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Engineers Read your Marketing Content on their Smartphones

Last month we surveyed 1,187 engineers to determine how they source engineering content and information. I’ll be going over the full results of the study in an upcoming webinar on October 25th, but today I’m going to dig into just one of the fascinating trends found in the research. 

More and more engineers are using mobile devices to access engineering content, and in certain segments the penetration has reached 80%!

One of the big takeaways for engineering marketers is that the overall usage of smartphones to consume engineering content has gone up by 15% over last year.

20171019 Cell Phone Usage.png

In the chart above the top bar with a total of 53% indicates the percentage of engineers using smartphones to access engineering information in 2016 versus the bottom bar that shows 61% in 2017.

“How is it possible that 61% of engineers are reading dense engineering content on mobile?” you may wonder. You might think that smartphones are too small to consume technical information like spec sheets, or that they won’t fill out forms to access gated content. However, engineers can now use their smartphones to participate in workflows, read technical content, watch engineering videos, and even interrogate CAD models.

Over the past five years, all of the major engineering software vendors have made their products available on the cloud, which means that most engineering data is now available via smartphone. The utility of smartphones has clearly extended to consuming engineering information as well, so marketers need to be mindful of how their content will be presented in that format.

In this post we’ll reveal:

  • How to produce content that is smartphone friendly
  • How smartphone usage varies by age range
  • How much time engineers spend consuming engineering content on smartphones
  • Smartphone usage in North America vs Europe

How do you produce content that is smartphone-friendly?

First of all, let’s take a look at the types of content that engineers prefer to consume. Our research showed that 71% of engineers said they would read short written articles frequently – at least once per week – or even as often as daily (15%). If you are an engineering marketer with a regular blog, and if your web site is responsive to screen sizes, then you may already be doing a good job of delivering this format to engineers who are on the go.

20171019 Weekly Content Consumption.png

The chart above shows engineer’s preferences for consuming all forms of content on a frequent basis. Note that recorded video ranked second, and again, that is a format that works well on smartphones. Where you can start to get into trouble is with case studies, infographics, white papers and eBooks, especially if you gate them behind a form.

Forms can be difficult to fill in on a smartphone, particularly if you don’t have a form that is designed for phone use. If possible, it’s a good idea to ensure that your forms have large enough input boxes for fat fingers, and that you’re only asking for the most critical pieces of information.  One good work-around is to ask for just an email to register and then collect the rest of the information you need through  progressive profiling on subsequent visits.

It’s also important to make the format of your case studies, white papers and eBooks work on smartphones. For that reason, we have taken to using a portrait orientation on our eBooks, for example, to ensure that they are more easily consumed on small screen sizes. Pro tip: Leverage images, simple charts (think check-marks), and top of page take-aways in large text so that someone on a train or waiting for a meeting can easily consume your content.   

Note that 37% of engineers said that they would consume long form written articles at least weekly. According to the Content Marketing Institute, long form content actually does get read on smartphones so by all means include that format in your content mix from time to time.

How smartphone usage varies by age range

Not only did we ask engineers what devices they use to access engineering information. We also asked them how old they were. The results of those two questions are shown in the chart below in the form of the percentage of respondents who said that they used a smartphone for accessing engineering content by age group. The blue columns indicate the results of this survey question for last year and the red columns indicate the responses from 2017.

20171019 Smart Phone Usage 2016v2017.png

The first thing that jumps out when looking at this chart is that the red columns are almost all bigger than the blue columns (the 26-35 age group came in at a virtual tie, or as my annoyingly statistically savvy co-worker would say, “a non-statistically significant difference”). That means that in all but one age group, the usage of smartphones to access engineering information is growing.

The second most noteworthy thing is that the usage of smartphones for engineering generally declines among older engineers. While 80% of those respondents 25 years old and younger use smartphones for engineering information, only about half as many over the age of 55 years do so. That said, 41% of engineers over the age of 55 use smartphones to access engineering information!  That’s a pretty large percentage.

How many hours per week do engineers use smartphones

When we asked engineers how much time they spend per week consuming engineering content, we found that they were voracious consumers. They spend, on average, over 8 hours, or more than a full work day, consuming engineering content every week.

20171019 Total Usage v Cell Phone Usage.png

Of those 8.3 hours, the average engineer spends almost 2 hours accessing content via their smartphone. That is a significant amount of time, so it underscores how important it is for marketers to ensure that the content you provide is in a format that works on a phone. 

Engineer’s smartphone preferences by geography

We were curious to learn whether there are any geographic differences in the use of smartphones for consuming engineering content. What we found is in the chart below.

20171019 Usage by Region.png

Engineers in North America and Europe spend less time on their smartphones than do engineers elsewhere in the world. This makes perfect sense given that certain regions of the world developed phone-based internet access before landlines, and in many cases still do not offer consumer landlines. As a result, many engineers around the world have learned to access information with their smartphones as a primary device, rather than with a computer as is the case in North America and Europe.

So that’s a wrap on the topic of smartphones and engineers. There is way more analysis to come as we sort through this fascinating data set of how engineers consume information.  If you can make it to the webinar next week, please join me. Even if you can’t, just sign up and we’ll email you a link to the recording. 

Until next time, 



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