|Mobile apps are becoming popular tools for event marketers. Apps enable attendees to keep track of sessions, connect with one another, and provide real-time updates via Twitter and other social platforms. They also provide publishers and sponsors with a trove of data that can be mined for future events and targeted campaigns.
As events become an increasingly important revenue stream, publishers will need more ways to attract and engage with attendees. Offering compelling conference apps is one way to do that.
"Having an app strengthens the brand, before and after an event," said Albert Guffanti, a group publisher with Edgell Communications, which is developing apps for the 16 events it produces annually across its brands in the retail, hospitality, consumer goods, apparel and mobility sectors.
Edgell is taking its development work a step further, announcing on Monday a new Mobile Services division to sell event apps to other event marketers.
"Now that we're creating our own apps, we're seeing the benefits to both attendees and publishers," said Guffanti, who's heading up the Mobile Services group. "An app allows you to extend the brand beyond the physical event."
Edgell is partnering with XCO Software on the mobile service line. Guffanti said the company is targeting the service at three groups:
• Edgell's own subscribers, because companies in the retail and hospitality sectors produce a lot of events.
• The company's technology advertisers, many of which host user conferences or other marketing events
• Other B2B publishers that may not have the time or the resources to develop their own event app.
App features include downloadable programs and speaker presentations, social sharing, geo-location tools for finding specific sessions or exhibitors, and contact lists for connecting with fellow attendees (who must opt in via the app's privacy settings).
A template-based platform enables XCO and Edgell to create apps quickly; it launched its first internal app in six weeks, Guffanti said.
Edgell charges a flat fee for app development, plus any incremental costs for ongoing support and service. Guffanti declined to provide specifics but said the fee is "well below six figures."
The Mobile Services division currently is staffed with existing Edgell resources from creative services, sales and senior management, in addition to the XCO developers. "We have the infrastructure in place," said Guffanti. "As we grow, we'll add more resources, just like any startup."
Guffanti said the Mobile Services group is "very close" to signing its first customers. It hopes to have six customers on board over the next six months. At the same time, the team is focused on finishing the apps for Edgell's remaining 12 events this year.
"Now that we have event apps," he said, "it's like trying to remember what it was like to do business without email."