While digital editions are a common format for producing show guides and show dailies, apps are becoming another popular platform for integrating dailies along with much more functionality. Penton Media‘s Custom Solutions group partnered with the Food Marketing Institute to build an app for FMI’s annual event, FMI 2010, in May. The app, which essentially wraps a show program, show dailies, exhibit hall map and exhibitor directory into a smartphone interface, was offered free to the event’s 10,000 attendees and downloaded 6,000 times.
Apps for trade shows, particularly the larger ones, are becoming more commonplace as show organizers look for ways to enable a higher quality event experience and extend attendee engagement from pre-show to post-show. Media companies are recognizing the opportunity, too, and are leveraging their custom publishing groups in partnerships with app developers to create the apps for event producers.
"Anything you used to see before—e-mail newsletters, show directories, show dailies—we tried to consolidate these into something that the show attendee could use before the show, during the show and after the show as a reference," says Scott Beida, vice president, Penton Custom Solutions.
The exhibitor component was central to the app’s functionality. FMI supplied the exhibitor database which formed the backbone of the app’s directory. The feature allowed users to view a show floor map and the directory, which listed exhibitors in alphabetical order along with the booth number, provided the ability to download marketing materials in pdf format.
Other features included scheduling, daily news, speaker directories and social media integration.
FMI had no benchmarks or expectations for the app’s performance, so a 60 percent download rate was a pleasant surprise. Previous event apps that the developer built achieved 20 to 30 percent download rates, says Beida, who attributes the burgeoning popularity of smartphones and general app-awareness among users to the growing download rates.
Penton secured the FMI project through the company’s Supermarket News brand. "The relationship the magazine has with FMI allowed us to talk to the show organizers about this idea," says Beida. "We put together a program that had a revenue share component—once we attained certain thresholds we would share the revenue, which comes from sponsorship opportunities."
The sponsorships Beida refers to are premium listings in the directory and on the exhibitor map, as well as standard banner ads within the app.
Beida also noted that a publisher like Penton has unique strengths it can bring to the deal, number one being content and number two being sales expertise. "We have the ability to produce relevant content in a flash to make the app more useful to the exhibitor and the attendee. We also have the sales force and contacts with the digital expertise to drive revenues."
Costs to build an app, according to Beida, vary according to the level of functionality, but can average around $20,000. The show organizer recoups that through straight fees to the exhibitor and/or sponsorships.
By the end of the event, according to Beida, users visited the map 2,200 times; clicked on exhibitors 14,000 times; viewed speaker bios 806 times; and clicked on sponsor banner ads 3,000 times.