Beacon technology in the event industry is picking up steam. While it was originally designed in conjunction with event mobile apps (and many providers still deploy beacons that way), it can also be implemented (sans app) using a wearable. Either way, beacons deliver actionable data, which can translate into more compelling customer experiences and revenue opportunities.
Exhibitor App collects in-booth data; beacon readers placed around show area capture activities in common areas; everything is processed in the Cloud. [/caption]
Heat maps—an aggregated visualization of how event participants move through a space—can highlight (often in real time) areas of a trade show floor or meeting space that are either heavily or sparsely trafficked. If the lack of activity in a location is chronic, planners can take action in any number of ways:
- Place a food or beverage cart in the area, so that attendees have to walk by the poorly trafficked booths or area in order to get a soft drink or snack.
- Send out push messages via the event mobile app with coupons, gift certificates, or bonus game points for attendees that check into booths or visit the area.
- Review the layout (post-event) to determine what may have been the cause of the diminished footfall and prevent it from happening in the future.
Beacon technology collects the attendee’s identity, the day/time that he arrives to a specific place, and the length of time he stays there (dwell time). With such simple data points, planners can see who has visited the trade show floor or meeting rooms, as well as how often and how long. So, if attendees leave and reenter multiple times throughout the day to, for example, have private meetings, make phone calls, attend sessions, or grab lunch, planners can make changes to keep attendees inside the event and save them the trip:
- Place more amenities inside the show or conference space: napping pods, food and seating areas, smartphone charging stations, quiet areas with good cellular/WiFi connections, and interesting demonstrations.
- Schedule conference sessions and show floor hours so that they don’t compete with each other.
- Place readers/beacons offsite (in hotel lobbies, at elevator banks, or by the pool) to determine whether attendees are actually even interested in the meeting content and make programming changes accordingly.
Depending on the provider, beacon software can report on any number of data points, including the user’s role (director, manager, VP), department (marketing, IT, communications), or type (attendee, exhibit staff, speaker). It can inform planners of the average number of trade show booths visited or average length of dwell time in certain locations. Event organizers can use such fine-grained detail to build additional revenue streams:
- Selling data back to exhibitors, ranging from a segmented list of attendees (a list of all the CEOs that visited their booths whether they engaged with staff or not) or reports on everyone who came to the booth, how long they stayed, and with whom they engaged in a format that can be exported into the firm’s CRM.
- Justifying the sale of larger booth spaces to exhibitors that register healthy numbers of highly valued attendees compared to others with smaller booth footprints.
- Charging companies more for sponsorship opportunities that yield high-value data vs. those that only deliver awareness (hanging banners, for example).
Proximity data (who, where, when, and for how long) can also reveal behavior patterns, such as “session hopping” (when attendees visit multiple sessions in an hour rather than stay in a single one-hour session) or “scan and dash” (when an attendee allows his badge to be scanned (often to obtain CEU credit) at the entrance of the room, but leaves before the presentation is finished. With this kind of intelligence, planners can make some specific changes:
- Reduce the length of presentations so that attendees can get the information they need in a shorter amount of time (three 20-minute sessions of highlights vs. one-hour of a PowerPoint lecture).
- Modify the business rules around what makes an attendee eligible for education credits (visiting multiple related sessions for fractional credit, for example) to make it easier for them to get credit.
When beacon technology supports a strategic plan for meeting event objectives and is provided by a vendor that understands the event industry, it can be one of the most powerful tools for enhancing the customer experience and discovering new business opportunities.