2016 Mobile Trends: What Non-Profits Need to Know and Do

There’s no question today that being easily accessible on mobile (smartphone & tablet) devices is critical to the reach and success of most organizations. But where should your non-profit focus your energies? Apps? Mobile sites? Social media platforms?

Whether you’re trying to impact a younger demographic or a developing nation, you’re likely aware of the growth and rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, but that’s just the beginning of the story. What many nonprofits are starting to understand and respond to, is that their donors are also increasingly online and on mobile, spending less time on desktop web sites! So whether you’re trying to increase your reach, your impact or your donations, your mobile footprint may be the key to your future.

What does it mean to effectively use mobile in 2016?

“Mobile” can be an ambiguous term, as it encompasses several technologies. Does your non-profit organization need to have a separate mobile site, use responsive design, or create an app? That all depends on who you’re trying to reach and how it works with your particular mission.

comScore—a leading cross-platform measuring company—recently released their 2016 U.S. Mobile App report, and the insights are invaluable! They analyzed the data over the last three years to show just how—and how quickly—the digital trends are evolving.

Here’s what you need to know, and our tips for how to incorporate this into your organization’s strategy:

Desktop Versus Mobile (Smartphone and Tablet) Usage 2013–2016

  • Time spent on digital media (web browsers, mobile apps, etc.) has increased by 53%. Mobile is responsible for all of that growth, with desktop use actually declining by 6% since 2015.
  • Mobile now accounts for 2/3 of all time spent on digital media.
  • Smartphone app usage accounts for 80% of all of the growth:
    • 49% of all digital media time
    • Approximately 75% of all time on mobile
  • Smartphone app usage is currently highest among Millenials, but 55–64 year olds saw the biggest increase in app usage (37%) in the last year
    • The only demographic that still prefers desktop to mobile is those 65 and over, but their smartphone app usage rate is also on the rise.
    • Smartphones are taking time away from tablets, partly due to their increased screen sizes and ubiquity.
  • Mobile apps are seven times as popular as mobile web pages, in terms of time spent.
  • 73 apps are now reaching over 10 million people, with another 59 reaching between 5 and 10 million. A growth of 7% from last year.

Should Your Non-Profit Build an App?

So does that mean that your nonprofit needs to quickly develop a mobile app? Not so fast! While time on apps is much higher, the types of apps that take up most of that time are not ones that you’re likely to compete with! The top apps in terms of time spent on mobile devices are:

  • Large social networks (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram)
  • Utilities (Google Maps, Google Search, Gmail)
  • Entertainment and media streaming sites (YouTube, Netflix, Pandora)

That means that you can potentially reach and engage with your target audiences by using those very same established platforms. Add to that the fact that most new app adoption is driven by advertising, and the case for building your own app quickly dwindles for most nonprofits.

While apps are the largest portion of time spent, the number of users is not as impressive when compared to mobile-optimized websites accessed from smartphones and tablets.

  • The average smartphone user only downloads 2 new apps per month, with nearly half downloading none at all.
  • Push notifications, essential to app engagement, are increasingly being rejected by users tired of getting alerts every few seconds.
  • 90% of all app usage is limited to the top 5 apps on a person’s device.

The app space feels increasingly crowded and difficult to enter.  Mobile website usage, however, paints a different picture.

  • Mobile web audiences are 3x the size, and growing 2x as fast as mobile app audiences!
  • There are approximately 4.5 times as many mobile websites that reach over 5 million people  as there are apps, and they reach many more people than the apps in these categories. That number grew by 36% from 2015.
  • Mobile web averages nearly 3x the unique monthly visitors compared to apps. But app users spend 20x the number of minutes on apps per month.

How Non-Profits Can Take Advantage of Mobile Trends

Considering the data presented in the comScore report, our advice to non-profits remains steadfast:

  • Optimize your site for mobile. That means building a responsive website that adjusts to all screen sizes, from high-resolution displays (such as Apple Retina displays) down to conventional tablets and the smallest of smartphones—all using one design.
  • Make sure your site loads fast. Apps load nearly instantly, and users are rarely patient enough to wait for a large site to load over their data connection.
  • Make sure your information is well indexed and easily accessible. Users spend an average of 27% less time on mobile websites now, so they need to find what they’re looking for quickly.
  • Take advantage of the large social media and entertainment platforms, like Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Instagram and others. Your audience is already on these platforms; investing the time to create quality content and engage with them there can bring high returns.
  • Only create an app if it will help further your mission. Chances are no one wants a new newsreader with news just from your organization. But if online education is part of your mission, or you’ve come up with a 60-day peer-to-peer challenge, an app could go a long way to making it easy for people to connect to you and your goals.
  • Make sure your emails are mobile-friendly! We talk a lot about the importance of using email (newsletters) to keep your patrons and beneficiaries connected to your cause. Yet, many organizations are still using email templates designed for desktop email clients, which look bad on phones and tablets. Most email platforms can now use responsive-design templates that will look good across devices.

Now matter what service you provide to your community, maintaining a connection to them and to your patrons is vital. The days of once-a-year phone-a-thons are long gone. Today, it’s about a steady connection between you, those that you serve and those who enable you to keep serving them. Non-profits are competing for time and attention against for-profit businesses with deep marketing budgets, and with easily-available entertainment at the touch of an app button. That’s why it’s vital to stay with the trends and be where your audiences are.

For more insights, we highly recommend downloading and reading the entire comScore report.

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