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What You Need to Know About Event Apps in 2020 & Beyond

Alongside several other event trends that are shaping the industry, the mobile event app will continue to have much influence over events throughout this year and beyond.

Developments in-app capabilities, as well as new guidelines introduced by Apple, have both propelled event app providers to evolve and innovate at a faster-than-expected pace. Luckily, this is good news for event organizers.

The following blog post is meant to help you traverse the terrains of the new event app landscape and better understand how to choose an event app that will align with your event goals.

Apple’s New App Guidelines

To back track a bit, let’s revisit the moment when the trajectory of event apps had significantly shifted. During Apple’s 2017 World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), the company released several updates to their App Store guidelines. You can see many of these changes projected on a screen behind Phil Schiller at WWDC 2017. However, there is only one that is of principal importance to event technology stakeholders.

Event app guideline WWDC announcement 2017

Though this new guideline was relatively quiet compared to other huge announcements made at WWDC, it was nonetheless a significant piece of news for companies’ whose business model depends on their app development. The consequences became more clear when the specific wording of the new guideline was made available for all to digest.

To offer more context, here is the initial App Store guideline prior to the update.

Guideline 4.2

Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store. If your App doesn’t provide some sort of lasting entertainment value or is just plain creepy, it may not be accepted.

The new additional guideline read as follows:

NEW: Guideline 4.2.6

Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected.

Given that many “white label” or custom branded event apps are often generated based on some sort of template, the understanding in the events industry was that Apple’s 4.2.6 guidelines would prohibit custom or “white label” event apps from the App store.

In reaction, some event app providers brought universal branded apps to the table. These universal apps provide event organizers with an almost completely branded event app, while still complying with Apple’s guidelines.

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Apple’s New New App Guidelines

Recently, Apple revised their 4.2.6 guidelines yet again—providing event organizers with even more flexibility when it comes to finding the best event app solution for their needs.

The newly revised 4.2.6 guideline reads:

NEW NEW: Guideline 4.2.6

Apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service will be rejected unless they are submitted directly by the provider of the app’s content.

What’s operative here is the “unless” phrase. But what does all of this mean?

In brief, it is now possible for event app providers to make white label apps go live—but there’s a catch. Any customer who wishes to have a white label event app in the future will need to have their own Apple Developer account. Working hand-in-hand with with their event app provider, the customer will be able to submit their unique white label event app to the Apple App store through their own Apple Developer account.

The implications of these new rules have already taken effect within the events industry. For companies offering an event app solution, the challenge has now become to develop a stellar app at scale while complying with the new guidelines. And while there are multiple ways to go about this and certainly some things you’ll want to avoid, branded universal apps and white label apps are set to be the two dominant mobile solutions moving forward.

Understanding the Difference between Branded Apps and White Label Apps

White Label Apps

Custom-made “white label” (client-branded) apps are apps that are created from the ground-up to the specifications of a client. They may use some templated code—as many developers use templates to expedite the construction of apps—however the bulk of their structure and source code is tailor-made. In theory, the end result is a beautifully branded event app that is—from App store icon to agenda page—as unique as a snowflake.

However, that uniqueness comes with a higher price, a longer development cycle and the need to have each app submitted, approved and published in the App Store—not to mention a learning curve for both event attendees and organizers. Another downside is that if the app is shipped with bugs (as will invariably happen in software development) event organizers are often liable for fixing those bugs themselves or through the extension of a contract with an app developer.

Branded Universal Apps

The main appeal of a branded universal event app is its ability to showcase multiple unique event brands within the same app. Just like a universal remote might be in charge of your home entertainment system, a universal app aims to be your one-stop-shop for events. Clients download the universal app which then contains their specific event or event series. Different apps offer different levels of a branded experience.

Compared to other white label event apps, branded universal apps have the quickest development cycle (virtually none as they are already published in the app store and need only be activated by the client) and are often the cheapest option. Given the universal design of these types of apps they are easy to update, can provide event marketers with cross-event analytics, and can yield stronger adoption rates as attendees need only download one app for their event needs.

The downside of branded universal apps is that they are not 100% fully branded as white label apps are.

Here are some tips for maximizing event app adoption.

Regardless of the type of solution you may end up choosing, the underlying goal of all event apps is to achieve as many app downloads as possible. Achieving event adoption can seem

1. Get Started Early

Creating an event networking community through your app involves early communication with attendees. Make sure to inform and engage your attendees about the event app months before the event in order to see widespread platform adoption over time. Triggering an email right after they complete their registration may be a good time to introduce the app. The event is still fresh in their mind and they will feel motivated to make the most out of their experience.

2. Let Your Attendees and Speakers Promote on Your Behalf

The best event organizers don’t stop at promoting the event networking community after they’ve optimized the event website, sent emails and posted on social media. They also use event goers as evangelists who encourage other attendees to join the community as well.

3. Show off the Event App During Registration 

One of the best ways to showcase your event app early on during the conference is to have attendees use it to check-in when they arrive. This forces them to engage with the app from the beginning which primes them to use it throughout the event. Using the event app as a check-in tool is a good way to achieve early adoption.  

Find out more about the best check-in apps here.

4. Leverage the Momentum on Event Day  

Keep in mind that your mobile marketing strategy does not end once the event date arrives. In fact, the mobile app marketing plan reaches its peak during the actual event because this is when the app will be most widely used by your attendees.

Wrapping Up

The event app will continue to be a significant part of the event experience for both attendees and organizers alike. It’s still difficult to say exactly how the landscape will shift over the next few years, but we are seeing clear trends toward increased branding, personalization, and ease-of-use. Alongside these changes, event app providers will be able to yield more and more insights from how attendees engage their mobile event solutions.

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Want some event app recommendations? Check out our list of six apps that no event pro should be without.