Data is a key differentiator when it comes to virtual events. Because virtual and hybrid events are hosted online, you’re able to harness vast amounts of participant and engagement data that can then be easily integrated into existing digital marketing and sales operations.
Analytics gleaned from engagement data allow you to not only evaluate event performance in the effort of designing future events to be even more effective, but also to identify high-intent leads and properly segment your post-event follow-up with participants.
Keep reading to learn how virtual events give you a clear advantage when it comes to first-party data, and for tips on how to most effectively use the data you collect.
The Third-Party Data Past
Formerly, virtual events involved working with multiple third-party solutions for everything from registration, to streaming, to chat. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated this trend as pivots to virtual events happened quickly and—by virtue of circumstance—with little preparation. Marketers still had quarterly and annual goals to meet, so they often went live with a mismatched slate of digital solutions to replace in-person events.
This forced marketers and event producers to have to collect data from multiple parties (e.g., one provider for chat, one for registration, another for live sessions, etc.), which was time consuming, and then combine that data into usable information, which was even more time consuming.
Not only is this process cumbersome and inefficient, but it’s also at odds with the rise of data privacy regulations—like GDPR, CCPA, etc.—which put limits on the sharing of third-party user data.
This ad-hoc solution of cobbling together various providers to execute a virtual events strategy is simply unsustainable. As third-party data quickly becomes a thing of the past, you need to get smart about how to effectively collect first-party data within a centralized event platform.
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The First-Party Data Future—Today
First-party data is the data that you and your organization collect directly from participants and their activities in your virtual environment. It’s your path to getting a 360° story about your customer from the moment they register for your event through their participation in it and beyond.
This data includes both self-reported data (e.g., the information they provide when registering for your virtual event) and data collected in the background through their participation (e.g., sessions attended, number of seconds of video watched, emoji reacts during live events, etc.).
Because the picture you can paint with first-party data can be so comprehensive, it is increasingly the foundation of a marketing and virtual event strategy.
Some of the things first–party data from virtual events can help you do include:
- Creating a fully customized experience for attendees based on the information they provide
- Leveraging engagement data to select, edit, and refine content for future events
- Determining the best times to hold live sessions on certain topics
- Identifying highly-engaged participants for marketing and sales follow-up
- Using watch-time to chapter recorded content to help VoD participants find what they’re looking for faster
But working with first-party data requires some special considerations around privacy, collection, compliance, and usage.
Choosing A Virtual Events Solution That Provides First-Party Data
Of course, as much as you want first party-data, you probably don’t want to build a virtual event environment from scratch. Luckily, you don’t have to. Instead, you’ll need to find a solution that offers all the event features you’re looking for in one place. You’ll also need to be able to deploy it in a way that allows you to be responsible for data and data collection from your attendees.
What should you look for in a solution?
Features that will help you maximize the data you collect and what you can do with that information.
- A registration process that allows you to decide what type of information to collect from attendees. Name and contact information are just a place to start.
- Live and video on demand (VoD) capacity for your event. Users who attend live and users who watch content on their own time often show different patterns of engagement. In order to reach both audience groups – and collect their data – your virtual events solution must have both options available.
- Text-based chatrooms also provide a great way to measure user engagement and get feedback both during and after your event.
- Interactive features like live polling and emoji reactions can also help you understand what your audience is looking for and help you refine your ability to provide it
- A range of ways to measure attendee engagement. It’s not just about how many videos have been watched. Truly robust attendee data and help you determine if people are watching events in a primary or background video window, if they have the sound up, what time of day yield the most attention, and more.
You should also look for a solution that makes working with data easy and intuitive. Be sure your virtual events provider can give you:
- Finely sliced data (e.g., by participant type, session type, time of day, region, etc.) to help you understand – and prevent – audience drop off.
- Meaningful ways to aggregate data and users into groups based on event engagement and other behavior. You’ll want to be able to understand trends, as well as react to individual patterns of behavior. A follow-up email to a highly engaged event attendee may be different than one to a registered attendee who only viewed a single session.
- The ability to transmit data in multiple formats so that you can easily integrate it into your current tools and reporting mechanisms.
First-Party Data and Virtual Events: The Takeaway
If you don’t make data a priority in your virtual events strategy, you’re leaving valuable insights on the table that can bring efficiency and exactness to every aspect of your marketing and sales operations. Be sure to partner with a Virtual Events vendor that can not only deliver standout experiences to your attendees, but also equip you with a rich dataset to inform your strategies.
On-Demand Webinar: Strategies to Engage Virtual Events Audiences