As the mobile app market continues to explode, an interesting trend has emerged. Throughout the last several years, games and media companies dominated the app marketplace. Yet as the app economy stays on pace to double to $101 billion by 2020, other industry-specific app categories are growing fast. Couple that finding with increasing attendee demand for annual meeting and corporate events that help them navigate, network and learn, and it’s clear that the time to start thinking about building an event-specific app is now.
The 2017 American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast, which includes insight from meeting and event planners and industry stakeholders around the globe, also points to the growing importance of mobile apps not just as an event value-add, but as a critical part of the event experience. Mobile app usage is projected to increase more than 10% in North America throughout 2017, and other global regions are also expected to see increases in app use.
“Mobile apps have emerged as increasingly prevalent and more important than meeting planning technology across regions,” according to the report.
Of course, knowing you need or want to build a mobile app and actually building the app are two different things. The key is to think and plan before you create—just as you’d approach event planning itself. To help spark the discussion and related brainstorming, we’ve put together a list of 3 things to consider before you build a mobile app.
Define Your App’s Strategy
We’ve talked before about the importance of creating an event strategy before you consider any event or meeting details. And that same approach is equally effective when developing an event- or meeting-specific mobile app.
It’s tempting to immediately dive into the bells and whistles of the app itself, but you’ll be so much more successful—and deliver a better user experience—if you take a few steps back and make a plan. Consider the following questions:
- Why do you need a mobile app?
- What do you want the app to do?
- How can a mobile app improve your event experience?
- How can you use the app to reinforce branding and messaging?
- Can the app help extend attendee engagement post-event?
- Are there communication or other event experience gaps that an app can help fill?
Once you answer these strategic questions, you’ll have the foundation on which to then consider things like app features and functionality. And speaking of…
Learn What Your Audience Expects
It’s tempting to want to cram all the features you can into your mobile app, but it’s best to start small, then add as the app evolves. That, by the way, is an important point to keep in mind. An app, like a website, is never truly done; it’s something on which you’ll iterate as you gather feedback and add content.
You want to ensure that your mobile app helps provide a seamless event experience and ties into your strategic event plan. Yet you also want to provide an optimal user experience, and that includes meeting user expectations. According to the American Express report, the most compelling reasons to use mobile apps include improving communications, improving attendee engagement, communicating with attendees regarding changes or emergencies, electronic document delivery and facilitating attendee networking.
Expectations and needs may vary slightly depending on your specific audience, so if you can, take some time to do a bit of discovery, whether by quick electronic survey or an informal focus group or poll. Use that input to guide app functionality. And once the app is live, be sure you’re continually gathering feedback and making improvements to deliver an optimal experience.
Don’t Rush—And Plan a Soft Launch
As you build your app strategy and plan the app development itself, be sure you allow for plenty of time. You’ll likely run across some unexpected challenges or hurdles, and you want to have time to address them. It might be tempting to quickly stand up an app for an event or meeting that’s mere weeks away, but by putting more time and thought into the app, you’ll deliver a better product.
One other important planning note? Don’t launch your app for the first time a few days before your event kicks off! Instead, try to allow for at least a couple of weeks between the two. That way, you can continue testing and look for bugs, thereby minimizing possible problems that could mar initial perceptions of the app.
The two keys to successful mobile app development are strategy and planning—just like you’d approach an event or meeting. And don’t be afraid to think about your own app experience as you brainstorm and ideate. What apps do you love using? Which do you find frustrating?
One last tip: don’t hesitate to bring in a trusted partner to help bring your app to life. Part of our scope as a full-service, strategic event partner includes mobile app development, which ensures that your app is a technologically enhanced extension of your event strategy, messaging and branding. Feel free to reach out to us and explore your options for mobile app development.