Stephan Forseilles: use event data to grow and retain your audience
The “pool in which we fish is not infinite” so event organisers must use insights to grow but also retain their existing audiences, according to an industry leader.
Stephan Forseilles, head of digital transformation at Easyfairs, believes there has been a wealth of new opportunities brought through the technologic revolution our sector has seen in recent years.
This includes creating a seamless experience for your attendees, identifying the perfect buyer and gardening an engaged, loyal audience.
Our industry has witness an explosion in event information which ExpoPlatform estimates to be generating around 20 times more data points than early 2020.
Data-driven marketing allows you to develop a much deeper understanding of your audience and potential for growth by defining a target demographic.
Stephan said: “For the past 10 years, doing marketing for an event has been sending as many emails as you could – but those days are gone.
“You have to optimise your marketing to be multichannel and be able to track people across different channels – which is not always easy, especially when you’re dealing with the B2C versus B2B world.
“Have an intelligent data platform that can actually tell you an area where you can optimise your costs and be more intelligent in where you spend money.”
Stephan is an expert contributor to our AI Blueprint. Download it now to make the best of event data.
It is fantastic to grow your audience using new information available – but Stephan believes it’s more important to keep them coming back.
He added: “Rebooking rates for exhibitors are a standard metric in our industry so the level at which people keep coming back to a show should be too. You as an organiser will manage to build a loyal fanbase which is certain to turn up and please exhibitors who are investing in space.
“This is another area where a data team can be used to measure what has been successful with those who do come back to an event.
“The pool in which we fish is not infinite and the strategy to say we will always acquire new visitors and not make efforts to retain the old one is a shortsighted strategy.
“At some point you’re going to run out of new visitors to address, but also considering that acquiring a visitor is much more expensive than keeping an existing one.”
Giving away data control is a mistake
But he set out why he thinks data control is paramount to being able to make a success of these new opportunities – the organiser should be in control rather than the technology provider.
He told ExpoPlatform: “We don’t want all our data collected at our events on the platform that we have paid for to serve a competitor. That competitor can be another tradeshow, but it can also be the platform itself if it one day decides to create community events or things like that online.
“We don’t want this data to be used by the platform to make their algorithm better – even in an anonymised way. Because that would increase the experience of our competitors that use the same platforms – using our data to train an algorithm.
“It’s like hiring someone, spending six months training them in organising trade shows and then they go work for a competitor – it’s exactly the same thing.”
His comments come after a rapid move towards digital platforms over the last 18 months. This transformation has created an explosion in attendee information and event data that is redefining the way organisers understand and shape the communities they serve.
However, not all event technology platforms handle this information in the same way. An organiser-led model sees the organiser own the relationship with their customer as data controller, with the technology platform as the processor for the duration of the contract.
This information can be used for a single event or multiple events in a portfolio to make for a seamless journey and is the model followed by ExpoPlatform. In a vendor-led model, it is the platform that can own the direct relationship with your customers and share that data with other organisers.
The third and most recent UFI Connects debate on this topic saw an expert panel describe the conversation over who should have control as “over” – responsibility should reside with the organiser.
Build a team to derive meaning from the data
Easyfairs began their journey of creating a team to derive meaning from the data by hiring one specialist. Their role was to begin building the “infrastructure” and looking for others to join in the project.
Stephan said: “You say ‘your role is to construct a team and an infrastructure over time’.
“First you need the team, then you need the infrastructure – but you also need to have all of the other systems in your organisation to be able to send data to the data lake.”
He added that the fruits of their labour took some time to show, but their patience paid off and is now showing some clear results for the company.
This is because they now have a core hub where all of the data they gather is located and interpreted in the same way. It builds up enough information to successfully train algorithms which can lead decision-making within the business.
Stephan said: “All of the reporting that we make almost exclusively has moved to that point, so everybody works with the same one version of the truth and all of the data is there.
“This is where we calculate all of our KPIs – it looks obvious, but it’s not. If you speak to five different organisers, or even to five different event managers in the same organisation – they will have, for example, five different ways of counting visitors.
“So the fact that you concentrate everything in one place when you have a definition of how to calculate the number of visitors – that’s actually a huge step forward in terms of understanding how the business works.
“We have at hand all the data to train our AI algorithms and we have a bunch of those which run on the data lake. They have access to all of the data of all of the events that we have organised.”
A seamless experience with a unified profile
An omnichannel experience benefits from having a seamless transition from community to event and back again.
This works better for customers as they don’t have to jump between platforms, while organisers also benefit as they can progressively build richer profiles of the audience.
It means they can start to offer increasingly personalised products and recommendations as well as facilitate successful Smart Events.
However, Stephan sets out that it is critical to have a unified profile for this to be possible.
He said: “Create one profile which is the same for online and onsite. Everything you do online and anything you do onsite all ends up in the same place.
“That means the people you interact with can be online or be onsite. But it all happens on the same platform and you can decide to share your profile across different events.”
Identifying the perfect buyer
As any event professional should know, not all visitors are equal in their buying power.
Being able to identify the right target means sellers and planners can prioritise their time and energy towards more useful potential transactions. Data analytics allows event professionals to do this by providing insights into behaviours and profiles.
Stephan added: “It’s about being able to let exhibitors concentrate their efforts in marketing and in the time they spend seeing the right person.
“An exhibitor on an event of two days may see 100 different people, but out of these maybe 10 will be really interesting. What if you could say instead of spending 10 minutes with people, you can spend one hour with each of the 10 people who are a much more effective usage of your time.
“That’s a very interesting proposal for the exhibitors.”
We hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful. At ExpoPlatform, we want to help you build better events and communities. Please get in touch and ask for a demo here. Thank you.
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