Digital Dividends Features

Why now is the time for exhibitions to invest, says Aidan Augustin, co-founder and president at Feathr. 

Here’s a fact: people are spending more time online now than ever before. You may have heard the stats: adults in the UK spend over 4.5 hours per day on internet-connected devices. In the Netherlands, there are almost four times more such devices than humans. And in developed countries, smartphone owners check their precious pocket machines over 100 times per day. Always on, always connected; this is the new normal.

Contrary to what many feared in first decade of this millennium, the internet does not pose an existential threat to the business of face-to-face. In fact, it may present the best opportunity for growth.

The Low Hanging Fruit – Attendee Acquisition

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) reported in 2014 that events spent 30 per cent of their marketing budget on direct mail and 10 per cent on print ads, vs only 6 per cent on digital advertising and 5 per cent on social media. But if your attendees are spending more and more time online, that is where you should engage them! From website analytics to social listening, referral marketing to programmatic advertising, promoting your event online has never been more effective—or more measurable—than today.

Until recently, the complexity and cost of these technologies outweighed the potential gains for most organizers. The tools were primarily designed for the needs retail or e-commerce, and pioneering event marketers often found themselves trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

But now, a new crop of event technology companies have developed solutions specifically for exhibition organisers. Vivastream is making waves in event analytics, while Gleanin has made it easier than ever to leverage social referrals. Our company, Feathr, has built a full suite of behavioral marketing tools to help events know, grow, engage and monetise their audience online.

The takeaway? Using technology to drive attendee acquisition is easier and more effective than ever before, and there’s never been a better time to invest in your digital strategy.

But growing attendance is just the beginning.

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The Untapped Gold Mine – Digital Monetization

In 2016, B2B marketers will spend 52 per cent of their budget on digital initiatives. And yet, only 2 per cent of exhibition industry revenue comes from digital sources. Why aren’t exhibitions reaping the benefits of the online advertising boom?

Facebook makes a fortune off allowing advertisers to target based on what we “like”. Google makes a fortune off allowing advertisers to target based on what we “search”. Exhibition organisers could allow digital advertisers to target based on the fact that we pay the full cost of attendance (including travel and lodging) to spend multiple days in-person learning and connecting about a very specific topic or industry. This is a considerably stronger demonstration of interest and buying power than a “like” or a “search”, meaning events are extremely well-poised to deliver on B2B marketers’ digital desire.

Just as with attendee acquisition, organizers need to be equipped with the right tools to capitalize on this opportunity. New solutions are beginning to surface: Feathr’s suite includes “Sponsored Retargeting”, enabling organisers to sell valuable pre- and post-event exposure online. Doubledutch recently unveiled “Targeted Offers”, giving exhibitors more options for paid promotion within their mobile app.

These new tools allow organisers to expand their offering to sponsors and exhibitors, extending an exhibition’s value far beyond the few days of the in-person event and unlocking new digital revenue streams in the process.

It’s a brave new online world, but face-to-face is here to stay. The only question is how long will we keep leaving money on the table?

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Tom Hall

Editor, Exhibition World

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