Event planners have been using event apps for a while now, but starting with Apple’s WWDC 2013 and its iBeacon, they began noticing a much stronger way to use the technology. Beacons have been around for several years now but they’re starting to be used more frequently with apps to improve guest experience, personalize the event, and add a depth previously unavailable.
The following events use beacons in a variety of ways. Each improves the event and the attendees’ enjoyment. Here is some inspiration and good practice to inspire you.
What Is a Beacon?
Beacon technology emits signals to either a smartphone/event app or a wearable and can be tailored to present valuable information in context. For example, someone walking by a conference room cafe can be alerted to the fact that lunch will only be served for another 15 minutes.
Best Practices and Innovative Uses for Beacon Technology
Best practices are largely utilitarian. What serves your audience best? Is your audience interested in efficiency or information? Do they keep their WiFi enabled or are they more comfortable wearing the tech? Here are a few ideas based on what’s working for other groups. Select what you will from these ideas:
Provide Valuable Information
The last thing you want is to bombard your attendees with information based on location. If every five feet there’s a new message, your audience will quickly start ignoring them. Instead, save your trigger notifications for valuable information. For instance, the music and arts festival Bonnaroo uses beacons to inform attendees as to how long the lines are. They also serve to remind them when they are getting close to the ticketing checkpoint so that they can get their tickets out. TSA could learn a thing or two from that.
Reduce Wait Time
Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco installed beacon technology in 2014 in order to manage crowd flow, provide a better football fan experience, and even sends alerts when special events like the pre-game show is about to start. But that’s not all they use them for.
One of the worst parts of attending events in large stadiums are the wait times for things like food and restrooms. With this stadium’s beacon technology, smartphone users now know where the shortest lines to the bathroom, beer, and brats are. Whatever the fan’s need, they can figure out how to handle it quickest with the app.
The Mobile World Congress (MWC) used beacons to drive traffic to premium sponsor booths, by inviting attendees to stop by when they were in close proximity. This type of request is a lot less disruptive and a lot more likely to be acted upon. In the past, event sponsors would tweet out their invitation to join them at their booth but most people quickly forgot the request, especially if they weren’t already on the event floor. Now, these sorts of requests are more likely to elicit action because the request is coming when the attendee is “in the neighborhood.”
Making Life Easier
Another way the MWC used beacons was to make life easier for attendees and their staff. For those who hadn’t registered but had downloaded the conference app, they received an alert at the Barcelona Airport reminding them to register and allowing them to do so immediately before they got there. This was convenient for attendees who could register while waiting for bags and for the staff who could now have them on their list before they were in line at the event. Look for ways to improve the attendee experience by using beacon technology to encourage desired actions, like registration.
Gamification and Play
Gamification and scavenger hunts are a fun way to ensure attendees use your app and keep their WiFi enabled. Electric Castle, one of Romania’s largest music festivals, draws 97,000 people over the course of four days. The event used beacons and their app to create a treasure hunt over 100 acres of land. The beacons pushed out quest activities and riddles for participants to solve in order to qualify for advancement and prizes.
The North American (Detroit) Auto Show is a huge venue and attendees sometimes get lost as they wander the floor. It’s not unusual to wonder as they stroll past a shiny car if they’ve already seen it before. There’s a lot of meandering because of this. The Detroit Auto Show used beacon technology to help with wayfinding as the app automatically checked off the areas the attendee had explored.
Similarly, Reeperbahn Festival has close to 600 acts, workshops, and activities at 70 locations. That’s a large event to manage. Beacons were used as an automated logbook that tracked which acts an attendee heard, the songs, and other information that helped them get the most of their experiences. The beacons automatically populated a personalized “guest book” with relevant pictures, videos, and Spotify playlists. Organizers also used data to analyze flow of festival-goers around the site.
Enhance the Visitor Experience
Facebook is currently giving out free beacons to select businesses in the US as part of their two-year-old Place Tips program. The beacons can be used to enhance the Facebook experience for customers in store through welcome messages, posts from the business’ Facebook page, friend recommendations about the business, and prompts to check-in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was among one of the first to participate in the program. When it launched, it had one goal: “to enhance the experience of art lovers visiting its galleries and shop.” Since the museum functions under a “pay what you wish” policy with a “recommended donation,” bringing added value is an ideal way to increase revenue. They did so by using the beacon to provide added information and a personalized experience for its visitors.
Most event planners know if you don’t get the exit surveys back while people are still sitting in the sessions, you likely won’t get them. The Tribeca Film Festival organizers know this too. That’s why they used beacons to remind film viewers to review the experience as they were leaving the film. It’s something they were likely doing anyway as they exited the theater, why not make the event part of the discussion? Using this technology makes the process more enjoyable, improves the return/participation rate, reduces friction, saves paper, and places the data where you can use it for analyses (not on paper).
Beacons offer a wonderful opportunity to create personalized messaging and information for your attendees. But all your efforts will be less appealing if you overuse the beacon technology, almost to the point you are stalking your attendees. Instead, limit the number of messages issued and make them personalized to what that person is interested in, whenever possible. Use the geo capabilities to ensure you’re not just sending wide broadcast messages at all of your attendees but only those in the near vicinity who could actively and easily participate. If they’re too far away it will merely be disruptive and won’t drive action.
Finally, remember that the key to good beacon use is personalization. Do what is of interest to your audience. Solve a problem they have or a problem you have in connecting. Don’t adopt the technology just because it’s available. Create an engagement or other goal for it and then decide how you will put it to use in the most effective way. Done properly, it should increase your app adoption and improve your attendee exit survey results, among other things.