The Apple App Store’s regulations are causing headaches for the industry, reports James Morgan of Event Tech Lab.
A clause in App Store developer guidelines states: “the App Store has enough fart, burp, flashlight, and Kama Sutra apps already.” Apps can be seen as spam if they ‘provide the same feature as other apps, simply varying in content or language’.
This is causing headaches for exhibition organisers, who may have tens or hundreds of event apps that service specific show brands in their digital portfolios. The UFI technology committee is wrestling with this conundrum, as are organisers and event app suppliers.
Ade Allenby, head of digital and data innovation at Reed Exhibitions, says that Apple now wants companies to create ‘containers’ where all the apps are held. For example, Reed, which runs hundreds of shows globally, is being asked to create a container app, which when opened provides a list of its shows. Activating a choice from a list of apps would open a specific show app.
We all know that a specific show is its own brand, one that is marketed all year round. Reed may mean nothing to everyday exhibition attendees in Brazil, China or the UK, only the name of the show is relevant. So how are visitors going to find the show app? This could mean having to scroll through hundreds of app names in all sorts of different languages. This creates a lot of friction in the app download transaction. Many visitors may just decide not to bother. This is just one of the challenges for organisers.
Tim Groot, founder of Grip networking app, sees Apple’s behaviour as very Apple-centric. He advocates two approaches for organisers. and thinks that there is no straightforward answer to container apps. He thinks that for large organisers, there are two options: a standalone branded app, which is suitable for very large events with a lot of customisation, or a multi-event app – a container app – in which an organiser can have all their events. The container approach is more affordable but also reduces the setup time of each event, which is crucial if you want to be efficient and provide a scalable solution, says Groot.
Jamie Vaughan, head of European sales at event management platform Cvent, agrees. He is of the opinion that the key benefit of a container approach is the ability to build and deploy new events quickly, as the shell is already approved and published in the app store. In addition, it is statistically proven that the container/multi event app will stay on the users’ phone for longer as it is used multiple times.
On the other hand, Clemi Hardie, CEO of smart badge and event app supplier Noodle Live, feels that Apple is acting like a monopoly. She asserts that Apple is increasingly attempting to take control of the types of app that are released, which restricts the creativity and variety of the apps on offer. She doesn’t think it’s a good direction for the company to take, as the tech industry tends to reject companies which try to exert too much control.
Vaughan thinks that the changes in the Apple app store guidelines have certainly made the app space tidier, in so far as people have less apps on their phones. He thinks decluttering the app space is a good thing.
But what of brand-building? Allenby is concerned that this is a major challenge to the event organisers who want branded apps to be part of the visitor journey. Apps form a major part of a show brand’s touch point strategy.An app is a mechanism to converse with visitors and provide quality data, thereby creating satisfaction and visitor retention. The current decluttering strategy is not complementary to the events industry and the way in which organisers need to differentiate their show brands and portfolios.