ITE Group partnered with Crowd Connected to gain real-time information about visitors on the show floor at Bett, EN finds out more.
For many years there has been an ongoing debate around event apps. Opinions among organisers vary wildly, from those that swear by them to those that swear they will never use them.
ITE Group sits in the former camp when it comes to its expansive education technology event Bett.
“When you have an event of that scale, having an easy way for our UK and international visitors to navigate the show and map all the information they need is really important,” event director Eve Harper tells EN. “We want to ensure that we keep innovating and giving our visitors and exhibitors an improved experience.”
As part of the company’s ongoing Transformation and Growth (TAG) programme, it has been investing heavily in improving its events, including looking into the use of technology to map visitor footfall and movement.
“There are so many different technologies and they’re changing very fast at the moment,” explains Pippa Brook, head of project delivery. “It’s about looking at what the options are, trying and testing things and seeing what the best solutions are that can work together.”
This is where location intelligence platform Crowd Connected comes into the picture.
Around five years ago, CEO James Cobb was frustrated by a lack in the data he could gather about an event he was involved in running.
“I was always looking to use data to try to improve the event and run it better,” he tells EN. “I had lots of data from ticketing and there was lots I could do before the event. I could look at ticket sales data and that could help drive marketing decisions. I could even look at ticket sales data and postcode analysis to try to inform traffic planning.
“But the problem that I had was that when it actually came to the day of the event and when we actually opened the gates in the morning. There was very little we could do but effectively cross our fingers and hope.”
By the time issues involving crowd management came to light at the event, it felt more like firefighting than prevention. Out of that frustration, Crowd Connected was born.
“The very first event we were gathering data for was Wireless in 2014,” continues Cobb. “The idea was to provide organisers with some real-time insight in the form of dashboards and heat maps that told them where people were, and where they were moving, where the queues were building up, etc. and to pair that with a way of targeting messages at very tightly defined groups of visitors so that they could then try to influence them and help them and improve their experience.”
Visitors who have downloaded the event app are tracked, with their permission and non-intrusively, using their mobile phones. Organisers can see where issues are arising and send personalised messages to visitors.
“The work Crowd Connected had done at festivals was really interesting and something new that we wanted to try to see how it could benefit the event,” says Brook. “During a show you’ve got eyes on the floor and you can see what’s going on, but you don’t have any data evidence.
“Tracking through the app gave us real-time information and access to data, having a sense of what was going on across the show floor really helped.”
If a certain registration desk at the show was busy, the Bett team could send those affected a message telling them where a quieter desk was. If they attended a particular session on day one, they could receive personalised recommendations for day two.
Of course, for Crowd Connected to be effective there needs to be an existing event app with decent uptake.
Luckily the Bett app is fairly established and has an impressive almost 50 per cent uptake from visitors.
Footfall information from Crowd Connected gives the organisers what they want the most: data about their community.
“The data can show you how visitors move around the show, and how they navigate, but it’s not just about volume, it’s also about quality and getting the right kind of people for exhibitors,” continues Harper. “The more data we have, the better equipped we are to react onsite and deliver better experiences for everyone onsite.
“Next year we’re reconfiguring our floorplan in quite a big way and thinking about how visitors will be navigating the new show set-up and how we might start to think about evolving that in future years, so that data will become even more relevant and valuable for us.”