Why Wearable Tech Is the Key to Audience Engagement

Engagement is the key to crafting a memorable experience. Getting people engaged with each other, engaged with the physical space surrounding them, and engaged with event content, those are the ultimate goals of event marketers. And the bottom line is that wearables = engagement. Here’s why.

Not long ago, the only way to gather insights about event traffic flow, attendee sentiment, or content engagement metrics, was from post event surveys. When we thought about the decisions being made for events before wearables, the supporting data was wildly inaccurate and heavily skewed.

Registration data and event mobile apps gather data about attendee interests, but there was no way to validate this data other than an army of costly personnel scanning badges at every door and booth. But, of course, this had its challenges and inaccuracies. We were playing darts in the dark and hoping for a bull’s-eye.

Wearable tech ushered in a new era of events

Whether enabled by beacons, or active or passive RFID, wearable tech of all sorts in the event and experiential spaces exploded with seemingly endless potential to better understand our events. Wearables allow event organizers to script a story that will unfold for each attendee as they journey through an event, and to track the attendee as they experience that story.

Wearable devices are now key to understanding attendee behavior & traffic flow, tracking attendee interactions, attendance and participation in real-time, gaining insights from actionable data, understanding event ROI, and measuring engagement levels

Event organizers who can get real-time data and craft actionable insights about their events will do their job better, faster, and cheaper. But it’s not just event organizers who now benefit from wearable beacon technologies across the show floor. Affordable, low cost wearable beacons benefit everyone at the event.

For Sponsors/Exhibitors

Exhibitors want more exposure and qualified leads to justify their event spend, and that is what wearables give them. Wearables can capture unprecedented insights about booth performance to determine that ever elusive ROI. Exhibitors will get updates on booth traffic and the aisle traffic so they know who or what they missed.

Wearables not only help exhibitors understand booth traffic, but can also increase traffic to their exhibit/breakout in real-time by seeing who's visiting where and adjusting their strategy accordingly. All of the exhibit floor behavioral data contributes to predictive models that suggest your booth to attendees that are truly interested. This means the quality of the attendee that visits your booth is much higher and interactions will be meaningful.

“How much time did CMOs spend at my booth?” “How does my exhibit’s performance compare with my competition?” “How many VPs are in attendance right now for the session in Breakout 10?” Plus, exhibitors get all of this information when they need it, during the event.

For Attendees

Wearables provide attendees a more targeted, personalized experience during the event. All of the behavioral data from each attendee is used to make real-time suggestions for sessions, exhibitors, and other attendees doing similar activities. The show then feels much more relevant because it is. The wearables system learns and understands their needs and helps organizers and exhibitors make it all about them.

Attendees also get a rich dashboard that details everything they did at the event including people they met, sessions attended, photos taken, etc. All too often you get back from an event and forget what you did on the first day, what sessions you attended or exhibitors visited.

This information is exactly what most organizations want to see to justify why they sent the attendee to the event. Wearables also easily capture contact information, which means no more business card exchanges and the attendee can easily follow up with everyone they met networking.

A La Carte Event Wearables

Within the event engagement tech space, there are many different players with different devices offering different solutions. If you possess the resources or know-how, it’s certainly possible to create a patchwork solution for understanding the full picture, but one turnkey out-of-the-box solution does not yet exist.

We can use Grip for Tinder-styled event networking, or grab one of a hundred white labeled gamified event apps now featuring augmented reality add-ons. We can use new Klik wristband and smart badge by PixMob to allow attendees to exchange contact information with the click of a button and to provide event planners with real time heat maps of attendee engagement.

PixMob Smart Badge

And then there’s Sendrato’s Leather Smartbands used at the Tomorrowland Festival for cashless payments and much more. The options are endless, but not unified. However, the silver bullet is coming.

The Future of Wearable Engagement

To paint a picture of where event wearables are going, we’re looking to Disney and Universal. These entertainment giants have so far come the closest to developing a turnkey experience, something many top notch tech players are striving to achieve, with their theme park wearables.

Disney turned heads when they invested over one billion dollars in their MagicBands which have proven to be a major success across their parks. MagicBands replace your wallet, hotel keys, theme park admissions, FastPass ride reservations, and a personal PhotoPass account.

Disney Magic Bands

Having experienced the MagicBand firsthand, I can say that the technology is simply amazing, but it does have some limitations. The band is basically just a wearable RFID chip that cannot broadcast or receive, and does not connect in ways that it should with the Disney app. In that sense, it cannot use your location and knowledge of ride wait times to recommend where to go next in the park, nor can it find friends or family members.

Universal’s TapuTapu waterpark bracelet works in many of the same ways as the MagicBand but with one notable improvement. It can transmit and receive information. Wearing TapuTapu, you can walk up to a slide, tap your band to reserve your spot in line, then wander off and enjoy a slushy by the wave pool. When it’s your time to ride, TapuTapu will vibrate to notify you.

Volcano Bay's Tapu Tapu

The band will also trigger fun Easter eggs hidden throughout the park like water cannons firing at guests in the lazy river or activate blowholes from whales in the kiddie park. This level of interactivity from a band is a huge leap forward in wearable technology.

To say we’re excited about what the future of event wearables holds for the brand experience industry is an understatement. Big players with deep pockets will continue pushing the technology forward. The smaller niche companies in our event world will refine it to do exactly what event marketers, organizers, exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees alike need and want. And within the next two years, we will have the event wearable we’ve been dreaming of. The solution that skyrockets audience and content engagement across the board. It’s coming.

Lindsay Nie

Head of Creative Technology / Cramer

Additional contributions by Jonathan Ronzio

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