visitor purchase behaviour

We can hear you now. ‘Hold up there, chiefs. You talk a big game, but you may want to offer a bit more information to support such bold claims’.

To share a quick overview…

Through visitor apps and smart devices, digital surveys and session check-in, we can see what the visitor has interacted with, and correlate with interest. Organisers can see what featured products, companies and seminar topics are generating the most interest based upon how the visitor has interacted with the technology available to them (e.g. trend reports).

Exhibitors equipped with booth readers (or Touchpoints that enable exhibitors to share digital content for visitors) can be defined by products, services or specific interests. Visitors tap the readers with a smart device to collect the digital content. This interaction clearly shows visitor intent or interest. Furthermore, the visitor also leaves their information for the exhibitor. This bi-directional transaction is gold for salespeople as well as marketers, as it shows intent, and creates a visitor profile for sales follow-up. This is complimented by lead capture apps used by sales teams on the floor, to take detailed notes and qualify further through lead surveys.

Post-event, we have the ability to track leads and cater outreach towards what they are specifically interested in, based upon their behaviour onsite. To zoom the lens out somewhat, it is possible to compare event-obtained data across markets. Just like qualified data from social media or online spheres, events can become a source of understanding.

The proactive marketer can gain insight into what products and services are resonating in specific regions, what demographics make up those regions and which key messages are gaining traction, all of which is based upon actual interactions at events. While the possibilities are expansive, the result is measured with relevant information and strategic weight.

This is, of course, a very entry-level overview of what is possible in a non-descript ‘event’ setting. With traditional marketing methods being put to the screws, it is easy to understand why clever marketers and organisers may be looking to put their events to better use. As more companies come together to create new value for clients, we will see more insights being used for greater marketing effect. This is only the beginning.

Abridged version of article originally published in Exhibition World.

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