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Are You Paying Too Much for Your Event App?

By Cathy Key
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One of the most confusing aspects of purchasing an event app is the pricing. Why do some event apps cost upwards of $20,000 while others are available for free? In this article we explore some of the factors that can impact price.

Event mobile app price

In the Event App Bible 2 we compared the prices and features of 87 popular event apps. We asked companies to tell us what it would cost to purchase their app for an event with 400 attendees and 100 exhibitors and discovered a dramatic variation in price, from free to upwards of $20,000.

It’s not always obvious why some apps cost a lot more than others. Often they appear to have the same basic features: an agenda, floor plans, attendees profiles and networking tools. You have to dig a little deeper to discover the logic behind event app pricing. Here we look at some of the variables that can affect price.

Is There Such a Thing as a Free App?

Over a quarter of the companies we researched for the Event App Bible have free versions of their apps. However, less than 4% were free for our benchmark event of 400 attendees and 100 exhibitors. This is because free apps usually have limitations: such as the number of attendees, availability on different platforms or the number of events that can be managed.

Some companies work on a freemium basis, where you can try out the app for free on a limited basis before you buy. If you are new to event apps, this can be a good way to put your toe in the water without fully committing.

A number of online registration companies offer free event apps to their clients. It is worth considering your event app as part of your overall event technology strategy so that you can take advantage of these kinds of offers.

Why Do Apps Cost So Much?

Developing a mobile app is an expensive and time-consuming business. This is especially true with “native” apps, event apps that have been built to work on specific platforms such as Apple or Android devices

First of all the app has to be designed, a process that will involve both the supplier and the planner. Then it needs to be developed and coded, content must be generated and the whole thing needs to be tested. Once all that is complete you then need to find a way to distribute your app. You can’t just send your app to your attendees willy-nilly. Typically, the only way people can get it is through an App Store (e.g. the Apple store, Google Play or Amazon).

Getting your app reviewed and approved by Apple is time-consuming, takes considerable know-how and is by no means a done-deal. Moreover, if you also want your app to work on Android (or any other platform) the whole thing needs to be developed all over again! Of course, you don't have to worry about any of this, your supplier will take care of it all for you. However, it is one of the reasons that cross-platform apps cost what they do. It is also why you want to be developing your event app many months ahead of your event.

Is There an Easier Way?

Given all that is involved with developing apps, some suppliers have looked for an easier and more cost-effective alternative. Companies at the lower end of the price spectrum tend to offer an off-the-shelf event app or guide in which your event is listed alongside many other meetings. You don’t get your own unique app. Instead, attendees download the guide and search for your event.

This approach has a lot of benefits: it is fast, convenient and doesn’t involve the hassle or expense of creating your own app. The downside is that you don’t have your own unique app and your event ends up being listed alongside hundreds of others. Also, you tend to have less control over the look and feel.

How Can I Reduce Costs?

For a slick and professional finish, it’s hard to beat a native application that has been built and customized for your event. In which case, you can expect to pay more to get the result that you want. All the same, there are ways to keep your costs down.

Given how much this technology has evolved in the last few years, there really is no reason to build your event app from scratch. Make sure you that you buy from an established company that already has a framework and platform to build from. Find out as much as you can about that framework and wherever possible work within it using prebuilt modules. In other words, keep your customizations to a minimum. Customizing an app is the fast track to escalating costs and also to introducing errors. Most providers will be able to provide suggestions to help you get the functionality you want within their existing framework.

You also want to be clear about the features that are really important and the platforms you want to support. Avoid the temptations of ‘scope creep’, especially if this is your first year using the app. It is better to start with fewer features that work really well and grow from there.

Can I Make Money from My App?

An event app is an investment of your time and your money. However, if you are smart your event app can pay for itself. Most apps provide opportunities to feature sponsors and exhibitors and you can work with your supplier to develop revenue streams. In addition, your app will save you money and time spent on conference proceedings and brochures and can even help you with marketing and promotion.

In Conclusion

The event app market is diverse and there is an app available for almost every budget. A well designed event app purchasing strategy is key to making sure you get the best value for your money.

Download the Event App Bible 2 to find out how to develop a strategic event app plan that will make sure you get the right app for you.

about the author

Cathy Key
Dr Cathy Key has been working in the event technology industry since 2002. During this time she worked side-by-side with meeting planners and built her own successful conference software platform. She is now an independent consultant and writer for Online Registration Review.
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