Talking DoubleDutch about event marketing


What does the state of the art look like for event attendee mobile apps? It’s advanced and moving quickly.

topic channel event
Event channel on DoubleDutch

Imagine that you’re attending a large event. There are keynotes, sessions, partner booths and parties to attend. All need calendaring, meetings need scheduling. What about networking or those serendipitous occasions when you just happen across something that is interesting? Getting it all organized is a nightmare and all too often, the best intentions go up in smoke as things get in the way, meetings run over or get rescheduled. Or at least it was until the emergence of smartphone apps of the kind that DoubleDutch is pioneering.

I first came across DoubleDutch in 2014 at a Constellation Research event. At the time, the application was ‘OK’ but it didn’t set my world on fire. Basic scheduling was pretty decent but beyond that there wasn’t a whole lot to float my boat. Fast forward to the Fall 2015 conference season and I was looking at a completely different beast. I wrote about my experience at the end of last year, which I counted as way better than in previous years. I said:

Most shows these days have dedicated mobile applications. These are primarily aimed at acting as schedulers which help in keeping the paperwork down and keep people running from appointment to appointment. That’s pretty much all they do.

This year, the smaller vendors invested in DoubleDutch which can provide a more immersive experience including a significant social element. Episerver took this one important step forward, using game mechanics to include scavenger hunts and rewards for people who Tweeted, took photos, provided commentary and session ratings/feedback.

In the past, back channel teams at our end have restricted ourselves to invite only Twitter and Skype group messaging as a way of both communicating what we see while ensuring that we keep on the same page in understanding what’s happening.

DoubleDutch, as used by Episerver, took that an important several steps further, focusing on the needs of conference attendees. I enjoyed that experience although I thought the concentration of selfies was a bit naff while the commentary around some of the sessions could have been better. Even so, Ascend stood head and shoulders above the rest in providing an additional experience that added value for attendees.

It was against that backdrop that I recently spoke with Lawrence Coburn, CEO DoubleDutch. I wanted to get an update on the solution and some idea about what the future holds. This market segment is clearly moving rapidly.

To date, DoubleDutch’s offering has all been about helping events marketers create interest in the event at the time the event takes place. That’s achieved through the application of game mechanics. Take a selfie? Get some points. You get the picture. Coburn says that to date, DoubleDutch is recording 68% adoption which means that a person signs up and does something with the app. Coburn thinks there’s much more that can be done that in turn will drive further adoption but, more important, value back to event attendees and organizers. .

We see an immediate use case for session based messaging ‘rooms’ where attendees can drop content while they are in the session. We also want to provide attendees with the means to open up any channel but then that brings the question of moderation. If you take a command and control position then it will push the conversation over to Twitter which is worse because now you’ve no idea where that conversation is going to go. Taking a light touch approach to moderation will be the next challenge.

I really like that idea because session notes would provide snippets that capture the essence of a session. But I’d also like to see it coupled to my public social channels so that I can selectively (say) Tweet out something that has value to a wider audience. The next obvious step is to see the application as an extension of the live event so that people who cannot attend can still become part of the conversations. Imagine, for example, a streamed session. As a non-attendee, you might want to view the session and pose a question. Access to the application would support that.

Virtual rooms of that kind are a stepping stone to what we see as the hybrid world of physical and virtual presence. The logical next question is: What if you could increase the audience 10x, 20x – maybe there’s a ticket price associated with that?

Interesting idea or pipe dream? Thinking about how time is constrained for many of us in the modern age, it makes a lot of sense for teams to think about resource allocation where there are travel budget limits. Another idea, this time with a direct link to marketing:

We think we can instrument events the same way that marketers instrument campaigns. At the back end we are  trying to make sense of what’s happening at the event. So the next experiment  will see us turning the focus to partner opportunities while visitors are walking around an event. We’ve built something inspired by Google AdWords, we call it Targeted Offers. As an event organizer or partner, I can build campaigns that are inferred from visitor behavior. To make these work though, I need to create a reason for the visitor to come visit a specific booth. We’ve tested this and so far achieved an average 16% tap through rate. N0 ad network in the world that gets close to that.

What kind of incentives might be on offer? That will depend on what the data is telling the campaign organizer. It might be a round table with an industry luminary, a dinner with a well known speaker, a demo for functionality that appears to be top of mind.

The endgame is clear. Or rather the end game as far as we can see today. Use the technology and data to provide the event attendee with the kind of personalized experience they need to get the most out of the event and at a granular level so that the attendee, whether in person or virtual, gets a concierge service experience. For the event organizer, this offers many possibilities around optimizing floor space, optimizing executive time, scheduling and rescheduling where necessary as the event unfolds. The list goes on.

Looking further out, Coburn envisages continuing engagement through the app after the event. To make this work, Coburn is talking about a slew of integrations that starts with Marketo for marketing automation, due later this year.

Coburn acknowledges that the full, intelligence driven experience I am getting excited about is a couple of years out. From everything I have seen, the bones are in place, there’s a good amount of meat around those bones and the potential for some absorbing event experiences is in view. Who would of have thought that coming from an event weary and jaded attendee?

Image credits: via DoubleDutch