Four things unions should know about mobile

If your mobile communications and transactions aren’t on your union’s radar, hopefully this blog post will help convince you to raise it as a priority. Here’s some statistics to help emphasise why:

  • Currently 10% of all worldwide Internet traffic is done through mobile browsing. That is a 162% increase since 2010 (Pingdom).
  • 36% of all emails around the world are now being opened on mobile devices (eMarketer)
  • Mobile phone Internet usage is expected to exceed desktop Internet usage by 2015 (IDC, PDF).
  • Current projects are that the total number of mobile phones will exceed the total number of desktops/laptops by 2017 (CISCO)
  • Smartphone use has grown over 80% in 2012 (CISCO).

The last twelve to eighteen months have been a tipping point with mobile use, especially in industrialised countries like Australia, expanding to include more advanced functions, such as mobile shopping and commerce, mobile banking and mobile donations. Mobile commerce now accounts for over 16% of online shopping transactions.

Mobile Internet browsers compared to desktop browsers

This is significant for unions because it demonstrates that Australians are now increasingly comfortable using their mobile devices to not just research online, but also to spend money. It is not just e-books and video games that people buy on their mobile phones. Charities are starting to develop mobile donation platforms that sign people up to regular giving; globally, mobile giving has expanded rapidly in just twelve months.

It’s time that unions started to pay very close attention to mobile as a communications, action and commerce platform. Ignoring mobile could significantly reduce the effectiveness of your campaigns — both online and off-line — and place unnecessary barriers for people who want to join your union.

With this in mind, here are four things that every union communicator should know about the current state of mobile.

1.One out of every three monthly visitors to the average large website comes exclusively on mobile platforms

Smartphone and tablet penetration is growing far more rapidly than desktop and laptop (90% to 78%). While this is astounding enough, what is even more significant is that for many people, visiting a site will only be through a smart phone. This can be as high as 35% of your audience.

This means that if you don’t optimise your union’s website for mobile and tablet, you’re potentially sending away up to a third of your audience. When each visitor is a member looking for advice, a potential member looking to join, or a supporter wanting to sign a petition, losing one in three potential supporters is a big hit.

2. Mobile apps drive smartphone engagement, while mobile browsing wins on tablets

Decoded, what this means is that if you want people (members, supporters) to engage with your content, such as a campaign, then invest in a mobile app. Of course, make sure you have some great content. (Here’s an amazing example of what I mean from the World Wildlife Fund.)

Engaging with members or supporters who are using a tablet is best done on a tablet-optimised website.

To get the most out of this, examine your union’s web analytics (ideally Google Analytics, which is free). What device are most people using? Do you have access to research about smartphone or tablet penetration amongst your members or your target audience demographic?

3.People spend money more online using smartphones than tablets, but less on a per device basis

About 63% of mobile spending is from smart phones. This makes sense when you realise that many more people have smart phones than tablets. However, although more people are willing to spend money using their smart phone, people with tablets actually spend more dollars (about 20% more).

This is worth thinking about when you’re developing your website and optimising for tablet and mobile. At the moment, it makes much more sense to optimise for smart phones than tablets, but in a few years that could change.

4. Browsing can vary considerably by platform

Smartphones and tablets have very different characteristics that can vary by location or time of day.

Mobile and tablet usage behaviour

Those lines may look similar, but what they show is a massive spike of tablet usage in the evening after work-hours, while smartphones have a smaller evening spike but higher usage during the day.


Everyday people not only have smartphones and tablets, but they are also increasingly comfortable using them to transact. This means that there is an increasing expectation that they will be able to join unions or take online action (such as signing petitions) using their smartphone or tablet. Unions with an advanced understanding of mobile communications will be able to most effectively engage with members, supporters and potential members, and thus wisely use their online resources.

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