September 12, 2023

Event Metrics & ROI

Virtual Event ROI: How to Measure Event Success


Ashley Levesque

Learn how to calculate virtual event ROI and evaluate your event's performance with our guide.


Virtual Event ROI: How to Measure Event Success

According to Brand Essence Research, in 2020, the global virtual events market was valued at $75.21 Billion. By 2027, it's expected to reach $366.5 Billion. Virtual events offer unparalleled opportunities to connect with a global audience, engage and build relationships with that audience, and convert and retain that audience. However, to truly capitalize on these advantages, you need to not only measure ROI from digital marketing efforts, but you need to specifically measure the return on investment (ROI) of your virtual events. This guide will walk you through the essential steps to measure the success of your virtual events and ensure you're getting the most out of your digital marketing efforts.

Set Specific and Measurable Goals

Before diving into your virtual event metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), it's crucial to establish clear, specific, and measurable goals for your virtual event. These goals should align with your overall marketing and business objectives, and should be set well before the event planning process. Whether you aim to increase brand awareness in a new vertical, increase customer retention, or drive new sales, defining your goals upfront will provide a framework for measuring success later.

Consider these examples:

Goal 1: Expand Brand Awareness in a New Vertical

Imagine you run a software company that primarily serves the healthcare industry. You have developed a new software solution tailored to the education sector and want to introduce it to a broader audience. In this case, your virtual event's goal could be:

Goal: Increase brand awareness in the education sector by generating 500 new and qualified leads over the course of two virtual events.

This goal is specific (increase brand awareness in the education sector), measurable (500 new and qualified leads), and time-bound (over two virtual events). To measure success, you would track the number of leads generated from each event (event KPI), and assess the quality of these leads to ensure they fit your target audience in the education sector.

Goal 2: Enhance Customer Retention and Engagement

Suppose you operate a subscription-based streaming service and are concerned about retaining existing customers. You decide to host an on-demand virtual customer appreciation event aimed at boosting engagement and reducing churn. Your goal might look like this:

Goal: Reduce churn rate by 10% over the next six months through a series of exclusive virtual customer events.

This goal is also specific (customer retention/ reduction in churn), measurable (10% reduction in churn rate), and time-bound (six months). To measure success, you would regularly monitor the churn rate (event KPI) among the existing customers that attend your virtual customer events.

Choose the Right Virtual Event Platform

Selecting the right virtual event platform is a critical decision that can significantly impact your ability to measure ROI. Demio, for instance, offers features like advanced event data and analytics, attendee engagement data and insights, and integrations with CRM systems, making it a powerful choice for ROI-driven online events. Make sure the platform you choose provides the tools necessary to track and analyze virtual event success.

For example, with Demio's event engagement tracking, you can monitor attendee interactions and engagement during your webinars, such as how long they were focused, which questions they asked, how they responded in polls, and how many handouts they downloaded. These metrics can be valuable in qualifying your attendees and identifying buying intent.

Calculate Costs Associated with the Event

To measure ROI accurately, you must account for all costs associated with your virtual event. Here are some common costs to consider:

1. Platform fees: Virtual event platforms often charge a fee to host the event. This fee can vary based on the number of attendees, features required, and duration of the event.
2. Speaker or performer fees: If you have guest speakers or performers participating in your virtual event, they may charge a fee for their time and expertise.
3. Marketing and promotion: Consider the costs associated with promoting your virtual event, such as social media advertising, email marketing, or paid partnerships with influencers.
4. Tech equipment and software: Virtual events require a reliable internet connection, cameras, microphones, and other technical equipment. You may need to purchase or rent this equipment, as well as invest in software for live streaming, virtual meetings, and interactive features.
5. Event management and production: If you need assistance with event planning or event production you may need to hire professionals or agencies, which will incur cost. These hires can range from event organizers/event planners to UX/UI design to branding.
6. Content creation: Developing engaging content for your virtual event may require hiring copywriters, scriptwriters, or content creators, which may have associated costs.
7. Customer support: If you anticipate a high volume of attendees, you might need to provide customer support during the event. This can include hiring support staff or outsourcing to a customer service provider.
8. Event registration and ticketing: If you are charging for your virtual event, you may need to consider the associated costs of using an event registration and ticketing platform, which often take a percentage of the ticket sales.
9. Additional features: Depending on the complexity of your virtual event, you may incur costs for additional features like breakout rooms, networking sessions, or virtual exhibitor booths.
10. Event experiences: Maybe part of your event is a happy hour where you send a bottle of wine to each attendee. Be sure you’re including all costs related to the wine itself and the shipping.
10. Miscellaneous costs: Don't forget to consider any other miscellaneous costs related to your specific event, such as shipping fees for event materials, translation services, or legal services for contracts and agreements.

There are a ton of best practices for virtual events, and budgeting is one of them. We recommend planning for these costs up front so you’re prepared. After the event, add up every cost associated with the event so you have a total cost amount.

Example: If you spent $2,000 on webinar promotion, $1,500 on your virtual event platform, and $2,000 on speaker fees, your total costs would amount to $5,500. Download our free budget planner to help you track every last detail.

Select an Attribution Model

Attribution models determine how credit is assigned to different touchpoints in the customer journey. These can be helpful frameworks in measuring your virtual event's ROI. For virtual events, you may choose a multi-touch attribution model to assess how various marketing channels and interactions contributed to event success. Common attribution models include first-touch, last-touch, linear, time decay, and position-based attribution.

1. First-Touch Attribution:

In a first-touch attribution model, all credit for a conversion is given to the first interaction a customer had with your brand. It's useful for understanding how you initially captured a lead's interest.

Example: If a customer initially discovered your virtual event through a blog post, and then later registered for the event, all credit for their attendance would be attributed to the blog post.

2. Last-Touch Attribution:

This model assigns all credit for a conversion to the final touchpoint or interaction before the conversion occurred. It's helpful for identifying the last action that influenced an attendee to participate.

Example: If a customer first learned about your virtual event through an email, but ultimately registered after clicking a link in a follow-up email, all credit would be attributed to the second email.

3. Linear Attribution:

Linear attribution is a multi-touch attribution model which distributes credit evenly across all touchpoints in the customer journey. It offers a balanced view of how various interactions contribute to an event's success.

Example: If a customer first visited your website, then attended your webinar, then downloaded a piece of content, then received a demo from your sales team, and then purchased your product, you would assign equal credit to every one of those interactions in a linear attribution model. This reflects that all interactions played an equal role in the conversion.

4. Time Decay Attribution:

This model gives more credit to touchpoints closer to the conversion event, gradually diminishing the importance of earlier interactions. It acknowledges that customer intent often increases as they approach a decision.

Example: If a customer discovered your event through an online search, then interacted with your emails and social media posts before registering, time decay attribution would allocate more credit to the later interactions.

5. Position-Based Attribution (U-Shaped or W-Shaped):

This multi-touch attribution model assigns significant credit to the first and last touchpoints, recognizing that these often play pivotal roles in conversions. It also allocates some credit to intermediate interactions.

Example: If a customer first heard about your event through a referral, then engaged with your content on social media and finally registered after receiving an email, position-based attribution would give substantial credit to the referral, the email, and some credit to the social media engagement.

Track Revenue Generated Directly from the Event

Measuring the revenue directly generated from your virtual event is a vital component of defining ROI for your virtual event. This revenue can come from sources like ticket sales, product purchases, or upsells offered during the event. Ensure you have systems in place to track and attribute this revenue accurately. Download our free budget planner to track every last detail.

Here are a handful of things to consider or keep in mind when tracking revenue from your virtual event.

1. Set up a registration or ticketing system: Use an online platform that allows attendees to register or purchase tickets for the virtual event. This system should ideally track the number of registrations or tickets sold.
2. Assign unique ticket codes: Assign each registered attendee a unique ticket code or identifier. This will help you track individual purchases and link them to revenue.
3. Set up event-specific payment gateways: Integrate payment gateways, such as PayPal or Stripe, into your registration/ticketing system. This will enable attendees to make payments securely and conveniently.
4. Track ticket sales revenue: Monitor and track the revenue generated from ticket sales through your payment gateway. Most payment gateways provide reporting features that allow you to analyze sales data.
5. Offer additional revenue streams: Consider offering additional revenue streams within the virtual event, such as sponsors or exhibitors. Create specific packages for these revenue streams and track their sales separately.
6. Monitor merchandise sales: If you are selling event-related merchandise, track the revenue generated from merchandise sales separately. Use an e-commerce platform to manage and track these sales.
7. Analyze data and generate reports: Periodically analyze the data collected from ticket sales, additional revenue streams, and merchandise sales. Generate reports to understand the overall revenue generated from the virtual event.
8. Consider revenue attribution: If you have multiple marketing or promotional channels, consider attributing revenue to each channel. This will help you determine which channels are driving more sales and optimize your marketing efforts accordingly.

Example: If your virtual event brought in $10,000 in ticket sales, plus $1,000 in sponsorships, your revenue from the event equates to $11,000.

Calculate ROI

Now, let's put it all together and calculate ROI. The formula for ROI is:

ROI=(Net Revenue−Total Event Costs) / Total Costs​ × 100

In this formula:

  • Net Revenue represents the revenue generated from the event minus any costs directly associated with that revenue.
  • Total Event Costs encompass all expenses related to the event.

Example: Using the figures from earlier, if your net revenue is $11,000, and your total costs are $5,500, your ROI calculation would be:

ROI=($11,000−$5,500) / $5,500​ × 100=100%

Consider the Timeframe for Evaluating ROI

It's important to establish a timeframe for evaluating ROI. This will depend on your specific goals and the nature of your virtual event. Some events may have immediate revenue impact, while others may not see ROI for months or years. Be realistic in your evaluation and always go back to your goal.

Example: If your goal is to generate immediate sales, you might assess ROI within a month of the event. However, for brand awareness, you might extend the evaluation period to a year.

Analyze the Results

Once you have your ROI figure, analyze the results in-depth. Identify which aspects of your virtual event contributed most to ROI, and use that information to help you plan future events. Look at attendee engagement, conversion rates, and the effectiveness of various marketing channels.

Example: You might find that webinars with Q&A sessions had higher conversion rates, indicating the importance of interactivity in driving ROI.

Identify Areas for Improvement

ROI analysis should not end with a single event. Use your findings to identify areas for improvement. We find the top virtual event challenges to be as follows:

  • Lack of adequate goal-setting
  • Lack of a broader content strategy that incorporates virtual events
  • Insufficient audience engagement
  • Inappropriate virtual event platforms
  • Technical failures
  • Little to no follow-up
  • Security failures
  • Poor use of analytics

Whether it's enhancing content quality, refining your goal-setting, or optimizing your virtual event platform usage, continuous improvement is essential for maximizing ROI.

Example: If you notice that a significant portion of your marketing budget went to channels with low conversion rates, you can allocate resources more efficiently in the future.

Compare the Event's ROI to Industry Benchmarks

Comparing your event's ROI to industry benchmarks is a critical step in evaluating your event’s success. This comparative analysis provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of your virtual event strategy, compared with others in your field. Here's an expanded explanation of this process:

Comparative Analysis: When assessing your virtual event's ROI, you want to know how it stacks up against industry standards and norms. Industry benchmarks are essentially performance yardsticks derived from data collected across various events and organizations within your specific sector. These benchmarks encompass a range of metrics, including registration rates, attendance figures, engagement levels, conversion rates, and, most importantly, ROI.

Determining Success: To determine whether your virtual event was a success, you must compare its ROI to these established industry benchmarks. Let's consider an example: Suppose the average ROI for virtual events within your industry is 120%, and your event achieved an ROI of 150%. In this case, you can confidently conclude that your event outperformed the industry standard. Achieving an ROI of 150% means that for every dollar invested in your event, you gained $1.50 in return. This indicates that your event was not only profitable but also more successful than the majority of similar events in your industry.

Identifying Areas for Improvement: Conversely, if your event's ROI falls below the industry benchmark, it serves as a clear indicator that improvements are needed in your virtual event strategy. It suggests that other events in your industry are generating a higher return on investment, and there's room for enhancement in your approach. In this scenario, you would want to scrutinize various aspects of your event, from marketing tactics to content quality, to identify areas where you can optimize and enhance performance.

Benchmark Trends and Insights: Moreover, monitoring ROI benchmarks over time can reveal valuable trends and insights. If your event's ROI consistently surpasses industry averages, you may have uncovered a successful formula that positions your organization as a leader in your field. Conversely, if you notice a decline in ROI compared to previous events or industry benchmarks, it could be an early warning sign that adjustments are required to maintain competitiveness.

Refine Your Virtual Event Strategy

Finally, use the insights from your ROI analysis to refine your virtual event strategy for future endeavors. Adjust your goals, trial and error new marketing channels, and investigate new engagement ideas for virtual events to continually drive virtual event ROI.

Example: Armed with the knowledge that webinars with interactive elements drive higher ROI, you might incorporate more interactive features into your upcoming virtual events.

In conclusion, measuring the ROI of your virtual events is essential for assessing their success and making data-driven decisions for future marketing efforts. By following these steps and leveraging the right tools, like Demio, you can not only quantify your virtual event's impact but also optimize your strategy for even better results. Remember that ROI analysis is an ongoing process, and with each event, you'll gain valuable insights to drive greater success with your virtual event content.

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