In an age of persistent connectivity, no modern event would be complete without its own mobile app.

During the recent Glastonbury Festival weekend, the official event app was launched more than 3m times by users checking festival news and set times, connecting with fellow festival goers, and streaming live coverage.

Mobile apps are useful for marketers looking to understand how users interact with digital properties but they can now also be combined with beacon technology to engage users in the physical realm.

In retail stores, this combination of technologies is already becoming standard practice, but it is also being increasingly used at events.    

How can event organisers use mobile apps and beacon technology to engage attendees?

Before examining the use of beacons at events, let’s first establish what they actually do.

A beacon is simply a transmitter, enabling a smartphone or other device to receive data when in close proximity.

They are currently used by retailers to collect data about store visitors such as where they are, what they’re looking at and which departments they visit.

This data can be used to give details of nearby products and promotions via push notifications on mobile devices to deliver an optimal customer experience.

Consumers are no longer impressed by real-time response, they take it for granted, so businesses need to make sure they get ahead of customer needs.

Atmospheric marketing

Technologies such as tag management, customer data management platforms and beacons enable atmospheric real-time marketing, which means anticipating customers’ needs rather than responding to them. Creating an atmosphere that knows what individual customers want before they do.

Through atmospheric marketing, constantly running, interdependent information systems can dynamically gather, aggregate, synthesise, and distribute customer data and respond in real time with personalised, experiential-based services to exceed customer satisfaction.

By providing situational awareness, beacons allow the digital world to meet the physical, with digital content linked to physical locations. This makes them the ideal technology for events, as organisers can track where attendees are and what they are doing, and push relevant messaging to improve the experience.

The technology is immediate and passive with beacons identifying the exact position of the attendee and delivering relevant content without any action from the attendee. 

Art exhibitions provide a simple example of the power of beacons. Instead of displaying description boards or issuing guidebooks, the organisers of an exhibition can simply ask visitors to download a mobile app.

As visitors approach an exhibit, their location can be precisely determined via beacons and the details of that particular piece of art can be sent to their smartphone.

Beacons at trade shows and conferences can be used in countless ways. They can speed up registration, provide guided tours or directions and deliver digital content automatically to individuals that attend a particular workshop or seminar.

They can also be used to aid networking by letting attendees know when they are close to people with similar interests.

Beacon technology was used at Tealium’s recent Digital Velocity Europe event, placed throughout the conference venue and networking areas. They were used to gain insight into individual users in real time, enabling relevant in-app notifications and messages to be pushed to delegates throughout the day in response to their physical actions.

The event’s partner passport programme was also powered by the mobile app with delegates incentivised to visit all sponsors and receive a digital stamp on their smartphone. Once they had received digital stamps from all sponsors, they were entered into a draw to win a SmartWatch.

The combination of event apps and beacons provides new and innovative ways for event organisers to engage with attendees, using atmospheric marketing to anticipate what they will need before they do, and to deliver an optimal and engaging experience.