The sheer scale of the outbreak and the speed at which things have escalated have led to uncertainty and at this moment in time nobody can be sure when large scale events will return. Many events have been rescheduled for autumn 2020, but with an unclear future you have to ask if a potential customer would be willing to commit to a registration for a scheduled event that may yet be postponed or even cancelled.

To answer the question we looked into registration data, captured through and our supporting marketing channels, to evaluate current customer demand in an effort to help guide decision making.

When listing events with inphota, we work closely with our partners marketing teams to evaluate the consumer journey and assess marketing ROI. This work provides insight into the end-to-end decision making process for event registrations. Each registration is tied back to a customer acquisition model that allows us to identify the marketing ROI at each stage of the process from discovery, through to consideration and finally on to purchase.

When looking into this data it was important to evaluate consumer demand using key purchase indicators from the ‘consideration’ stage of the customer journey. With search traffic proving to be the strongest leading indicator of purchase intent we looked to assess the changes in traffic to the registration page for a key running event scheduled for late 2020.

The chart, shown below, highlights the changes in search traffic over time. Although the UAE recorded its first case of coronavirus on the 2nd February, it wasn’t until the first major sporting event was cancelled that the severity of the virus began to be understood by the event’s audience.

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Chart A: Search traffic index

Since the first major event cancellation search traffic has dropped by 97%. This is in spite of the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) budget for the event in question remaining consistent during this time. Initially there was a belief that an event held more than 6 months into the future would continue to attract registrations, however, this has not proven to be the case.

The significant drop in interest suggests that customer confidence is low and that even for events many months into the future there is a reluctance to commit to a registration at this stage. This presents a dilemma for event organizers who are looking to actively market future events, in the case of SEM marketing which is charged on the Cost Per Click (CPC) model there is a minimal impact on spend if you are not generating traffic. However, events with a heavy focus on social media marketing, charged on a Cost Per Mille (CPM) Model risk running through their budget advertising to an audience that are not in a purchasing mindset.

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That’s not to say that as an event organizer you shouldn’t be advertising, instead you should be considering how you structure communications and the objective of paid campaigns, particularly those bought on a CPM model. When realizing that the Click Through Rate (CTR) of campaigns was reducing on the social media advertising campaigns we paused marketing but developed a forecast of the expected Cost Per Click, by correlating the trend in SEM campaigns with historic data for social media marketing.

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The chart demonstrates an expected increase in the cost to deliver customers to the registration site of 8-11x the base cost during the same time period as chart A. Further highlighting the importance of considered marketing approach during this time.

So, how can event organizers build a communications plan that enables their event to be front of mind when consumer confidence improves to the point where they are comfortable committing to a purchase.

One such example is the use of virtual events to engage an audience. The inphota registration platform enables our partners to establish virtual events with automatic result synchronization from connected devices. Working with our partners, we have facilitated the set up free-to-enter virtual events with the added incentive of receiving a discount voucher to the real-world event upon completion of the challenge.

By adjusting their communications plan, the campaign has enabled the event in question to remain in consumers’ minds whilst allowing the organizer to build a database of interested customers who they can communicate with directly once the date of the rescheduled event has been confirmed.

This campaign is still ongoing, however, the cost to acquire each registration has returned to a level seen before the crisis. This campaign has shown that there is a demand for virtual events in the market and for organizers looking to remain relevant with their audience during this time there is a huge opportunity to consider virtual events strategically as a customer acquisition tool.  

If you’re interested in learning more, or would like to set-up a virtual event please contact