Have you ever felt like you're playing “catch up” when it comes to association technology? If so, the recent ISAE Tech Talk event on mobile, apps and tech trends had both bad news and good news.
Here are five things you should know about mobile, apps and the upcoming trends in technology.
1. Mobile devices sales are exploding. No surprise there, right? You can barely walk down your office hallway or across the street without seeing a smart phone or tablet.
While every working professional has had at least one computer for years, smartphones surpassed computers sales beginning in 2010 and have never looked back. The fact that every teenager and tween seem to have a smartphone is part of the cause for this enormous growth, but it's nevertheless impressive.
Similarly impressive is the growth of tablets. In 2015, tablets are poised to surpass the growth of computers for the first time.
Is this good news or bad news for associations? Both. It's wonderful that your association members can access your information 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. If your resources are available online, that means you are responding to your member's needs better than ever. Nicely enough you are doing so without needing to answer yet another email or phone call.
The bad news is that between Apple and Android, these smartphones and tablets represent more than 100 screen sizes. If your website doesn't have a responsive design that automatically adapts to the size of the user's device, you are likely creating some very unhappy users. Similarly, if you have an app that isn't being updated constantly for the latest devices and operating systems, you will quickly go from cutting edge to clunky.
2. Time spent on mobile devices is exploding. Again, no surprise.
In a given month, television viewing time is down more than two hours. Computer usage time is down more than an hour. Mobile web browser and app use combined are up more than nine hours.
In fact, app use itself constitutes more than 86 percent of time on a mobile device, equivalent to more than two hours per day.
What apps are we using? While the ISAE Tech Talk didn't address that directly, comScore, Inc. recently released the U.S. Mobile App Report, conveniently enough.
The ComScore report probably confirms what you already know: the apps with the most usage tend to be social apps, music apps, map apps and video apps. Here is the list:
Is this good news or bad news for associations? It's somewhat neutral. Given the importance of Facebook and YouTube, it might validate your social media and video efforts. However, there is a good chance that much of those two+ hours per day are related to Facebook postings, “grumpy cat” videos and streaming music.
3. Both responsive websites and apps are critical to your association, and each has its role. Thankfully, watching “grumpy cat” videos doesn't serve one's career nearly as well as connecting with your peers via your association. Therefore it's vital that you utilize responsive websites and apps to meet the needs of your increasingly mobile audience.
Responsive websites are important because they serve as the point of first contact for non-members. Moreover, they offer the full breadth of your resources and information to your members. In addition, websites can attract increasing amounts traffic (e.g. prospects) through effective SEO and marketing.
Apps are important for member engagement and providing recurring access to key information. For these reasons, associations have adopted apps first and foremost for meetings and conventions. From easy-to-access scheduling to quickly accessible handouts (not to mention eliminating the needs to carry around stacks of paper), meeting apps are growing in popularity every day. Similarly, associations are exploring the use of apps for other ongoing, personalized engagement needs outside of meetings.
Is this good news or bad news for associations? It's very good news. While first-generation websites are difficult to use on a mobile device, both responsive websites and mobile apps are now making your association more relevant than ever, particularly with the younger members who are the future of your organization.
4. Mobile isn't the end. It's just the start. Just when you figure out mobile, technology moves on…
Are you up to speed on wearable devices such as Google Glasses, the new Apple iWatch and even the new mood-sensing clothes? Or the near-field communication (NFC) that allows members to check in for CEUs just by walking past the door? The impact on your meetings alone could be staggering.
The changes we'll see in technology will not slow down. Every time you think you've finally caught up, the next new device or tech platform will be introduced.
Is this good news or bad news for associations? It's great news because it allows you to continue to innovate and create a member experience that will drive your recruitment and renewal.
5. Technology is another great reason you need to belong to ISAE. You can't possibly stay on top of technology and its applications for associations. That's okay – ISAE has you covered.
One of the most powerful aspects of the recent ISAE Tech Talk was the sharing between members. Association members shared tips and war stories with each other. Associate members described what other associations are doing. Everyone realized that they aren't in this alone.
For good or bad, the technology environment isn't going to stop changing anytime soon. As recent bestselling association books have pointed out, we must collectively stay on top of the tech trends, more so now than ever.
Perhaps that was the greatest lesson of all from the recent Tech Talk: ISAE will continue to stay on top of the trends so you can continue to stay on top of your association. See you at the next Tech Talk!
Dave Stevens is the managing partner of Stevens & Stevens, an award-winning company dedicated to helping associations improve their marketing and communications results. Stevens & Stevens annually works with nearly 100 associations in the United States, from Boston to San Francisco, Tampa to Chicago and Indianapolis to Seattle.