Mobile apps provide some very powerful benefits to event attendees that previously weren’t available--they enable interaction with information and other attendees in real-time based on location.
Currently, mobile apps aren’t yet widely used at events. A recent Special Events survey showed less than 20 percent of event planners have created or commissioned one. Yet 73 percent would like to.
Unfortunately, mobile apps that really delight attendees are difficult to deliver for several reasons:
· It’s a completely new world for you. The land of software and app stores is likely foreign to you.
· It’s moving fast. It’s bad enough that it’s all new; it’s also changing incredibly fast. What was hot six months ago is obsolete today.
· Vendors, vendors, vendors. Because of the demand, vendors have sprung up all over. And they vary wildly in skill set, experience and price.
· Product management. You need to provide to your attendees an app that gives them value. This is the domain of a product manager. This is the person who really knows your customer, defines the product and works closely with the engineering team to make sure it gets created. The question is, who is this Product Manager? If you are renting this function through your app provider you may or may not get what you want. Do they really know your customer as well as you do?
· Swiss army knife. Many of the current crop of event apps are like Swiss army knives – they try to do everything. They provide floor-plans, schedules, marketing material, restaurant recommendations and more. Imagine a user who tries your app for the first time. Not only do they need to get oriented to your app, they are trying to do so while being confronted by lots of features many of which they don’t want.
So, what to do? Here are some steps to follow:
- Product manager. Identify or hire a great Product Manager. They need to know how to gather true customer requirements and turn them into actual usable features. This isn’t as simple as, “They asked for this, so let’s put in a button to do this.”
- Don’t re-invent the wheel. Going to put into your app restaurant recommendations? Why? Yelp does this. Going to add special schedule features? Why when you can have PDF-based screens on your mobile website that provide this functionality. Whenever you consider a feature first think about what off-the-shelf tools are available that already solve the problem or can easily be integrated into your solution.
- Minimum viable product. This means the minimum you can build that you believe will add value to your customers. What is the most important feature you think they want? That’s the one to start with. Why the minimum? Because you’re testing a hypothesis in the most cost and time-effective manner. You don’t really know if it’s right until the customer uses your product. Test your hypothesis then adjust as needed.
Ron Gentile, PhD, is co-founder & CEO of Kondi Labs, maker of RiteHere, a mobile, location-based, professional networking solution designed to enable users to easily connect at events based on common professional needs and interests. To learn more about RiteHere see http://www.ritehereapp.com