The signs are all around us. The explosion of live streaming services: first Meerkat, then Periscope, and now Facebook Live. The plummeting costs of beacons. The surge in investment in wearables, sensors, and IoT. Foursquare predicting a collapse in sales, nearly to the dollar, of a major restaurant chain. The whispers of the mind blowing AR / VR power of the Magic Leap demo, and Facebook’s own efforts in AR, announced at F8.
These are all micro facets of the same macro stone. The physical and digital worlds are colliding, and the resulting experience will be something quite different altogether, with massive implications for consumers, marketers, and the companies that control the channels of distribution.
The dawn of one era means the end of another.
For better and worse, the analog, software free experience is becoming more rare as technology continues to augment our live experiences. Not even the physical world is free from the reach of software.
At DoubleDutch, we see the signs of this sea change in our own corner of the live economy; events and conferences, which makes up about 30% of the enterprise marketing budget. The analog event experience is dying. Event attendees are engaging with software as they navigate a live event experience, enabling far more customized experiences, and also generating troves of live engagement data that can be acted on in near real time.
Arming an attendee with a paper guide is like asking a traveler to use a paper map - an appropriate solution pre smartphone, but not so much today.
At DoubleDutch, we believe we have uncovered a new category of engagement data. We are now capturing hundreds of millions of monthly data points extracted from the show floor; data that is net new for marketers and show owners. What was previously a dark channel reachable only by microphone and post event email, has become illuminated as physical world event attendees engage and connect with technology.
The data exhaust of all of this digital activity can be acted on in near real time, or piped into other systems of record to augment behavioral databases.
For event owners and event marketers the opportunity is enormous. A channel that has been mostly running blind for 850 years is getting the lights thrown on, ready or not. Personalized experiences, automation, and precise analytics are already within reach.
For attendees, too, it’s a new era. Through personalized recommendations and individualized journeys, software can help guide attendees to a rewarding outcome, making sure they don’t miss that person that should meet, or that breakout session that is right up their alley.
Live Engagement Marketing (LEM)
Today we are coining a new term to define this emerging discipline: Live Engagement Marketing.
Live Engagement Marketing is the discipline of applying digital marketing principles to the physical world. Like most modern marketing disciplines, LEM relies on a three stage approach; 1) engagement / instrumentation; 2) analysis / understanding; 3) response / automation. You can learn more about the products we have built to help marketers with HERE.
And of course, the dawn of one era means the death of another. For 850 years, events have been running blind. For 17 years, technology innovation in the world of events has been limited to companies like Cvent chipping away at workflow improvements for event planners, but with little impact on the event experience itself.
With the exit of Cvent, the industry’s center of gravity has taken a hard cut from legacy workflow event tech towards more modern Live Engagement systems that are capable of influencing business outcomes. Already the world’s largest B2B marketing spend in the world, events can expect to see even more investment as their ability to prove and influence ROI increases, assisted by software.
What the Future can Bring
So let’s play out the role of digital in the analog world of events.
As soon as this year, LEM will enable personalized journeys for attendees at LEM powered events, delivered by chatbots. Exhibitors will be able to launch and iterate upon targeted digital campaigns to drive foot and virtual traffic to their booth. Organizers will be able to listen for signals, and programmatically guide their attendees towards positive outcomes. And marketers will be able to append troves of behavioral data to existing systems like Marketo, Eloqua, Salesforce, and stand up hyper targeted email campaigns post event based on precise signals from the physical world.
By 2017, beacon and hardware prices will be at a point where many events will be able to afford full instrumentation of their events. Attendee networking will take a quantum leap forward as social norms catch up to what’s possible, and a purpose-built events messaging platform gains steam. We will finally see smart meeting scheduling arrive to the mobile experience. The hybrid event will become a real thing - a core group of live attendees extended by virtual attendees of 10x the number participating remotely via software and VR tools. And it’s not just the attendees that will go hybrid, exhibitors trying to reach sold out shows will be able have a presence at an event without actually being there. 2017 is also the year that automation will arrive in earnest to events and conferences as marketers find that the web based automation systems lack the subtlety to properly respond to the nuances of live engagement signals.
By 2018, we will see attendees making use of AR visual overlays that display name, company, title, interests, etc as they work the room. Mesh networks will emerge among the devices of attendees that mitigate the need for outside connectivity. Most events will be hybrid - there will be a Live and Virtual price for tickets and sponsorships, and the experiences will be creeping towards each other in utility. The smartphone will still be an important device, but the event floor will be fully instrumented and dirt cheap personal, purpose-built hardware will power most of the blocking and tackling activities of business card exchange, badge scanning, location tracking. Every B2B company will have a new marketing role - Live Ops - responsible for instrumenting its presence at a conference or tradeshow, and making sure data flow is coming to and from their LEM system. And AI and machine learning will have arrived in earnest. The software will learn from each input signal, delivering a truly personalized event experience for every attendee.
Watch this space.
I will finish by bringing us back to where we started. All the signs are there. Live is going digital; live experiences are not being replaced by digital, but being complemented by digital principles and capabilities.
Events and conferences are on the vanguard of this movement due to software friendly dynamics like a limited, defined list of participants in which nobody is anonymous, a geographically precise and limited venue, and a specific window of time. Developers can solve this use case, and indeed, they are well on their way.
Adjacent industries like Retail, Travel, and Sports and Recreation should be put on notice. LEM is coming to these worlds, and events are the canary in the coalmine.