Behind Edgell Mobile Services: Offering media, marketer partners solutions for event-driven apps
Going forward, Edgell will offer event-related apps for other publishers, as well as vendors, including app development, consulting and training and creative services. Edgell built its first event app for MURTEC (Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference). “We got strong feedback from our attendees—we had restaurants and hotels asking us how they can get an app,” said Guffanti. "A lot of organizations are not really leveraging mobile. We can take our expertise as publishers and offer that to other companies who rely on events as a large part of their revenue stream. Our method is, learn from us and let us help you get further along.”
Edgell tapped XCO Software, a specialist in venue-based apps for Apple and Android platforms with an established customer base in museum and sporting venues (customers include the NBA’s Miami Heat), to provide the back-end technology.
“They had the structure, we built the presentation layer on top,” said Rob Keenan, vice president of media integration at Edgell. “They had these incredible map features that can show you not only the meeting space and exhibitor space, but also every restaurant and store nearby. We wanted to create a personalized schedule for attendees.”
That includes the ability to see if someone was checked in or out, push notifications that updated attendees on events, the ability to view presentations directly via the app and social media functionality.
Since the app platform is built on a content management system, changes can be made in real-time. “After we built our initial our map for MURTEC, Caesar’s built a Starbucks,” said Keenan. “Before the event even opened, we were able to update the maps and add it in. We as publisher have control of what this looks like.”
Features for exhibitors can range from basic listings to banner advertising, QR codes, giveaways and polling options. At MURTEC, one vendor wanted to host an after-party and used the app notification feature to get people to the party.
Having an app allows event hosts to extend the relationship with the audience beyond a few days, according to Guffanti. “An app allows you to do all the things you’re supposed to be doing as a publisher, including connecting people,” he said. “Seventy-five percent of the people who download the app will give us their email address. That satisfies one of the biggest requests we have as an event producer—‘can you find X person?’ In the past, we would try, now we can actually say, download the app and you can connect to them from there.”
The app also helps with marketing for future events. “We can send out a push notification when registration opens next year,” said Guffanti. “That satisfies a challenge a lot of publishers have of needing to start over from Attendee Zero every year.”
Next Opportunities: Lead Gen, Business Intelligence
Edgell is currently diving into the analytics around its own event apps to identify user behavior. In the near future, the apps will be able to drive Edgell’s lead generation and business intelligence efforts. “We haven’t shared anything externally yet but the opportunities for lead generation are huge,” said Keenan.
While Edgell isn’t sharing specifics at this point, pricing for external clients includes a one-time flat cost for the platform (including submission to Apple and Android for approval), plus additional fees for consulting, creative and any customization the client requires. “We can do probably 80 percent of what most people need done before we get into customization,” said Guffanti.
The recurring nature of the event apps helps keep the price down. “In year one, when you looked at costs, we’re about in-line from what we saw from other apps,” said Keenan. “In year two and three, the recurring costs are much lower because we don’t have to create the app from the ground-up. The bulk of the costs for us are in year one. After that it’s just a refresh.”
Edgell is looking to expand the business through partner events with vendors as well as offering app solutions for the audiences it serves in markets such as hospitality and retail. Currently Edgell can produce an app in about four weeks—from concept to deployment.
“The value proposition with us is the fact that we are publishers ourselves, and we are able to produce an app in weeks, not months,” said Guffanti. “That’s very good for a conference product since the decision to go down the app road is often not made until the last minute.”
By Matt Kinsman
Photo credit, with thanks: Edgell Mobile Services