ON24: The trend to virtual events is not reversible

ON24 launches Conversion Tools to put intent data in the hands of SDRs.

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ON24, the digital experience platform focused on virtual events and webinars, today announced the launch of ON24 Conversion Tools, a set of solutions designed to support insights into buying signals and enable sales teams to prioritize and personalize interactions with leads. These tools join the existing set of ON24 Engagement Tools which track audience engagement with virtual content through polls, surveys, Q&A, etc.

The demand for virtual. With new opportunities evidently being created for virtual experience vendors, we asked Sharat Sharan, co-founder and President-CEO, for his reflections on the current environment. “In these unfortunate times, when the physical world has gone on pause,” he said, “you have organizations which need to generate pipeline and demand, and that has driven momentum for our company — but the core of what we do continues to be the same.”

Has the growing demand for remote experiences been overwhelming? “The demand has been very strong, let’s put it that way,” said Sharan. “We will do hundreds of thousands of live experiences and webinars this year.” There has been a significant increase in business over 2019, he said.

ON24 Conversion Tools. ON24 tracks what Sharan calls “the digital body-language” of event attendees, which can then be converted into actionable data. “Now that more and more prospects are self-educating in B2B,” he said, “and using our platform for that, what we’ve added is more buying intent signals — for example, if they’re ready to book a meeting with a salesperson or they want to book a demo — and we’re incorporating those buying intent signals into the larger platform that we have.” This also enables much clearer attribution of buying intent.

The data can be driven into a marketing automation or CRM system, and made available to SDRs in close to real time. This reflects the continuing shift towards a B2C-type experience within B2B, said Sharan. “It’s close to an eCommerce experience: ‘I’ve taken his action, I’m ready now to engage with sales.'”

Accelerating changes. It was already evident that physical events are expensive and hard to scale. Will this shift to virtual events persist, once in-person events become possible again? “It’s not rocket science to realize that customer engagement has basically moved online.” said Sharan. “We’re all looking forward to physical events coming back, but the trend towards more online customer engagement has been accelerated, and that is going to continue. I don’t think it’s a reversible trend.”

Read: Marketers hopeful for late 2021 in-person conferences

One option Sharan hears customers discussing is “hybrid events.” “As soon as we can do it, we are probably going to take our Webinar World conference back to physical, but we may have an adjunct which will be the virtual part.” Customers are also asking for more networking and more human engagement. “We are incorporating that into our product, but the core of what we are doing doesn’t change.”

Why we care. The accelerated evolution of the digital experience and event space could hardly be more evident. The question is whether the acceleration will be reversed if and when the pandemic ebbs. ON24 is well-positioned to have a point of view on that, and is continuing to develop its platform.

About the author

Kim Davis
Kim Davis is currently editor at large at MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for almost three decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Shortly thereafter he joined Third Door Media as Editorial Director at MarTech.

Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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