Apple App Policy Change: Is Your Event App at Risk?

Apple App Policy Change: Is Your Event App at Risk?

Apple is setting the stage for the forthcoming release of iOS 11 this fall, which includes a complete overhaul of the App Store. Among the many updates is a small tweak to a little-known policy that, unless you were an app developer, you'd be forgiven for overlooking. Nonetheless, this small change carries with it major implications for everyone, including the meetings and events industry.

To fully understand the new App Store and its effects, we first need a little context. Every single app—from that ride sharing app you can’t live without, to Silicon Valley's next big thing—must be vetted and meet Apple’s rigorous review guidelines before being accepted into the App Store. One of the criteria used to judge potential apps is uniqueness of design. Apps that fail to meet Apple's “uniqueness” test are rejected. This has always been Apple's policy, but until now, it has been lightly enforced.

With the release of iOS 11, Apple wants to make searching the App Store faster and more user-friendly. To do so, they will no longer consider an app’s content and branding alone as sufficient to meet their uniqueness policy. This change will streamline the App Store user experience by consolidating the app listings and by limiting the number and types of apps that get accepted in the future.

This change in policy will have a unique impact on the meetings and events industry and the many mobile apps that are utilized by event organizers and attendees. This is because many of the apps that we use every day are what we in technology call reskins—or mobile apps that look different on the consumer-facing side, but the internal source code is actually exactly the same.

Reskinned apps often include mobile apps for hotels, restaurants, bands, musicians, handyman services, schools, charities, religious organizations, transportation providers, cable and streaming content providers, local radio and television stations, and, yes, events. These apps cover Apple’s entire App Store spectrum, and though we may consider them as unique, Apple does not.

What this means for meetings and events:

In response to this policy change, many industries will have to adjust the way they deliver mobile experiences to their customers. For the meetings and events industry, the value of providing a customized mobile experience to you, your planners, and your attendees hasn't changed. Your attendees still expect the same rich mobile event experience, so finding a solution that meets Apple’s new uniqueness guidelines, while providing a quality attendee experience, is of the utmost importance.

One strategy that some will pursue is to commission a custom built mobile app for each new event. However, these tend to be very expensive and they require constant maintenance and updates to keep them bug-free. For some organizations, the benefits of a ground-up custom app will outweigh the substantial costs—especially those that use their app year-round—but it won't be for everyone.

Rather than reinvent the wheel for each new event, most mobile event app developers will likely use what are called “container apps.” A container app is comprised of a code base that powers the app’s functionality but not the content. Once installed on a device, the user can then access an unlimited library of custom-built content packages that populate the app with images, brand elements, media and other information. For meetings and events this means that attendees will download a single app onto their device and then access each event they attend through the container app. In order to provide the most comprehensive, customized experience, these container apps are often extremely robust, have undergone advanced testing, and are proven in the field. Done right, this solution could prove quite elegant, since the end user will only have to install a single app for all their events rather than a separate app for each event.  

In the short term, the challenge facing event app designers will be to design features needed to streamline the way that attendees will browse and select their event from within the container app. Improving the available branding options within the container will also become increasingly important for both event planners and attendees.

Privacy will remain a high priority for developers. Adding security measures to the events within the container app will be needed to ensure event app content security. Developers who can pivot from their development roadmap to meet these needs will walk away winners as the industry continues to evolve.

Conclusion:

Technology is always changing. There’s a reason they call it creative destruction. Our challenge is to adjust to the shifting landscape and move ever forward. But whether you manage events or build event technology, the attendee experience is the ultimate measure of our success. To that end, there are a few steps we can take to ensure that our attendees are not negatively impacted during this time of transition:

  • It’s important that meetings and event organizers market their event apps directly to their attendees, rather than have attendees search the App Store on their own. This can be as simple as providing URLs to download the app within email and social media communications.
  • As always, education is key. Most attendees will be familiar with the impacts of Apple’s policy change as it affects many of the consumer apps they’re familiar with, but communicating with our attendees early and often about how mobile event apps are changing will help smooth the transition.

We at Cvent have met with the team at Apple extensively to ensure that we are clear on the impact of this decision and policy. We will continue to keep our customers—past, present, and future—informed on how these changes will affect them and their attendees, and provide the products and solutions that make the most sense.

Editors' Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Posted by David Quattrone

David is Chief Technology Officer at Cvent, an event software provider.

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