Two Recent Surveys of Marketing Professionals Shed Light on Trends in Virtual Events

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Plus a study soon to be released looking at the barriers of adoption to 3D immersive virtual worlds for business.

ON24 and Unisfair recently conducted studies seeking to understand how marketing professionals were planning to use various marketing and collaboration technologies. While the Unisfair survey found that 48% of the respondents planned to increase their use of virtual event solutions. The ON24 study identified some of the drivers for that kind of growth, with cost savings leading the way and time savings close behind. This was a multiple choice question so some of the options we’d like to see weren’t offered but the Unisfair research shed additional light on marketer’s priorities. Not surprisingly, new customer acquisition followed by customer retention lead the marketers’ initiative list. These are two functions that virtual events are very well suited for.

Virtual events are proven lead generation techniques that are both effective and efficient. Eric Myers of Quest Software has built a sophisticated lead tracking and qualification system and he notes virtual events are among the best producing lead generation activities they have found. Going beyond lead generation though, companies like Quest are using virtual events to expand awareness of products and solutions to existing customers as well as utilizing the events to demonstrate their expertise and establish their team of experts as thought leaders in their market. These lower cost marketing solutions offer companies a way to stay in front of their customers and build relationships.

72% of marketers said they “are equally confident communicating virtually and in person” so when the budget only allows for virtual marketing and meetings, marketers are comfortable knowing they can convey their message as well as receive the communication back from their audience. Several recent studies including American Express Travel’s survey of CFOs have found the projection for business travel will remain low. Over 70% of travel managers are projecting a decrease in travel so virtual event and meeting solutions will continue to be in high demand. Another factor that may continue to fuel growth is touched on in the ON24 study where they found over 80% of marketers felt that the environmental benefits of virtual events were somewhat or very important to their companies. The global interest in global warming is just starting to heat up again and with the U.S. moving forward on Cap and Trade, pressure is sure to increase across business to lower carbon and travel, especially air travel, will likely be an area of focus.

According to the Unisfair study, lack of understanding of what it takes to organize a virtual event is what is holding back an even more robust adoption of virtual event and virtual meetings. “Clearly there is a need to further educate marketers,” notes Vance McCarthy an analyst for the Virtual Edge Institute. “But it is not just marketers; it is the whole event and meeting industry ecosystem of event and meeting planners, production companies as well as the corporate executives and business managers. We are still surprised at the number of business people we talk to that haven’t been to a virtual event. We do see that changing and picking up momentum.”

These studies likely addressed a segment of the virtual events space served by companies such as ON24, Unisfair, InXpo, 6Connex, Stream57, etc. because a report soon to be released by ThinkBalm covering the 3D immersive virtual worlds for business was less optimistic for growth in the current environment. The study, “Crossing the Chasm, One Implementation at a Time

How Advocates and Implementers Are Overcoming Barriers to Adoption of Immersive Technologies in the Workplace” is a sobering look at the barriers to adoption of current 3D virtual worlds. We plan to report on that study as soon as it is released but challenges include:

  • An array of software, hardware, and network bandwidth issues.
  • The tug of war between security and access.
  • Non-gamers who struggle with the user interface.
  • Financial barriers.
  • Making a strong business case.
  • Finding a champion among decision makers.

The report offers good strategies to address these issues while noting that larger scale adoption of 3D immersive virtual worlds is still largely confined to early adopter enthusiasts.

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