With technology changing at breakneck speed, we had only a few minutes to sit down with Naylor’s Chief Innovation Officer, Marcus Underwood, for a mobile update for association executives. But, in that short span, we covered a lot of ground. Underwood had plenty to say about the future of mobile devices and mobile apps. Here’s a five-minute digest about current mobile trends for associations:
Association Adviser: Mobile device screens are getting larger: Market intelligence research company IDC predicts sales of phones with screens taller than 5 inches will grow by 209 percent in 2015. How might a larger screen size affect the user experience? How might it affect in-app revenue opportunities?
Marcus Underwood: As the typical screen size has grown rapidly, so has the way in which people use their devices. In the past, messaging and searching for quick answers (through search engines) dominated the usage. Larger screen sizes have led to increased consumption of in-depth “content.”
The types of content (articles, video, blogs) allow associations to communicate with their members in ways never before possible. This larger screen size has also allowed for space that can be used for advertising or sponsorship. This is key for many associations, as the non-dues revenue model is often necessary to pay for these new content streams.
AA: Is technical expertise necessary to create and distribute a mobile app? What can an association do if it wants to offer a mobile app but has limited staff experience?
MU: The first thing to determine is if you even need a mobile app. Your content must be mobile; that’s for certain. But there are lots of ways to accomplish this without the need for a native application that must be managed through the various online app stores. Making your content mobile web-friendly is far more cost-effective, and it doesn’t require specific downloads. There are some features that are best executed through a native app, such as the ability to sell the app, to have it work when cell or Wi-Fi service is not available (such as on an airplane), or to use near field communication (NFC) in your app. The vast majority of ways an association needs to communicate with its customers can be done through smart, adaptive mobile web design.
AA: What are some applications of NFC for associations and their events/programs?
MU: Near Field Communication is primarily used now for mobile payment processing, but it has the potential to be used in some exciting ways for associations. For instance, as a member walks the show floor, NFC-enabled booths could communicate special promotions, content or other offers to the member’s mobile device. Members have the ability to turn this [feature] on or off, but if done correctly, it can be very useful. This technology can also be used within the sessions to identify who is nearby, and for sharing information about the status of users. At this point, it is still in its early stages, but as it grows in the consumer market, the rest of the world will follow.
AA: What are some innovative ways that associations are using app-based gamification?
MU: Gamification is a great way to increase the usage of your mobile applications, and by extension, the engagement of your members. The competitive spirit in all of us comes out when we see how we rank in our use of an app, and we look for ways to move up the chart. Sounds kind of silly, but the reality is that gamification really does work. If you design the game correctly, you can deliver great information in a fun way to your members.
AA: Offering a continually improving mobile app requires examining app usage data to see how people use your app—or how they don’t use it. What are some key mobile app usage metrics association staffs should keep an eye on?
MU: The obvious ones, like number of downloads, and amount of minutes used are key metrics, of course. However, just as with your website, understanding what content they are looking at on the device is the most critical item to track. This will help you understand where they have a need for more information, and it will inform how and where you should deliver information to them in the future. The old axiom is true: See what people actually DO, not what they say they do. This will provide you with a wealth of information.
Have an idea or story about mobile apps? Share it in the comments below!