12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #5 Mobile App vs Mobile Web

It was back in September 2010 that Wired featured the cover story  ‘The Web is Dead – long live the Internet’, explaining that the traditional means of engaging with data on the Internet by browsing pages on the World Wide Web was fizzling-out as we increasingly turned to Apps to make the connections and access the information we want. This demise being driven by the incredibly rapid adoption of Smartphones – with finger-driven smaller screens on which traditional web browsers typically offer a less than ideal user experience. More heat was added to the debate just last month when the CEO of Forrester Research presented an interesting argument at the Paris LeWeb conference for why the shift from Web browsing to what he termed ‘App-Internet’ is the next natural evolutionary step for all computing.

Based on the sustained hype around Mobile Apps over the last couple of years, including in the non-profit sector, you could easily be led to believe that this evolutionary step has already been made and that if you don’t have a Mobile App at the heart of your next digital campaign then you really can’t be taking digital engagement seriously.

However, the truth is somewhat different and, looking ahead to a year when supporter engagement through mobile digital devices will continue to grow in importance, it is important for non-profit marketers and fundraisers to understand that Apps aren’t always where it’s at for all of their digital engagement needs.

Mobile App use has certainly soared over recent years, but announcement of the Web’s demise remains somewhat premature based on the mobile usage data available. The first signs of the two approaching parity only came at the end of last year, when comScore released data showing the numbers of US mobile device subscribers using Apps just passing those browsing the Web on their device – at 44.9% (up 3.3% in 3mths) vs 44.4% (up 2.3% in 3 mths):

Interestingly, this data was taken by many of those in the App world as evidence that the war was over and Apps had won. But I read it somewhat differently – as the two are both still growing faster than any of the other uses listed (as an aside – you’ll see that texting is still growing apace too, so fundraising growth opportunities continue to be available there). For those interested in the equivalent data for Europe you can read comScore’s EU5 Mobile Benchmark Data for Sept 2011 here – which shows a similar picture

Examining other data helps shed some light on the growth seen in both mobile Web and App use, as it appears that at present consumers are actually using them for somewhat different activities:

If it’s online shopping (the closest category to donating) that you’re into then Mobile Browsers still apparently dominate, as they do for Search. It’s when it comes to users communicating with each other in the ‘Inform’ and ‘Connect’ categories that Apps take the lead (e.g. Twitter and Facebook Apps). This will undoubtedly change over time, with retailers launching App-based catalogues at the same time as HTML5 offers more mobile-friendly options for browser-based UIs – but for now there seems to be a clear Browser/App divide between Spending and Connecting.

With this in mind, when you reach the point of considering mobile opportunities and requirements in your digital fundraising planning this year – don’t just be led off blindly to invest your time and/or money on another charity App to add to the pile of rarely downloaded and even more rarely used vanity apps created over the last couple of years (I know there are some exceptions to this – but I’ve found them sadly few thus far). Stop to think about just what role a mobile Website might play in your strategy as compared to a Mobile App.

It may be that you need one, or both, or neither.

Because, of course, it’s also useful whilst in the midst of the whole Mobile Web vs Mobile App debate to remember that while both are growing apace, Mobile browsing still only makes-up a small proportion of all Web browsing – still under 10% according to recent data from Net Applications:

So perhaps you should begin by focusing on getting your main website and key landing pages performing better – and once that’s underway come back to the question of Mobile App vs Mobile Web?

This is the fifth of 12 posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Microdonations, here.

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The fast growing potential for Smartphone Fundraising

Last week, Ericsson analysts announced that, according to their estimates, the world’s 5 billionth mobile phone subscription was reached on Thursday July 8th, and they illustrated the pace of growth with the fact that there are now more mobile subscribers in China alone than there were globally in 2000.

While such a milestone is a clear reminder of the growing ubiquity of mobile phones, it’s actually the parallel growth in mobile broadband subscriptions that Ericsson also report in the same news release that I think is all the more exciting from the fundraising point of view. They forecast 3.4 billion mobile broadband subscribers by 2015, up from 360 million in 2009 – which is in-line with other market estimates and represents the level of growth that has led analysts at Gartner Research to announce earlier this year that mobile phones will actually overtake PCs as the most common web access device world-wide by 2013.

This might seem like a crazy forecast, given the relatively low levels of mobile web use we see today. But with multiple studies showing month on month exponential growth in mobile web user numbers and eMarketer analysts predicting that there will be more mobile internet users in China by the end of this year than the entire population of the US it’s already looking like the technology adoption curve to beat them all.

All of which is why, when I was asked to present the Hot Topic: Digital Fundraising session at the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention here in London last week it was Smartphones and the incredible range of new fundraising opportunities their mass adoption looks set to offer us that I took as my hot topic subject.

You can see my full presentation above or view it on Slideshare here – and if you’d like to read more about some of the emerging new fundraising opportunities then you can also take a look at my article in the April edition of the Resource Alliance’s ‘Global Connections’ e-newsletter.

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