What should I look for in an app provider?

There are a few things to keep in mind as you are considering a mobile event app provider. You’ll want a partner with the latest in mobile technology, a proven record of top-notch customer service, and one who does the basics really well while providing you with an expanded set of compelling features to create an app that is just right for your audience.

Core Features and Flexibility

Certainly your mobile event app vendor should provide an elegant, flexible design and a core set of features that accommodates a complex agenda with all the supplemental information you need, as well as push notifications, robust attendee profiles, interactive venue maps, speaker details and sponsor showcase. It should be simple and obvious for your users to navigate and find the information they need.

But even with these simple features there are details to understand: How does the app handle breakout sessions on an agenda? Can I associate different surveys with different sessions? What kind of detailed information can a sponsor provide?

More importantly, what control do you have over the features that your app provider supplies? If they offer event check-ins and that feature isn’t right for you, can it be turned off? In general, what features and buttons can be changed once an app is available on the app stores? Gather Digital has always stressed real-time flexibility and configuration of the app, as it’s often when an event is going on that you realize you’ll want a large piece of functionality turned on or off. Make sure your app provider can do the same.

What to check

  • Is the app easy to use and intuitive for end users?
  • Are there app features that I can’t turn off?
  • Is there anything I can’t change once the app is on the store?

Can the App Grow with You and Truly Reflect Your Brand?

The first time some of our clients use an app for an event, they want to stick to the basics. But once they see the power of an app at that first event, they are excited to leverage all of the features that make a mobile app a true game-changer at an event. These kinds of features include interactive games, live polling, social features like photo sharing and discussion boards, continuing education credit tracking, To Do lists, and many others.

In addition to compelling features, can the app truly reflect your organization? Is it fully branded for you? Can it be themed in detail to match the look and feel your attendees expect with the appropriate colors and icons? Can it feel like a seamless part of who you are?

What to check

  • Does the app provider offer a rich set of features: games, live polling, photo sharing, discussion boards, continuing education credit tracking, meeting planning, To Do list assignment, etc?
  • Can I add other events to the existing app? Can I remove historical events once they have occurred?
  • Can the app be fully branded for my organization?

Performance

By this point you know that there is a big difference between the mobile web and native apps, and there is a reason why users have shown a strong preference for apps: speed. We like to say that “fast is a feature.” You need to make sure that the app you choose is fast across all its facets. Can users navigate quickly among all information, or do they often see a “loading” spinner? Can they quickly scroll down long lists of attendees? Does information sync effectively in the background or do users have to wait while the app freezes as it downloads a new content database? Worse yet, do users have to remember to manually update the information in the app?

What to check

  • Is the app fully native for iOS and Android? Is it fast?
  • Does the content update automatically in the background without freezing the app or requiring the user to update manually?

Security

There are issues of security that you’ll want to be empowered to make choices about—the login and password process for the app, for example, or the types of attendee and organization information that will be displayed in the app. Then there are technical and process security concerns that you’ll want to make sure the app provider has complied with and that they have been evaluated by third parties. Your app provider should make available to you security reports on the app, on the content management system, and on their network security, as well as a SOC 2 report on their internal processes.

What to check

  • Will the app provider supply third-party vulnerability testing reports for: Native Apps (iOS and Android), web-based Content Management System, Network Vulnerability?
  • Will the app provider supply a SOC 2 report?
  • Can attendees control their data, remain as private as they wish in the app and does the app provider have US EU Safe Harbor certification?
  • Can the app provider confirm that they are not aggregating or selling your attendee data to any other source?

Fully Integrated vs. Outsourced

The mobile event app industry is growing quickly. To keep up, some vendors have been forced to partner with outside providers for tools like Live Polling or Meeting planning. While their partners may provide great products and services, you may suffer when the integration between them is primitive. For example, since Gather Digital built its own powerful live polling system, we can report on particular individuals and their own unique answers, and this can all be managed from within our dashboard. If your app provider is doing a hand off to an external vendor, you may not be able to trace back behaviors to specific people. You’ll definitely want to understand where these “rough edges” occur.

What to check

  • Which features of the app do you outsource? For example, do you outsource Live Polling? If so, can you still report on which people provided which answers?

Customer Support

At Gather Digital, you will have a dedicated account manager who will work with you to understand your business and help you design and populate your app. This person will understand your strategic goals and be an ongoing resource and partner to you. In addition, Gather Digital offers 24x7 phone and email support. With a trusted resource and complete coverage, you’ll get the best of both worlds as you are designing and managing your app and your event.

What to check

  • Are you working with a dedicated account manager who has app expertise and understands your event objectives? Or are you always calling to a general support line?
  • Does the app provider offer technical support with a customer-first mindset?

Reporting

Reporting goes far beyond how many people looked at which pages of your app. At any time, you may want to know how many people have logged in—and who. How many survey responses have there been and how did a particularly important stakeholder answer some live polling questions? How many CE credits have been earned, how many check-ins have occurred, which game badges are the most popular, etc. All this information needs to be at your fingertips within the app’s content management system so that at any moment you have a sense of your event’s heartbeat.

What to check

You may need the following reports to gain valuable knowledge for the next event and for future marketing. Does your app provider offer them?

  • Login — who logged in and when did they last access the app?
  • Survey and live poll results as a group and with individual responses?
  • Continuing Education Credit reports by attendee and agenda session?
  • Sponsor/Exhibitor check-ins?
  • Badge Game Leaderboard report?
  • Full mobile app usage statistics?