Celebrating our 10th anniversary at Benz prompted me to reflect on how technology has evolved in the past decade. Ten years ago, there was no such thing as a “smartphone,” and when the iPhone was unveiled in 2007 I don’t think anyone—including Steve Jobs—could have predicted the mobile revolution that followed.
Today, the average mobile user in the U.S. has 37 apps on their phone, engages daily with 12 different apps, and spends a whopping five hours every day on their mobile phone.* From Facebook to selfies and everything in-between, our phones have become our primary connection to the rest of the world. If you have any doubts, try going a week without your mobile phone and realize how integral our mobile connectedness has become.
Let’s take a look at what this mobile revolution means for the future of employee benefits communication.
Do people actually engage with benefits content on their phones?
The answer might surprise you. We looked at utilization statistics across our benefit websites to dig deeper into mobile utilization trends around accessing and engaging with employee benefits communication. Not surprisingly, the desktop is still king in the world of employee benefits content consumption, representing approximately 85% of the overall traffic. But the transition to mobile has begun, even for benefits content. For some of our clients, as much as 21% of their overall site traffic comes from mobile devices. That means that one out of every five visitors to their sites is accessing them on their mobile phone—which underscores the importance of having a great mobile experience.
One in five visitors may be a small percentage of overall traffic, but the year-over-year increases we’re seeing in mobile traffic are compelling. Across our clients, mobile benefits site traffic increased an average of 144% from 2015 to 2016. The lowest increase they experienced was 35% while the highest was an amazing 500%.
How mobile consumption can inform your benefits communication strategy
There are many different channels for mobile content consumption, and each has its pros and cons. Responsive websites (user experience is optimized for desktop and mobile devices), mobile apps, text messaging, and emails all can play a role in your mobile strategy. As we create benefits communication strategies for our clients, we use this helpful summary to guide us:
- Seamless experience between desktop and mobile
- One version of content to maintain
- Barrier-free access to information
- Easy to cross-promote with links to emails, intranet articles, etc.
- Less (or no) support for older browsers
- Requires an Internet connection
- Can take advantage of hardware: camera, GPS, accelerometer, Bluetooth, etc.
- Consistent design experience
- Offline content viewing
- Personalization/ targeted content
- Push notifications/ alerts
- Requires users to download the app, manage app updates, and have adequate storage space on their phones
- Different apps for different platforms (Apple, Android, Microsoft, etc.)
Often, whether to build a responsive website or a mobile app isn’t an either-or proposition. As you develop your communication strategy, be sure to leverage the right channels for your messages. Every channel has pros and cons, and the best communication strategies include a multi-channel approach that leverages each channel’s strength, along with employee preferences, for maximum impact.
While a multi-channel strategy is one of our keys to success, we don’t recommend adding channels just for the sake of adding channels. All channels are like a garden: They need care, long-term maintenance, and even weeding. Before you roll out a new channel, be sure you’re able to make that long-term commitment. For each channel, think through what you want to accomplish, whom you’re targeting, and what barriers you might need to overcome for the channel to be effective. And don’t forget to consider the rollout and ongoing support costs associated with any new channel.
Here’s the framework we use to help our clients as they consider new channels:
- Competing channels
- Initial investment
In addition to the factors above, consider whether your organization has the bandwidth to support any new channel for the long term. Identify which tools and systems other areas of your business—such as marketing and internal communications—are using to meet their needs, and determine if there are any economies of scale you can tap by joining forces.
As you build your mobile strategy, plan for the “app store,” not just the “app.” Since nobody has a single app on their phone that does everything they need, be sure to include how you’ll package and market all the apps your employees will use to navigate their health, wellness, and financial benefits. To support the mobile revolution, we add mobile app stores to our clients’ benefits websites to help them promote the various benefits apps that can make their employees’ lives easier.
* Internet Trends 2016–Code Conference, KPCB, June 2016.