Taking time to know your audience

Rob Borley
on 13 December 2011

A recent post that arose from of some work that we have been doing with a local college proved to cause quite a bit of interest. Having had some time to digest the raw stats, as well as seeing some of the feedback in the comments, I thought that I would take the opportunity to try and offer some explanation for the stats that we observed. This needs to come with a warning. It is, of course, very difficult to draw definitive conclusions from such a small data set. However, I feel like this is a strong enough example of behavior by demographic that it’s worth taken that risk.

The colleges student population is made up of individuals of all ages. However, they are predominantly 16-18 years of age. This is important for two reasons:

  1. Under 18’s cannot take out a mobile phone contract without the aid of a guarantor.
  2. Students will only have, at most, a part time job.

Together, this means that top of the range devices are out of their reach. As they can’t take out a contract, the latest iPhone, for example,  would cost in the region of £700.00 Therefore, this group of users is restricted to the less expensive devices on PAYG deals.
This information explains the high proportion of Blackberry and Android devices that show up on the stats as well as iPhone being top of the aspirational list. This may change in the coming months with the apparent decline of RIM, the predicted rise of Windows Phone, and the decision by Apple to release older versions of the iPhone to the budget market. This is an ever changing landscape.

Now let us look at the apparently conflicting stats that come from those accessing the website and the devices owned by students.  Around 70% of all hits to the college website, via mobile devices, come from iOS devices. However, only 11.5% of the student population own such devices. This clearly points to the suggestion that it is not the students who are access the college site.

This is important information when developing a mobile strategy. It seems that the website, in the main, is being accessed, not by current students, but by prospective students. Or more specifically; their parents. Remember, under 18’s are unlikely to own iPhones but their parents, on higher incomes and able to take our contracts, are more likely to be iPhone users.

This distinction in user base is helpful. It is obvious that currant students and prospective students not only have different needs but are operating within different contexts. We can now develop a two string mobile strategy.

  1. Web based presence for prospective students  and their parents.
  2. Web or App based approach for current student engagement.

These stats alone do not offer enough information to decide if a Native app, web app, or mobile site is the correct approach for current students. There are a number of factors to consider including a full understanding of the problems to be solved and the available budget. However, this brief insight does highlight that there is more to a mobile strategy that developing an iPhone app. In this case an iPhone app would be a waste of time and money. When considering the development of your mobile strategy ensure that you have set aside sufficient resources to undertake the necessary research and planning phase and not simple dive straight into the development of that shiny new app.


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