Visitor analytics for virtual events
Why efficient data tracking matters

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Lennart Bendix

Reading time: 07:28 minutes

‍As soon as you connect to the internet and open your web browser you are leaving your footprint in the world wide web –you are becoming a user, just like every other user that is connected to the internet. Information about your background and your behavior on the internet are collected, saved and stored. Data protection laws are in place to protect your personal data but nevertheless, it is being collected and therefore, can be used to analyze specific types of users and their behavior to improve user experience on a website and to match the right content with the right target group. Marketers are constantly improving websites, search engines, online shops and social media platforms based on the collected user data.

Data collection for virtual events

The digitalization and virtualization of events includes a great opportunity to collect event-related data for the exact same purpose:to improve the user experience on the virtual event platform and ensure that the content reaches the visitors it is addressed to. The potential of visitor data has been known even before events went digital. QR code scanning, contactless payment and RFID wristbands are just a few examples of innovative methods to analyze visitor behavior during fairs, congresses and festivals. However, for virtual events it has become so much easier to collect visitor data. Visitor data tracking is an integrated feature of any virtual event platform and is also one of the most important benefits.The challenge lies in the interpretation of collected data.

Every process of digitalization brings the benefit of easily collecting massive amounts of data, but it also goes hand in hand with the challenge of how to deal with this data. The tracking within virtual event platforms is based on well-known analytic platforms such asGoogle Analytics, Matomo and s.o. But these platforms are not specialized on event visitor data but user data.

If you look at data tracked via RFID wristbands, you could link each tracked action to one individual person. If the RFID data shows that a booth has been entered by 100 different wristbands, you can be sure that 100 visitors have entered the booth. Whether you would know which persons exactly or just the number of visitors, depends on the way of tracking.With data that has been tracked on a virtual platform it is usually not that easy. If you track the clicks to open a specific video or document, you will get information how many users have clicked on this document. But, here is the thing: one person can be various users.

The challenge of differentiating visitor and user data

Each digital visit is linked to a specific combination of location, time, device, operating system, browser, and IP address. If a user enters your virtual event platform with a new unique combination, that cannot be linked to a previous visit, they will be count as new unique user. The collected data does not contain the information, if it really is a new visiting person, only that it is a new combination.

If we look at the origin of this way of data tracking, the reason for the user focus gets clear. The goal of a website’s operator is to ensure a smooth experience on all devices, browsers and operating systems and the analysis of these combinations is required to improve the website and guarantee the best experience for all.‍

Programmers and designers of virtual event platforms also want to provide that, of course, but for you as an event organizer, the success of the event would be more important than the performance of the platform. Of course, it is nice to see that everyone has the same possibilities to access the platform, but it is only a part of an event’s success.An event can be considered successful if a considerably high number of attendees have entered the platform and the sessions. It is a success if the attendees have interacted with each other and engaged with all the content and features that were part of the event. Therefore, it is necessary to understand who and how many have entered the platform and what actions did they took inside of it. The main difference between virtual event tracking and website tracking is the focus on the people, not the use.

So, the question is, how can you filter people-oriented data from that huge block of data that is being tracked?

‍In any analytics backend the displayed data is already filtered, but it is essential to reflect how the data has been filtered before using it. If the analytics backend is already pre-filtered for an event-related data usage, it might display the correct data but probably specific data that would be important for your event is not shown or has not even been tracked. If the analytics backend is filtered website-oriented, then it is focused on users. Here you would need to adapt the filters accordingly to receive the required visitor data. The effort would be higher in that case, but therefore the data is complete.

‍What kind of data is required to measure the success of your event can vary from event to event. For some events it might be necessary to look on the overall audience at once, while for others it is important to differentiate between specific attendee types. In the planning phase for your event, in the moment when you choose a specific virtual event platform, you should already know, what kind of data you want to collect and how it will help to measure, if your event was successful in the end. Based on this, you can compare the different platforms and choose the one that provides the most efficient visitor analytics for your event.

Effective visitor data analysis

‍The key for effective analysis and interpretation of user data for virtual events lies in a strategic approach. Already in the planning phase of an event you need to define KPIs and desired values for each KPI to measure the success of your event. Data from previous, comparable events can be used as a reference, as well as general virtual event statistics. KPIs can vary from event to event but if you use similar KPIs for each event, you can compare them with each other and create long-term event strategies, based on the visitor data.

‍While the success of an event would usually be evaluated after the event, it is highly recommended to look at selected numbers already during the event. This gives you the chance to see how the overall event strategy is performing. By constantly monitoring visitor data of your event, you can react on the spot if you notice that visitors seem to struggle navigating their way through the platform to finally enter the session. Also, if you notice that an important document or video is not being noticed by the visitors, you can think of a way on highlighting it.

In comparison to in-person events, the technology for virtual events gives you more flexibility in changing parts of an event concept, based on visitor data. Use this flexibility by monitoring the data during your event to make damage control during your event.

The final analytics report

‍Once the event is in the books it is finally time for a complete and detailed visitor analytics report. This report is based on the pre-defined KPIs and shows all relevant visitor data that helps to understand if the event was the expected success or if there is still space for improvement. For event series it is recommended to additionally keep a data base with the KPIs of all events, to have a general overview and analyze patterns. For standalone events it makes sense to store the key data of the event as well, since it will help you as a reference in the planning phase of the next virtual event.

‍I want to round up this article with a direct appeal to you as an event organizer. The virtualization of events gives us the great opportunity to easily collect data which can help for future improvements. If you start thinking of visitor analytics when the event is already over, you will most likely not be able to get all the data that is required to measure your event and improve in the future. You need to define KPIs in the event planning phase, monitor first data while the event is still running, to take measures in case something is not working according to plan, and then create a final report, based on KPIs and the live visitor data to complete the visitor analytics and create your own basis for learnings and take-aways.To use collected visit or data in an efficient way, it is essential that you include the focus on it into all event phases.