05

Technology
& data driven

There are many reasons for applying technology in an organisation but at Easyfairs it always comes down to easifying the customer experience.

Technology should never be an end in itself. It is an instrument, a means to an end. It can be a wonderful, exciting and exhilarating instrument, but no more. What counts, is what you do with it. Ten years ago we decided to provide our customers with digital packages as an extension to the live events. The purpose was to allow exhibitors to optimise their participation and increase their return on investment and to allow visitors to increase their return on time. RoI and RoT are the two KPIs that really matter!

The packages are now branded EasyGo and are standardised across all of our B2B events. They keep evolving with new features and services, supported by improvements to the underlying technologies. A good example has been the introduction of the Smart Badge, which allows visitors to collect all the information they want about the products and services they are interested in, digitally. Gone are the days of carrying around paper brochures in plastic bags.

That’s good news for our visitors as well as our good friend, the environment.
The Smart Badge gives our exhibitors a state-of-the-art and ubiquitous lead-generation capability. It helps to ensure that they do not miss important visitors who come by their stand. EasyGo technology also enables us to provide real-time notifications to exhibitors when important clients or prospects enter the event venue.

When we decide to invest in a new technology, we go through a very rigorous selection test. It must always meet a number of criteria. The first of these is that it needs to integrate seamlessly with our platform, enabling us to synchronise data automatically through APIs but also to provide our users with a unified interface and experience. A second critical aspect is scalability, because we run 200 events and our needs vary through the seasons and from year to year. Cloud-based solutions mean we can scale up or scale down easily. When you consider, also, the sheer volume of structured and non-structured data that a company like Easyfairs generates, for example through web and social media clickstreams, you need more storage capacity and more processing power than can be accommodated economically in-house. The cloud and advanced technologies such as data lakes are opening up new horizons.

As we choose software that integrates easily, we can make everything work seamlessly. These are not buzzwords but a means to an end. Integration gives us a comprehensive 360° view of visitors and exhibitors, so we can better understand and fulfil their needs. We have already started the implementation of an intelligent data backbone in which the Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are brought together not only to understand visitors’ current needs but to anticipate their future wishes.

Easyfairs has built up its coherent technology landscape from scratch, using a mix of proprietary and non-proprietary software suites, because we had no clumsy legacy systems to contend with. That’s a tremendous competitive advantage. Through the MOVE (Move to Optimised Venues & Events) project that has been our focus for the past two years, we have updated all major components of our platform to state-of-the-art technologies, from CRM to ERP, from CMS to Marketing Automation, from digital catalogues to self-service platforms.

Data fuels our business

A good local shopkeeper knows his customers. He knows what they bought in the past, why they bought it, and based on this information and other insights he can predict what they will buy in the near future and, in anticipation, he will stock his shelves accordingly. Result: a good experience for the shopkeeper’s customers.

And that, in essence, describes how a company such as Easyfairs applies data science. It is no big mystery. But with the big difference that we are dealing not just with a small number of local customers but the 1,1 million visitors and 25000 exhibitors who participate in our events every year.

We already apply business intelligence to understand what happened and we are using statistical analysis to gain some insights into why it happened. But this is just a stage on a longer journey towards the full deployment of AI nirvana, when we will know what our visitors want in the future (predictive analytics) and what we should do to ensure they get it (prescriptive analytics). The journey has already started, and we are making good progress. Once again, we are looking for ways to apply these exciting new technologies to give customers a better experience, to easify participation. For example, we all know how Amazon and similar companies use predictive analytics to make recommendations for future purchases. By applying similar analytics at Easyfairs we might be able, for example, to make recommendations about which stands and products will be of most interest to visitors, and even to plot the most efficient route through the floor plan to visit them all: a better return on your time. And even better still: we can provide information about what you missed at the event (perhaps due to lack of time, or simple oversight) based on an understanding of your interests.

We will also be able to predict which of the visitors who pre- register are most likely not to show up on the day of the event and identify the appropriate communication activity or actions to make attendance easier (such as helping them to prepare their visits) and therefore more likely. Machine learning algorithms, trained using the large set of data we have accumulated over the years, will enable us to refine these recommendations and activities as more data is captured.

There are many other ways in which new digital technologies will transform the events industry in the years ahead, for example to facilitate one-click registration. All in all, the digital transformation of the events business means exciting times ahead.

These technologies will solve a lot of problems in the future, but we are happy to reassure you that they will never entirely replace humans; it is more the case that the balance will increasingly shift from gut instinct or intuition to fact-based and data-driven decision making. In our technology labs, and working with partners, we are constantly looking for more intelligent and productive ways to serve customers better while making their lives easier. Based on our research we reduced our post-event satisfaction questionnaires to three questions – we call these our 60 Second Surveys. We are now ready to reduce this still further by asking visitors to rate their satisfaction score and then invite them to state the reason for their answer in their own words. We will then apply artificial intelligence technologies like natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to analyse why customers are satisfied or dissatisfied. AI will thus enable us to turn this short feedback into positive impact.

“I see more and more BI and AI technologies that offer very interesting applications in the events industry. These are very exciting times for us technologists and data scientists.”

Marleen
Vanhee

Group Head of MIT (Marketing Intelligence & Technology)

“In the course of their journey with Easyfairs, customers generate vast amounts of data, which can tell us what they really value. Our job is to unlock that value.”

Stephan
Forseilles

Group Chief Technology Officer

Next point

Events