Cvent wants to be opportunistic about adding emerging technologies like augmented reality to its broad stable of products for event professionals. For the time being, the focus is on making its products easier to use and reducing the fragmentation that can make life more complicated for its customers.
Cvent is known for offering perhaps the most comprehensive suite of technology solutions to event professionals. One issue that comes with trying to offer everything, though, is a voluminous set of products that can be confusing to organizations and event professionals searching for a simple solution to their challenges.
At the same time, Cvent’s competitors are moving towards a model offering suites of technologies to customers instead of a variety of isolated services.
To help solve this fragmentation, Cvent now has about 1,100 engineers working on its technology stack in order to help data better flow across its products. They are also focused on developing new solutions for customers to use to enhance the attendee experience, although their strategy doesn’t involve simply developing new capabilities and throwing a new, shiny object out to the market.
Skift spoke to Cvent executives at the recent Cvent Connect 2018 convention in Las Vegas about how the company’s technology strategy has shifted in recent years. Even for a company that has in many cases cornered areas of the event technology marketplace, the need for strong adoption remains key to its forward-looking technology strategy.
“We want to be on the cutting edge, but not the bleeding edge, in the sense that we want to make sure that our technology gets mature enough that we can add new value into the event tech ecosystem, and the adoption will be there,” said David Quattrone, Cvent’s chief technology officer. “So you don’t get people that sign up for a vision and a dream that their attendees are ready to accept or handle. If it doesn’t get adopted, and then they sour on the technology. We want to make sure that we’re at that right point where we’re gonna be able to get that initial traction, to be able to continue the lament and to cross the chasm as it goes out there.”
Cvent’s leadership is also aware that such a wide variety of services can be overkill for an event planner, so it is vital to be strategic about introducing new offerings to its platform.
While other providers are pushing heavily into areas like augmented reality, Cvent is taking a more measured approach. Partly to ensure whatever tools they develop for planners work effectively with whatever other products their using, and partly to enter the market at a time when demand is strong for emerging technologies.
“Some of the things we’ll go back and forth and debate on is when exactly do we reach that tipping point for something like augmented reality or where are we there for facial recognition, or for voice-activated features, or chat-bot features, figuring out when it makes sense to put those in, so there’d be enough traction that a customer would bite on that new feature, that shiny object, but they’ll see enough value generated that they’ll continue to invest in it,” said Quattrone. “That’s where the timing all comes into it.”
Buying and Selling
Cvent, historically, has been an active buyer of smaller companies doing interesting things in the event technology space, as well. Its recent acquisitions of QuickMobile, which produces event apps, and Kapow, a platform for sourcing meeting space for small and simple events, shows it is willing to buy instead of build in certain verticals. And, of course, its merger with Lanyon in 2016 helped the company further cement its lead in scale above its competitors.
While it’s clear the largest untapped opportunity in the market is bringing smarter tools to the attendee experience, the path to get there is unclear because of a variety of issues. Personalization, which has become the new hot buzzword across nearly every sector of travel, could be particularly powerful during events; why can’t events use data and prediction to push and pull attendees toward better, more valuable experiences or interactions?
“[The opportunity is] being able to pull out what is the best next content for you at the event,” said Quattrone. “What is the best next person for you to find on the GBTA exhibitor hall floor, right? I think we can get there with some of that machine learning and artificial intelligence data over time as we get those personas. Not crossing the line in terms of that personalization is a balancing act. You have to make it optional, let people turn it on or off, or you make it very subtle where you don’t even realize some of those things are bubbling up with that content… That’s also going to be driven by that person’s interests not only in what they said they were gonna do, but also what they’re actually doing.
A more philosophical shift has taken place in the last few years as well. Using Cvent’s products can be a challenge for many, requiring training and plenty of time spent learning the minutiae of systems that may differ from service to service. There’s also the reality that attendees and organizers use very different products, each with a very different look and feel.
Its technology team is acutely aware of how the company’s fragmented set of services can alienate users, so it has ramped up its focus on user experience to provide a more cohesive experience to customers using its products.
“One of the things we’ve definitely moved towards in the past couple of years is starting from a standpoint of experience design from the start,” said Quattrone. “So taking the attendees perspective, taking the individuals perspective, and not only thinking about the functionality, but how that experience is going so we’ve invested heavily on that side of technology staffing. I think the user experience team has grown from 10 people to over 100 in last couple of years because we’re invested more and more in that space, to be able to get that adoption.”
The challenge remains of the reality that attendees and organizations use different apps, and making data and information flow seamlessly across each product. At the same time, a wider acceptance of integrating online broadcasting into events is catching on.
The melding of physical and digital in events is finally emerging in a real way, and the concerns about technology destroying the impact of face-to-face meetings seem now to have been completely overblown.
“You’re seeing a lot of firms enhance and augment face-to-face events with the virtual component,” said Brian Ludwig, Cvent’s vice president of sales. “If you think of Dreamforce or AWS, they’re broadcasting [online] now that people are engaged, and they thought it could diminish the face-to-face, but that didn’t happen. Enhancing and getting more out of it is definitely a trend that you’re gonna see continue and will pull additional audience and value for pushing that message out, so it’s not just for those people that were there.”
As the digital and physical continue to intertwine for events, it’s worth watching whether the companies innovating now are able to succeed or those who enter the market more strategical bring their existing advantages with them.
Photo credit: A photo of a cocktail reception at a Cvent corporate event. Cvent / Flickr