As the pandemic has worn on and digital events have evolved, event marketers have found they offer benefits — such as gathering enhanced analytics and achieving higher attendance — that were more difficult to attain at in-person events, according to a new study from videoconferencing service company BlueJeans.
But there have been drawbacks to the digital experience as well. This past January, BlueJeans commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey 200 North American decision-makers of marketing event strategies about digital and hybrid marketing. The study found that, while event marketers believe there are even more measures of success in the digital space that event marketers can’t come by at physical events — such as greater flexibility for audience members to attend multiple sessions (56 percent), easier post-event follow-up engagement (44 percent), and more breakout sessions (43 percent) — marketers are still struggling to achieve the same overall positive results from digital events compared to physical events.
When asked how difficult it is for their organizations to deliver on various aspects of the digital experience, 71 percent said it was challenging to replicate all the interactive, face-to-face elements of an in-person event — and 67 percent said it was challenging to bring their products, services, and stories to life in a compelling way — in the digital or hybrid space. Additionally, 64 percent said it was challenging to effectively isolate the most engaged leads from a virtual or hybrid event to improve sales performance post-event.
“The ramifications are clear,” the study said. “Over half of marketers agree that poor event delivery results in increased costs, missed opportunities, and poor customer experience.”
While 78 percent of respondents agreed that proper event technology is key to running a successful digital or hybrid event, only around half of those surveyed were happy with their current event technology. Respondents cited such challenges as troubleshooting technical difficulties, personalizing aspects of events, and developing, managing, and delivering event content.
While one of the takeaways from the study results — that “marketers must be deliberate in researching and selecting the right virtual events technology” — seems commonsense, the study found part of the problem is a timing issue: Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they did not have sufficient time to choose their event software. That result is backed up by the fact that 61 percent indicated elsewhere in the survey that their organization had scrambled to purchase digital event software due to the pandemic. But looking ahead, with the benefit of being less rushed, event marketers can explore ways improve the experience for themselves and their attendees, according to the report.
“Marketers can achieve greater success with their events if they reevaluate their mentality toward virtual and hybrid events by focusing on creating reusable marketing assets and a personalized, educational customer experience [and] select the technology equipped to achieve what they want to convey,” the report said, adding that 80 percent of marketers agreed that — with improvements to their virtual and hybrid event strategies — they could achieve the same or greater success as in-person events.
“Decision-makers are struggling to replicate the interactivity, storytelling, and lead-surfacing aspects of in-person events due to limitations of their virtual and hybrid events software,” the report summarized. “If marketers reevaluate their mindset, strategy, and technology for virtual and hybrid events, they can untap a competitive advantage that furthers customer engagement, brand benefits, and sales opportunities.”
Casey Gale is associate editor of Convene.