BY SUE JACKSON
solterbeck

The incentive sector should be taking advantage of mobile technology, argues Sue Jackson.

Australia has the second highest smartphone penetration in the world. Our lives are infinitely easier, with most of our day-to-day information accessible through apps and mobile optimised websites. Most leading industry analysts also project that within a few short years, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide.
Mobile is a mainstream communication reality and the incentive travel industry needs to be taking advantage of the unique opportunities mobile offers for connecting, communicating and engaging with attendees.
Smartphone apps are now being successfully used by large industry conventions such as AIME, where delegates using the app are able to do such things as navigate around the convention space, download all appropriate convention material, connect via a digital networking tool and provide feedback for organisers.
So how can we be capitalising on the smart phone revolution for incentive travel? I believe we’ll see a second evolution of smart apps and mobile optimised sites to cater for this market, and the reason for this lies in the nature of incentive travel vs conventions.
An obvious advantage for all users is portability, therefore accessibility of information, and the level of constant connectivity. But it’s the type of connectivity that smart phones enable which provides an unprecedented opportunity for the sponsoring company to connect with attendees and attendees to connect with each other, in new ways.
Incentive travel groups are typically far smaller, so attendees have some sort of initial bond (perhaps they work for the same company, own the same type of business). They will bond significantly further during their trip. They have a shared experience vs an individual convention-type experience. During the incentive trip there will be no exhibitors to meet or meetings to attend or PowerPoint slides to review. In addition there is a high level of expectation around every tiny element of the attendees’ experience. They have earned this trip – it is a reward.
This second evolution will go even further in heightening the experience of incentive travel attendees. A lot of the new development will be around socialisation, localisation and gamification. Soon we will see live chats, instant sharing of photos and game playing to engage attendees in desired behaviours. We’ll also see added features such as currency converters, city maps, attendee location tracking and integrated video.
This improvement in the nature and type of connectivity will reap benefits for the sponsoring company – particularly sales! The results of heightening the attendee experience is a lift in the desire to keep performing at a high level in order to earn a spot on the following trip, and the socialisation of this experience motivates others to equally perform.
There are, however, some other considerations regarding this mobile tool. Firstly, native apps can work when not connected to the internet, unless it is a hybrid mobile app. These hybrid mobile apps are available in the App store and/or android market but have certain features that will only display when connected to the internet. This is usually done if the app is required to link to a website’s database. And users can only view a mobile website when connected to the internet, so instant communication to and between participants becomes problematic, and potentially expensive internationally outside of free wireless areas.
Secondly, an incentive program starts way before the actual travel trip. So consideration is needed as to how apps are used to promote the whole program, not just the trip. But that’s another article.

Sue Jackson is the executive chairman of Soltebeck. Visit www.solterbeck.com for further details.

AIME 2013

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