Improvments in smartphone technology generating new interest in mobile at events
More than one-third of attendees at the Food Marketing Institute's FMI Show 2010 in May downloaded an event-specific mobile app from Penton Media's Supermarket News. That surpassed the company's expectations and demonstrated the potential of smartphone technology in an industry populated by b-to-b travelers and their handheld devices.
It also gave Penton an entrée into a new market.
“One of the key initiatives within Supermarket News was to form an optimized mobile strategy,” Jerry Rymont, SN publisher and VP-Penton Food Group, said. “The mobile app was a critical step to establish ourselves in that sphere. We knew the content, the selling structure.”
The app provided an interactive show guide, giving attendees access to elements including news feeds, an exhibitor directory, maps, social media access, the conference program and scheduling tools.
Exhibitors could take advantage of sponsorship opportunities that placed their logo as the splash screen or a banner ad, that allowed attendees to download white papers or that sent scheduling alerts for in-booth events. The show sold its platinum sponsorship and four premiere sponsorships, but was short the lead-time needed to sell advertising within the exhibitor directory, Rymont said.
The technology was not perfect, with some users reporting problems on smartphones other than the iPhone or BlackBerry, but the glitches did not override the benefits of the service, Rymont said. “That is part of the progression of this,” he said.
Interest in the development of event-specific mobile apps has surged since the start of the year, as show organizers recognize both the added value and new revenue potential of smartphone technology.
“This is another channel to serve content, and we're seeing the ability to monetize it right off the bat,” said Cameron Bishop, CEO of Ascend Integrated Media, a custom content company that rolled out its first event-specific app at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference in May. “The exhibitors who are trying to market their presence are opting for a fully integrated package. The majority of what we sell is cross-platform.”
The company plans to introduce 20 mobile apps to support events this year and expects that number to increase by about 50% next year, he said.
The growth in interest has been fueled by improved interfaces and performance, said Jay Tokosh, CEO of Core-Apps. The company, which created a smartphone application called Follow Me for the trade show industry, has developed mobile apps to support 39 trade shows and 19 conferences—numbers that are rapidly increasing, Tokosh said.
Mobile apps roll out weeks before an event, providing preshow marketing opportunities, and run through the course of the show; they then stay on the users phone and can be accessed indefinitely. Exhibitors can update content, track usage and market products and services year-round, Tokosh said.
“The app has become a reference tool, and now we're trying to educate exhibitors about how to use it,” he said. “Mobile marketing and advertising are on the upswing. We're all learning. We're all finding new ways to generate revenue in the digital mobile marketing space.”
Events may be a good place to launch a 365-degree mobile strategy, said Chris Montanti, director-business development at Three Stage Media. The interactive technology company focuses on events and developed the eventMobile smartphone application. “The event is where the audience is coming together. You have the critical mass, all of the parties; and, if you can get them to download, you've planted a seed with them [lasting] as long as you can continue the value.”
He added: “Mobile is becoming crucial, just as social media has become part of marketing strategy.” M