Bizzabo, Cvent and Hubb topped an inaugural comparison report on B2B marketing events management solutions released this month by Forrester Research. The research company reviewed 14 providers based on 28 criteria, with those three coming out on top as industry “leaders.” Kaltura and RainFocus came in next as “strong performers.” Other categories included “contenders” and “challengers.”
While several more providers in the space are vying for customers, Forrester set inclusion criteria for companies in order to be considered for evaluation. Among them, B2B needed to be a certain portion of their business, with clients that conducted both physical and virtual events on their platform, and they were required to have met a revenue threshold in 2019.
“We looked at 2019 numbers because that is the last time things were normal, and we wanted to get an apples-to-apples comparison,” Forrester VP and principal analyst and co-author of the report Laura Ramos told BTN. “That’s why Hopin didn’t make the cut,” she added, referring to a newer provider that recently received $400 million in funding.
The three solutions that comprise the leaders category “all demonstrated the ability to handle both physical and digital to different degrees, and they all did well across all of the features with some really innovative capabilities in some regards,” Ramos said. “We also were impressed with not only the way they were growing as companies but [also with] their vision for the future and their partner ecosystem and their marketing differentiation.”
Top Three Reviews
The report includes pros and cons for each of the 14 solutions reviewed. For the top three, Forrester gave Bizzabo high marks for its modern architecture and clean user interface, and noted that after receiving $138 million in a 2020 funding round, it is “well positioned to blend physical and virtual interactions into hybrid events that perform reliably.” However, the report noted that Bizzabo needs to “address gaps in physical event requirements, such as venue sourcing; travel and accommodations; budget management; and seamless handling of ad hoc, sales or interpersonal meetings—instead of relying on partners to deliver this today.”
Cvent received kudos for being “laser-focused” on attendee management and logistics, and that its registration processes, event production, training and customer services “stand apart.” It also accelerated integrations with video content management and online meeting partners to help clients pivot 70,000 physical events to virtual events during the pandemic. To keep pace with other competitors, “Cvent will need to address relative weaknesses in remote attendee engagement features, such as gamification and social media interaction, networking and platform user experiences,” according to Forrester.
Hubb secured its first funding round in 2016 and grew rapidly “by offering immersive 3D digital experiences that set its virtual events apart from those on webinar or online meeting platforms,” according to Forrester. The report noted that Hubb “shines” in all areas of attendee engagement, including audience participation features, recommendations on networking, and facilitated brainstorming. Hubb needs, however, to “build a broad ecosystem of creative design and marketing partners to continue to delight marketing teams whose expectations will change from delivering differentiated virtual events to creating experiences that foster person-to-person engagement.”
Forrester in the report predicted that hybrid experiences will continue to dominate marketing events into and after 2021, and recommended that customers for these solutions should look for providers that handle hybrid events flawlessly, help event teams manage speakers and content in one intuitive interface, and treat remote and in-person attendees equally across the globe.
Before selecting a provider, buyers should be approach the market with clarity, Ramos said, starting with the event’s purpose. “Why are you doing the corporate meeting? And has that changed since the pandemic and things can only be remote at this point,” she said. Further, she added, planners should know about their audience, the value the audience would receive from the events, and whether there is an alternative way to provide that value other than a meeting. Planners then should decide how they’ll define the success of the event, specify the business outcomes they expect to deliver, and assess how to design the event experience around the answers to those questions. Only at that point, she said, should planners attempt to identify a solution partner.
An Evolving Market
The market continues to expand, but several players coming into the space are not providing a sufficient experience, Ramos said. “If you are going to create an online experience that gets to some level of parity with being there in person, there needs to be a whole lot more emphasis on how we involve and engage those remote audience attendees, so that they feel like they are part of an event and not just [having] a bunch of content being presented, and [they] have the ability to do some of the networking and matchmaking and serendipitous kinds of things that happen when you’re there in person,” she said. “This market needs to evolve, and the areas it needs to evolve in are interactivity, one-to-one and one-to-few interactions and engagement, and the level of production quality.”
In addition to the inclusion criteria, Forrester gathered additional product and strategy information via a detailed questionnaire, demos and briefings, and customer reference surveys and interviews. The materials reviewed by the research analysists were provided by Dec. 1, 2020.