App, App and Away: Understanding Planners' Event App Needs

By Mike May President, Spear One | September 08, 2013

Of all the mobile apps on our smartphones, very few are for business use. Most apps are personal, consumer applications. Many in the hotel and meeting planning industries have probably used an event app, but mostly likely, only a handful of times.

Growth in Mobile Apps

Mobile app developers claim they have been creating event apps for 5 years, but 2013 is merely the second year of meaningful commercial deployment, with exploding growth expected over the next 3 years. A Meetings & Conventions magazine survey indicated that 17% of meeting planners offered attendees an event app in 2012 and predicted that statistic to jump significantly to 28% in 2013.

As with all new technologies, the costs are high for early adopters with most apps ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 on the low end and increasing quickly to $20,000 or more, especially for complicated integration with other systems or the addition of custom features. Leading app developers include QuickMobile, EventMobi, and CrowdCompass (now owned by Cvent), while dozens of second tier developers own certain niches.

Be careful when evaluating lower cost apps, as they are likely web-based apps, or "waps". Waps are actually mobile friendly websites that look very similar, which skinny down HTML formatting to better display content on mobile phones. On the positive, the mobile website is accessible from a wide variety of mobile devices and no download is required. A wap requires a single site development, whereas native apps usually have four developmental versions – iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and iPad. But, unlike a true native app, waps will not work in airplane mode and no data is stored on the device.

Hotel Apps

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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.