Act One: Helping the Events Industry Survive Beyond COVID-19

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As the dust from the COVID-19 lockdown shows signs of slowly settling, we are forced to take stock of the carnage that the pandemic has caused to various industries. Among the most battered has been the events industry. The sector, which relies on crowds of people for its very existence, has been forced to shut its doors and cancel its functions due to the worldwide Coronavirus crisis and the resulting lockdown regulations, which include social distancing.

This has led to thousands of job losses and billions in revenue lost to the economy. The situation has become so tenuous that, according to certain reports, the South African events industry may not survive the next 100 days.

In the paragraphs that follow, we will take a look at the scale of the damage to the events industry, both on an international and local level. We will also consider the current efforts being made to save the events industry and offer up some ideas to help this sector survive the crisis and hopefully get back to where it once was.

Diving into the events industry numbers

The actual scale of the damage caused to the worldwide events industry is quite difficult to calculate. The reason for this is that the industry comprises of many parts (concerts and live events, sporting events, etc), each recording their own losses. Add to this the fact that so many other industries rely on the events industry, and the losses escalate even further.

It is not just the event organisers and marketing teams that stand to lose. There are the riggers, sounds engineers, artists, suppliers, deisgners, and so the list goes on. Then there is the travel and tourism industry that has also been hit hard by the cancellation of events.. 

Here are a few global stats that paint a grim picture for the events industry. In the UK, VisitBritain has estimated that the events industry will lose up to £58 billion this year. More than 85% of business event professionals have indicated that they have had to cancel events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Things are even worse in the US market. With major events like Coachella being postponed and SXSW being cancelled, the US concert industry alone stands to lose up to $9 billion. Exhibitions, which generate upwards of $135 billion, also stand to take a major hit.

On the local front, the South African events industry is teetering on the brink. The sector, which regularly hosts more than 10 000 events and generates more than R26 billion in revenue, is set for massive losses this year. As the industry is considered to be non-essential, the recent easing of restrictions has had little to no impact on this sector. Crowds of 50 or less and the prohibition of gatherings at major events mean that the industry is limited in the ways that revenue can be generated.

As a result, event marketing companies have been forced to postpone many events or cancel them outright. This has led to job losses on an unimaginable scale. In recent weeks, movements such as #LightSAred have emerged to draw attention to the plight of the events industry and its tens of thousands of workers.

It’s time to change things up!

To survive the pandemic, the events industry has had to undergo a major mindset shift.

Event marketers are having to think outside the box as they plan events going forward. Taking into account the fact that we may be dealing with the effects of the Coronavirus for some time to come, organisers will need to account for health issues, adhere to stringent safety protocols, and even be ready to limit attendance to comply with social distancing regulations. One of the ways that has been adopted to combat these stringent restrictions has been via the use of virtual events and live streaming.

Taking live events online

With so many events being cancelled, many organisers have taken to producing virtual events. Physical concerts have been transformed into live streaming events. Companies are now selling live event tickets to consumers who will then be able to enjoy the experience of viewing their favourite events, virtually, from the safety of their own homes.

From sports events to fashion shows, more and more organisations are embracing live streaming events and are doing everything in their power to enhance and improve the viewer’s experience.

There are plenty of benefits to taking an event online for organisers.

For starters, the cost implications are much lower, which means higher profit margins for event organisers.

Secondly, companies will be able to market events to a far wider audience than ever before, as they will not be limited by venue capacity restrictions. Live streaming events can be shown across different platforms, giving viewers the freedom to choose.

Thirdly, companies will be able to collect all sorts of valuable data, such as the number of viewers who tuned in, the number of times the events page was accessed, and so on. 

There are, however, several drawbacks to the virtual events concept. One of the biggest challenges faced by event organisers is the selling of live event tickets through third-party ticketing platforms and the potential loss of revenue that this poses. Live event customers will procure a ticket, which arrives as a link. Customers can then forward the link onto their friends, who get to enjoy the online streaming event without actually paying for it. This means a loss of revenue for the event organizer, at a time when they are already struggling.

Another challenge is the drop off rate that some events face due to the often complicated process of buying tickets from one platform than having to go to another platform to apply a code, a password, and only then get access to the event.

That being said, despite the challenges, virtual events do provide a viable option for companies looking to generate revenue. And with proper development and investment, organisers will be able to use these sorts of solutions long after the pandemic is over.

A marketable solution

More and more, orga­nisers, performers, artists and musicians are turning to online solutions to host live events, several solutions have been made available. One such example is that provided by UBU International. While there might be other options available, UBU International offers a frictionless experience where the entire process, from searching for an event to booking tickets and then participating in the event itself all happen within one app, from the safety and convenience of a mobile phone. What’s more, thanks to UBU collaborating with Enterprise partners who already have large established audiences, those looking to take their performances online will have access to this highly engaged potential customer base.  One of the issues that the UBU platform resolves is that of third-party ticketing firms. Not only will customers be able to use a single vehicle to search for events and buy tickets, but they will also be able to enjoy their entertainment from within the same app, making it a totally frictionless experience. Through its easy-to-use mobile wallet, organisers will never need to worry about setting up a payment system, as UBU does all the leg work for them. An added bonus is that when customers buy tickets to a live streaming event, they will only be able to stream the event from the UBU platform on their specific device – there is no link sharing capability.

We are committed to ensuring that the event industry is resurrected from the near-death it is currently experiencing and that those who utilise the platform to share events get full value for their event. As part of this, to encourage customer engagement and participation, UBU creates plenty of incentive for customers to purchase tickets through their mobile app with instant cashback rewards on every purchase made via the platform.

The show MUST go on

We understand the difficulties that the events industry currently faces. The current pandemic has hit this industry in a big way, and the road to recovery will be a long and tough one. For the industry to survive, it needs to embrace digital transformation.

The live streaming event concept is growing every day and organisations that strive to build exciting and engaging viewer experiences around these live events will no doubt have a fighting chance of survival.

By partnering with UBU International to market and sell live event tickets, organisers will derive maximum value from their ticket sales and consumers will have a seamless experience from start to finish. In UBU, organisers will also find a company committed to helping them through these tough times.

It’s time for the events industry to face the future and go digital! If you’re keen to learn more, visit our UBU for Business page, or contact our team who are happy to chat and tell you more.

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