Nonprofits and small businesses that count on communicating with members, donors and customers with their website and email list (which would be, yeah, pretty much all organizations) are trying to figure out if, how and why they should focus on mobile platforms.
A recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project titled Smartphone Adoption and Usage provides data that makes a strong case that organizations should be working smartphone platforms into their communications resource and strategy plans. Now.
About 40% of American adults own a smartphone
We all recognize that cell phone use is pervasive. But there are dozens if not hundreds of varieties of phones and the majority do not readily access the internet.
This is changing quickly, however. The Pew report found that 35% of adults surveyed said they own a smartphone while 39% say they have a phone that operates on a smartphone platform (Blackberry, Android, iPhone, Windows, Palm). Forty-two percent answered yes to one of the two questions (do you use a smartphone and/or does your phone use a smartphone platform).
Smartphones most highly used by audiences critical to nonprofits
Smartphones are highly used in age groups that most nonprofits try hard to reach: people 30 to 50 years old, middle or upper income and well-educated. A couple relevant nuggets of data:
- 45% of 30 to 49 year olds have a smartphone (and 52% of 18-29 year olds);
- Smartphones are used by 59% of Americans with household incomes of $75,000 or more (use drops as income drops: 22% of Americans w/ household income under $30k use smartphone); and
- 48% of college grads have smartphone.
We suspect that smartphone use in typically white-collar demographics may be driven by people using employer-provided phones but this wasn’t covered in the Pew report.
Smartphone use strong amongst minorities
Lest one think that smartphones are the domain of wealthy white guys, 44% of black and latino adults are smartphone owners compared with 30% of whites. This tracks, perhaps, with a general trend of smartphone adoption being highest in urban and suburban areas. In some cases, minorities have been earlier adopters of text messaging and relied upon cell phones (and now smartphones) for general phone communications and internet access.
Smartphone users are checking email and browsing the web
Not surprisingly, people are doing much more than making phone calls with their smartphones. Organizations should consider, however, the frequency with which users access the web and check email on their phones. As smartphones become a more fundamental way for people to perform online tasks, the organizations that provide the best user experience with mobile web and email will be best able to communicate.
In typical day, 68% of all smartphone users go online with their phone (access internet or check email). Amongst 30-49 year old smartphone owners, 71% access the internet daily with their phone (meaning that about 1/3 of all 30-49 year old Americans check email or access the internet on a smartphone each day). Interesting to note that a full quarter of smartphone users do most of the online work with their phone:
25% of all smartphone owners (regardless of whether or not they use the internet on their device) do most of their online browsing on their mobile phone.
Of all smartphone users, younger and lower income users are more likely to access the internet mostly with their phone. These people, especially low income users, are less likely to have other computers and/or broadband at home.
Next steps for organizations
This report is far from the only one indicating that mobile web and email use is rising to the point of being a standard way that people get online. Recent articles from ReturnPath, Campaign Monitor, Comscore and Nielsen are worth a look.
Many organizations look at mobile and start thinking about SMS/text messaging and apps. Both cool and have their place but the place to start might be where most people, as data indicates, are already at: browsing the web and checking email on their phones.
Start by optimizing your email for mobile devices. We took a look at that a couple weeks back with some tips and resources. If your organization is working on or looking ahead to a website redesign then work mobile into the mix. It’s not necessary to create a separate mobile site though that’s possible. Minimally, work with a team that understands how to optimize code so that it presents well on mobile devices. Make it a point of discussion in the project.
It’s time to get going, though. The opportunity costs are rising. Don’t assume that your audience will just wait until they get home to read your email or check out your web pages.