We've just launched our new email marketing platform!
Learn more
February 27, 2023

Aloompa's Drew Burchfield on Festival Apps, Increasing Onsite Spending and Maximizing the Audience Experience

Aloompa Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Drew Burchfield built his first festival app in 2009, two years after the launch of the iPhone.

He’d cold-called the organizers of Bonnaroo – whose lineup that year included the Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails and Bon Iver – and sold them on the idea of an electronic replacement for their festival program.

Upon delivering it, he was paid the princely sum of 10 festival passes.

“We were very grateful for the opportunity to start there,” he smiles. “It grew from there – we worked with a handful of events in 2009, and now it's hundreds around the world.”

Taking its name from the Oompa Loompas in 1971's Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory movie – specifically the Mike TV scene, in which a giant chocolate bar is zapped into a million pieces and shrunk to the size of a modern day iPhone – Aloompa now counts amongst its clients festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza and Rock in Rio, as well as sporting events such as The Los Angeles Marathon and organizations such as the US Air Force, ESPN and Live Nation.

Here, Burchfield discusses the marketing and ticket-selling benefits of updating a festival app all year round, best practices for push notifications, the technology that contributes to a staggering rise in onsite spending, and more…

How are you seeing the really smart operators use festival apps as part of their marketing?

We see the more successful ones providing exclusive content within the app, whether that be the lineup, or contesting, or access to certain experiences. Because ultimately the value in an app is going to be growing the audience, growing the asset’s value for sponsorship, and/or selling more tickets and creating more of a connection between you and the fans.

Once festivals have an engaged audience on the app, does that then become a tool for selling upgrades and VIP packages?

The app is advantageous in a few different scenarios. Particularly as we think about upgrading and VIP, that's where we've seen probably the most success in the app, utilizing some post-primary ticket commerce tools that we have that allow people to have access to that primary experience, but then there's quite a few secondary experiences that can be marketed too.

We’ve had a handful of events, and a few artists as well, that will provide presale codes exclusively within the app that will drive ticketing and drive engagement.

Ultimately, it's because the app is an asset to the event, just like the real estate for a sponsor renting a tent on site is an asset. You want to drive as many eyeballs into that asset as you can, because it will effectively become more valuable.

What kind of data can you mine from a festival app to attract sponsors?

It starts out with pretty basic information. It's what fans are doing within the app, what people are adding to their schedule – that’s one of the first features we created in the very first app we did for Bonnaroo back in 2009, a My Schedule feature. The ability to pin the things that you want to go see, so that you can schedule, anticipate, get reminders, things like that.

So we can track that on an aggregate level. Event producers and talent bookers have used that over the years, because a lot of time you will get that data well in advance of the festival.

So what tends to have happened over the years is that an artist will actually break in between when they book them and when the festival happens. So you'll see this huge spike in people adding it to their schedule. I've actually seen artists [moved] to a different stage because of that data.

Beyond that, geolocation data is a huge component of what we do. So, tracking where attendees go, when they got to an event, when they left, what food vendor they ate at, which artists they attended, things like that.

And the other components are really around collecting first party data on behalf of the event. So, name, email, phone number… through a variety of different experiences, we have a handful of features that facilitate signing up for the newsletter, contest form, win tickets for next year, things like that. And then we've got some components that are around order ahead for merch and beer that has data collection on it as well.

From a brand perspective, those are the things that matter at the end of the day – it's going to be footfall, real tangible engagement, and then that attendee data that they choose to give.

"Geolocation data is a huge component of what we do. So, tracking where attendees go, when they got to an event, when they left, what food vendor they ate at, which artists they attended, things like that."

If someone doesn’t use that mobile ordering technology when buying food and beverage, how can you track which vendors they’ve visited?

So there's a lot you can infer from where people stand, how long they stand there. And the modern smartphone has quite a few capabilities to track user’s location with their permission. So, we present the user the option, and then the pros and cons of enabling it, and many people do enable it these days.

And then on the back end, we can actually see, okay, this group of people stood around this area for this period of time, and we can make some inferences based on that – how much they spent eating, but not necessarily at a specific vendor. A lot of events care about the categorical spend of time.

Going back to the mobile ordering capability, do you have any statistics on how that impacts on site spending?

What we found with 'order ahead' is that [people are] able to increase their consumption across a whole day by about 30 to 40%.

One of the problems [at festivals] is that you have to wait in the [food and beverage] queue for sometimes 20 to 30 minutes. And if there is a beer cap – which there typically is at these events, many times two or four beers – I'm going to grab all of those so that I don't have to get back in line and wait.

Mobile 'order ahead' is so quick, and because I can use Apple Pay and Google Pay and just buy really quickly and then immediately walk up and go get [my drinks], instead of purchasing two to four beers, many people are just purchasing one, but going back more frequently, and rolling from one bar to the next because they can travel across the festival and know that they have this consistent experience. It's better to have the consistent experience of the quick part versus the consistent 20 to 30 minutes in the queue line.

"What we found with 'order ahead' is that [people are] able to increase their consumption across a whole day by about 30 to 40%."

Are there any other functions within the app that can impact onsite spending or revenue in general?

We have a very immersive map feature that allows the event to showcase, and the attendee to find, anything that is of importance. And that could be hundreds, or sometimes thousands of vendors, it could be sponsor opportunities, it could be premium food and beverage areas, it could be retail experiences, pop ups going on at that particular event.

So many times, just having access to the information and the ability for fans to be able to understand and plan what they want to explore will naturally give an aggregate boost to people's awareness on what's going on.

[With] the large footprints of these events, education is the biggest thing. Most of the events are really trying to get people to move around and do different things. And we have a scavenger hunt feature that allows events to spread QR codes around, and when you complete the scavenger hunt you get enter to win or you win, which encourages fans to move around the footprint and get more experience with the festival.

Many times it's paired with a brand. So we've got a lot of engagement and gamification features like that that encourage movement. But a lot of that happens with just good education, good content input into the app, and let the fans kind of plan their experience.

You mentioned that festival organizers have moved artists to different stages based on data from their app. What other ways are festivals using their data to tailor the experience for the fan?

A lot of the features that we built over the years have been targeted to giving the fan as much detailed information as we possibly can. And then giving the event producers as many signals as we can as to the quality of the things that they're providing.

One example that we've done in the past is with food vendors – for many years we had the ability for fans to review the various food vendors, and we had many, many events choose not to renew a food vendor and replace them with someone else because of the reviews.

But I would say our geolocation technology probably has the biggest influence on footfall and how they're going to arrange things. I think the physical arrangement of the event has been greatly influenced by how much of the data that the app can collect on where people are going, what they're doing, where they congregate, things like that.

What’s the optimal time in the lead up to an event for organizers to really start engaging with their community through the app?

The lead up time is going to be at least six months before the event, [as well as] the days after the event ends.

Many events will announce their following year’s [dates] through the app, because they've got that engaged audience. They'll do it on that Sunday night or that Monday before people start moving on to other things.

And I would say, if you've got the existing asset, that's a huge way to start peppering in like, ‘Hey, here are the dates, we're going to be communicating the next component as it goes forward.’

"Many events will announce their following year’s [dates] through the app, because they've got that engaged audience."

And a lot of fans are searching for these apps, because they have an expectation that they're going to be there. So if you don't have something in the market, and are not communicating in a consistent way, then when people download that app, if it's six months in advance, the last thing we want is the attendee to feel that brand is dead until the event happens.

So we've created a bunch of new features recently that allow you to change the app’s look and feel based on the event lifecycle. So, you can actually change the user interface, you can have it be primarily focused on selling tickets in the beginning phase, then it can move into anticipation. And then you can flip it into an onsite mode once people are getting closer to on site.

And that's all about app updates, which is quite a big evolution in the app world. Usually, you had to do app updates for small changes like that, now we can be fully compatible with that event lifecycle. For the same price you would pay for what many events considered a show expense, now it can be utilized all year round.

What are the best practices for using push notifications through the festival app?

I would say best practices for push is, allowing the fans to opt in to certain categories of push notifications that they want, so that you can program those appropriately.

So we provide and allow for fans to self-select categories on the front end that the producers get to define. And that’s usually schedule changes, emergencies, sponsor related opportunities, things like that. But I would say amidst those categories, making those messages as targeted as possible.

There are opportunities that allow for high segmentation in our platform. So you can send messages to people who schedule certain artists, liked a certain artist, you can point them to specific content and things like that.

"There are opportunities that allow for high segmentation in our platform. So you can send messages to people who schedule certain artists, liked a certain artist, you can point them to specific content and things like that."

And I would say that the geolocation component of push notifications allows us to get even more targeted. So a lot of times, events want to program quite a lot of notifications. And the sponsors are going to want to program many more than a fan should ever get.

And so the more targeted and more segmented that you can provide those notifications it will kind of guarantee that you or I won't get more than 10 or 20 across the whole event because they're so targeted. So targeted, segmented based on behavior or geolocation are the top ways to [use push notifications]. That allows you to program tons of content.

But yeah, push notifications is a very dynamic, very critical part of an event. And having a provider or someone that you work with that can allow you to do that segmentation is pretty key.

Follow Aloompa here, and on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.



Want more?

Click here to subscribe for updates. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn & YouTube

Article by
Rod Yates

Rod is the Marketing Content Manager at Audience Republic. He was previously the editor of Rolling Stone Australia and Kerrang! Australia. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich once sent him a toaster – which was very thoughtful of him.