The past year and a half ushered in countless challenges and decision points for companies that have traditionally engaged with their customers and partners via in-person event marketing. According to Forrester, these companies put 15% of their B2B marketing budgets towards event marketing in pre-pandemic 2019, an indication of how valuable events were/are to demand generation and retention. The need to meet customers only heightened as companies navigated through the spring of 2020, and they jumped on the opportunity to connect with their customers via virtual event platforms (VEPs).
The category has since grown eight-fold, and 60% of companies saw a positive ROI within six months of a virtual event, which is significantly higher than with traditional event management platforms. It’s no wonder that corporate events teams are now embracing a hybrid model (part virtual, part live) even as restrictions subside on hosting in-person events. However, in this hybrid approach and as VEPs become a mainstay rather than a novelty, it is even more essential that the virtual experience feels as native as possible to a company’s brand and digital presence.
But this can be tough to achieve even taking into consideration the minor levels of customization afforded by VEPs. For example, a VEP may allow you to skin its web pages with your company’s basic branding—fonts and primary color palette—but these attributes alone wouldn’t allow you to mirror the front-end of the VEP to your event or corporate website. It is therefore all the more important to keep the types of customizations available in mind and especially where there can be opportunities to present attendees with moments of delight that reflect the spirit of the event and company ethos. Depending on the VEP, you may need to explore a custom-coded solution within the platform. Investing in this effort can be a key factor in creating a cohesive event experience. For instance, it's important to create a seamless transition between the event website and VEP so that attendees feel as if they are navigating one experience. Accomplishing that transition involves, at the very least, tailoring the layout and components in the VEP to match a company's UI guidelines and embedding a matching navigation configurable via content management system.
The rapid proliferation and adoption of these VEPs along with their measurable ROI is a key indication that they will be a cornerstone of event marketing strategies moving forward. As the platforms mature, and as virtual and hybrid events continue to be the norm, attendees will increasingly expect the virtual component to feel natural and branded, and to achieve some element of the wow factor that makes in-person experiences interesting. Once this happens at scale, it does beg the question how much we will see the hybrid event model transition back into a virtual one especially as the digital experience develops into an intrinsic reflection and projection of a company.