The events industry continues to grow, but not all of its subsections are growing at the same rate.
General event attendance experienced just a 3.6 percent bump from 2015 to 2016, a 30 percent dip in growth compared with the year before, Convene’s 26th Annual Meetings Market Survey reported. Despite the slow pace across the board, some events continue to thrive. Austin’s SXSW grew a whopping 66 percent in 2016, while Google I/O expanded an impressive 25 percent.
What separates these successful events from the rest?
One advantage is obvious: an eye-catching and easy to use website. More than 40 percent of the global population is online, meaning that before today’s attendees even buy a ticket, they visit the event website to see what to expect. That first impression can make the difference between record sales and a disturbing slowdown.
By upping their online game, other event professionals can emulate these successes and avoid the decreased growth plaguing the industry.
Love at first site
Every event website should provide an informative, attractive experience that uses past reviews and testimonials to appeal to prospects. However, while 70 percent of consumers check reviews before purchasing, reviews alone are not enough. The best websites are clean and mobile-friendly pages that use sophisticated design and engaging content to drive prospects toward purchases.
Follow these three strategies to create an event website that attracts and converts more attendees:
Make mobile the star
Mobile-friendly websites aren’t the future — they’re the present. In 2015, mobile-only web users became more common than desktop-only users, signaling a shift in the way people browse and purchase online.
Even the people who don’t make purchases on mobile devices do their initial research on smartphones. Today’s customers bounce from channel to channel, moving from work computer to smartphone to personal tablet. Events must provide seamless, attractive experiences on all these channels, engaging site visitors with fast load times across the board.
According to a recent Google study, 53 percent of mobile users leave sites that take longer than three seconds to load. That might mean eliminating a cool feature, but if the page doesn’t load quickly enough, users won’t see those bells and whistles anyway.
Design the website with mobile in mind. Instead of forcing visitors to pinch and scroll around a registration form, optimize bigger mobile text boxes to simplify registration. The easier it is for mobile visitors to register, the more of them will do so.
Create and deliver appealing content
When visitors leave the event website, they usually head to either Google Images or YouTube. They aren’t suddenly starved for entertainment; they want to see content that shows them what the event will be like. Stay ahead of the game and post relevant, engaging content on your event page to save your users a step and convert more sales.
Pick header images that paint the conference as a must-attend event. Feature videos of past speakers, experiences, and crowds to show prospects the excitement that awaits them. Create a content schedule and release new videos regularly to build excitement as the event draws closer.
Instead of crowding the front page with everything at once, pick one piece of killer content to act as the introduction, then highlight links to more content to keep visitors on-site longer.
Make registration easy for everyone
Once you build a mobile-friendly site with engaging content, streamline the registration process to turn browsers into buyers.
Even the most engaged prospects will quickly lose interest if the website forces them to jump through a dozen hoops to register. Once attendees are onboard, don’t spring any hidden fees or additional steps on them.
Small fees might seem harmless to a seller, but unexpected closing costs are the No. 1 reason people cancel their orders before completion. Roll online registration fees into the price of admission to provide a seamless, transparent registration process that puts potential eventgoers at ease.
Event attendees can go to only so many shows and conferences each year, so events must make great first impressions to attract more registrants and secure sponsors for next time. Construct the kind of website event that marketers can use to catch the eyes of attendees and help events continue to prosper in 2018.
Ronnie Higgins works at Eventbrite, helping event planners level-up their registration game. Born and raised in New Orleans, he enjoys nothing more than helping people get together — whether it’s for a conference, class, or a citywide party like Mardi Gras.