event app measurementIf you’ve gone app shopping lately, you know that even if you go with a straight-forward (or even bare-bones) solution, mobile event solutions are not cheap. Besides the actual out-of-pocket cost to the developer for a license, there are a great deal of associated costs with content development, promotion, integration with existing systems, launching and support. You want people on site who can help your attendees? That’ll cost you. Want more than a 10% download rate? That’ll cost you. Want to give attendees an experience that puts a smile on their face? That’ll cost you.

As a company that provides all of the above services, we would like to suggest that these costs are only as scary as the value they return. You may balk at the final price tag, but what if that price tag is half of the actual return?

The trouble event apps are having is that event organizers don’t always define the objective of the app before they are purchased and implemented. If you don’t loudly and publicly define the reason why you’re investing in an app, if you don’t tell everyone who will listen what the return will be, you’re asking for a lot of trouble.

louboutinWhat’s the value of buying a really nice pair of shoes? Be they Louboutins for women or Churches for men, these are shoes that start at $600 and only go up from there. Are they better than the shoes you can get at DSW or Zappos? Well, what’s the objective of your shoe? If the objective is to cover your feet and protect them from the stuff on the sidewalk, then they would be a horrible investment. The value is relative in comparison to the cost. What if your objective is to appear stylish? Well, you could find slick and great-looking shoes at Nordstrom Rack for a fraction of the cost. Horrible investment if that’s your primary objective. So why do thousands of people every week spend so much money of them? They have a different objective. It might be that they want something that will last almost forever (Churches routinely get passed on to the next generation), or that will show off the owner’s ability to make and spend money. To those objectives, suddenly, $1,000 shoes make a lot of sense. By defining the objective, we define the relative value.

There is a reason why you’ll need to be public and direct about the objective and return metric and it has nothing with tooting your own horn. Being clear and resolute gets everyone in the planning room to listen, consider and understand the objective instead of just assuming that the new sexy channel of mobile provides its own return. I’ve seen people invest in websites, databases, content management systems, customer relationship  management systems and all the like without explaining why. They were seduced by the wow, by the new and novel. When the first hiccup happened, when the magic bullet stopped seeming so magical, it turned out everyone who bought into the new system had a very different idea of why and how it was supposed to help the organization. Because apps and mobile solutions are so new, still very sexy, people skip this step and get themselves in trouble.

So it’s a key step to align everyone to your app objective and purpose. But your next question should be, “well, what is my objective for buying an app for my event?” Great question.

The latest apps can do everything from registration and logistics, to content management and social media. Some companies will claim their app can almost run your event for you. Sales claims being sales claims, your app can do a lot. Yes, you can turn on every feature and every module, but why do you want the app in the first place?

It all depands of the objectives of your app. Do you want to just count downloads or do you want to keep track of deeper engagement?

Here are some of our favorite reasons for why you should launch an event app and the metrics that will support that objective.

1. Increase Attendee Engagement

altimeterMetric: This one is easy, assuming your company has already placed a value on engagement. But to be fair, most companies don’t get around to it. So you’re going to have to focus on showing raw engagement and let someone else determine the value of all that engagement. So you’ll need to count the number of people who downloaded the app, created a profile, checked in, posted a comment, posted a question or response to a question, filled out a survey and played the game. After the event’s data dump, take a look at the activities that were measured and captured and assign them a score. One point for checking in. Ten points for completing their profile. Then calculate the scores for everyone who downloaded the app. you can see the average score for all app users and estimate how much more engaged with the event they were over a non-app user.

Extra credit: You can see who your top ten or top hundred attendees were. Ask them what they thought about the app and the event. Make them ambassadors, encouraging them to talk to others in time for next year. Compare those people with the bottom scores and see if you can discern why one group fell in love and another took a nap.

2/3. Enhance Attendee Perception about the Event or Event Organizers, Better Alignment to Strategy, Understanding Content & Messages

Metric: The best way to measure attitudes and understanding is to ask people questions and measure the responses. You can measure attitude shifts from before the event to after or from last year to this year. However, if you really want to brave, you can show how well the app impacted such attitude and comprehension changes by comparing the response rates and scores via the app to email or paper surveys you send to non-app users.

4. Better Attendee Tracking & Understanding

Metric: An app can be like one of those tracking tags they put on animals in the wild to study. You don’t even need a tranquilizer gun. Rather than rely on GPS, get every attendee to check into each class, each session and each track. When they find an exhibitor booth they like, have them scan a QR code. If you get creative, you can have people scan QR codes for lunches and each drink at the after-event party. Each check-in and scan has a location and a time. This allows you to build a map of the event as your attendee sees it: What booths never get visited? What sessions aren’t interesting? What do attendees really respond to? In terms of building a smarter event next year, this is how you collect data to do it.

5. Lower The Costs of Living in a Paper World

Metric: Total costs of printing every packet, handout, post-launch or change sign, speaker scripts, event scripts, etc. If you’re lucky, it will equal or top the cost of the app. Realistically, it takes three years for most organizations to make the switch to digital. Know that the first year, comparing the cost of printing saved versus the cost of the app will put you in the red. But if you don’t start now, you’ll never hit that magic third year where almost everything goes digital and the real savings begin.

These are just a few valid reasons to invest in an event app, though the list isn’t comprehensive. If you’ve got a possible objective to achieve with your app, post it in the comments and we’ll help you determine the proper metric to measure it.

See also: How to select a mobile solution for your event.