There are a couple of phrases that event planners and suppliers use frequently. One of them is “just like Amazon.” Whether Amazon—the alleged killer of the independent brick-and-mortar bookstore—is good or bad isn’t the point. There are so many innovations that Amazon has brought into the world, it’s worth discussing how events can and should follow in their footsteps.
The “If you liked this [book, potholder, drill], you’ll like that” suggestions that arrive via email or appear at the bottom of the Amazon website page really are a stroke of brilliance. In the event industry, some organizers have offered sessions, content and programming similarly through their registration vendors. Several mobile app providers offer suggestions to users based on actions taken in the app or places visited on the trade show floor.
Tapping into the Virtual Audience
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, realized very early on that there were more buyers outside of the room than could ever fit inside the room thanks to the Internet. While business buying is different than consumer buying—it’s not that easy to sell a machine tool online—he is on to something. Although including virtual audiences in live events is still a fairly new concept in the event industry, it represents an untapped resource that organizers have yet to truly leverage.
Using Data To Grow The Business
One of the reasons that Amazon can suggest similar items to existing customers or develop new ideas (drone delivery, anyone?) is because it collects and then extrapolates data from the behaviors and preference of its existing customers. More and more organizers are using mobile apps, real-time location technologies and wearables to understand customers at a deeper level. As they evolve their data collection strategies, organizers improve their ability to grow their events.
Ubiquitous and Irresistible
In his 2005 book, “Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut,” author James Marcus describes Bezos’ desire for Amazon to become “ubiquitous and irresistible.” No doubt that is the same dream that many event organizers have. But desire isn’t all that’s required to build a multi-billion dollar business. New ideas, experimentation, long-term thinking, and risk are also essential and sometimes those fundamentals are in short supply in legacy industries.
Connecting Customers with Solutions
The fact that Amazon is an online platform is irrelevant. In fact, they recently opened up a brick-and-mortar bookstore in New York to address the preferences of millennial readers. What is obvious about Amazon is the fact that they are willing to transcend traditional thinking. To bring solutions to customers, the ultimate goal, they leverage channels online, offline and (coming soon) in the air. Event organizers would do well to think more broadly about what they offer and how they deliver it.
Amazon wasn’t built overnight. It took many years for the firm to earn a profit. Event organizers don’t have that luxury most of the time. What they do have are examples of businesses with similar goals outside the event industry. There is a reason that #eventprofs use the phrase “just like Amazon” frequently. It is both an aspiration and a game plan.