Simon Clayton, chief ideas officer at RefTech, says exhibition apps are flashy, but are they necessary?
I’ve said many a time that I don’t believe the vast majority of exhibition apps work well for the visitors. One of the reasons for this is because I think there is a disconnect between what the visitor actually wants and what the show marketing team thinks they want.
The show marketing team wants their app to look flashy – to have every function, every bell and every whistle; to have all of the information it can possibly hold regardless of whether the visitor actually needs it. Surely the visitor must ‘need’ everything in one easy to reach place? But where is the evidence that so many functions are ‘needed’? If you actually stopped to ask your visitors, you’ll find the very opposite is true.
Over the years we’ve looked at the sorts of apps that exhibition organisers have provided and often, they include a lot of social feeds and push messaging that users don’t seem to want but that the marketing department of the event think is amazing. Consequently, app providers are under pressure to be able to show all of these features in order to sell the app into the event.
Yes of course there are niche events where there is a lot of social interaction – perhaps geekier events for example – but the vast majority of the events don’t have that.
Equally, I’ve attended industry exhibitions in the UK where I couldn’t get an educational sessions list without installing their app – why the website couldn’t provide such simple information to a mobile device is beyond me!
I believe the purpose of a good app should be to provide a quick and easy way for a user to get key pieces of information to help them meet exhibitors at the event and get to educational sessions without interrupting the flow of their onsite experience. Visitors also need an app that takes up very little phone memory, because no matter how hard we try to prepare them, most visitors only ever download the exhibition app on their way to the event and they object to having to delete other apps or pictures of their cats and dogs to make space for an app that they’ll only use once for the duration of a show.
When it comes to exhibition apps – I definitely think that ‘less is more’: keep to the key event facts so visitors know where to go and by when; have an intuitive list of exhibitors and show where they are on a map; have access to the diary if your show is appointment led; catalogue the education sessions by speaker, time and topic and make it all very easily searchable and simple but fast to use. And above all just don’t listen to the marketing manager who insists that the visitors ‘need’ more.