Things change fast in technology, but in the past few years that change has accelerated.
Gone are the days when employees sat at their desks and used one desktop or laptop computer to do their work. Today’s workforce is connected in multiple ways and empowered with incredible flexibility. Mobile devices and device agnostic workspaces are fueling that change.
For many office workers, the trend toward remote work was gaining steam before the global pandemic. But when the pandemic hit, it necessitated working remotely, which increased our collective dependence on mobile devices for work. In fact, 76 percent of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 reported spending more time on their mobile phones in the wake of COVID-19.
Industries with jobs that don’t involve going into an office — like inspection, construction, food service, healthcare, and beauty — depended even more on mobile solutions to handle work and administrative tasks. So what are the trends in mobile data collection, and what does the future hold?
We created this report to take a closer look at
- The landscape of mobile device usage for work
- The role mobile data collection plays in supporting today’s workplace
- The different industries using mobile data collection
- The recommendations for using mobile forms and apps for data collection
In sharing our perspective, we hope to help mobile form users increase their usage rates and make it easier for you to interact with your customers.
The proprietary data in this report was collected over the course of June 2019 to December 2020 from Jotform’s mobile app. It includes the data of users who received submissions via mobile forms and covers the users and forms that have at least one submission via mobile forms.
Key takeaways from this report
- The benefits of mobile data collection for work include cost and operational efficiency, better data access and accuracy, remote work capabilities, sustainability, elimination of paper waste, and document security.
- Smartphone usage for the B2B industry has grown considerably, making use cases for mobile data collection applicable across industries such as healthcare, beauty, wellness and fitness, construction, nonprofit, energy and utilities, and more.
- Mobile data-collection usage accelerated dramatically in 2020, in part because of the pandemic, resulting year over year growth rates of 220 percent for mobile app users and 1,546 percent for the number of mobile form submissions.
- Mobile form conversion rates vary by country with England and Australia showing particularly high engagement
- The top mobile data collection users are in the beauty and personal care industry for uses such as setting appointments and completing check-ins, obtaining customer consent, screening customers and employees, and collecting payment.
- The majority of mobile data-collection form types are heavily skewed toward the classic format; however, the card format type yields more submissions per form, at a rate of two to one.
- Google Workspace integrations dominate integrations used in mobile data collection, equating to almost 82 percent of overall integrations.
- Industries are using mobile data collection to gather e-signatures, for contactless data transmission via QR codes, and to assist in fieldwork with GPS locators.
- Report, consent, and registration form types are widely used and seem to perform best on mobile devices.
Benefits of mobile data collection
People have been using forms and collecting data since the dawn of business. And while companies have tried to lessen their reliance on paper forms, unfortunately paper is still prevalent. Each year, U.S. companies spend over $120 billion on printed forms, most of which become outdated within three months, according to The Paperless Project.
But with the advent of online and mobile forms, companies have begun to understand the benefits of moving from paper to digital data collection. Generally speaking, mobile forms allow us to collect and keep track of data while we’re on the go and to be more productive, while ditching the paperwork.
More specifically, the benefits of mobile forms include
- Cost efficiency: saving money associated with raw materials and material upkeep
- Operational efficiency: collecting data quickly, accurately, and automatically with advanced mobile features (QR codes, e-signature collection)
- The ability to work in the field: offline data collection, GPS (geolocation), and replacing clunky clipboards
- Real-time data, easier data access: collecting data on the spot and in person, which aids lead capture and feedback efforts
- Better team collaboration: syncing team feedback in the cloud with associated access levels
- Enhanced workflows: connecting faster and more easily within your productivity software
- Better document security: eliminating loose paperwork to nip potential security violations in the bud
- Sustainability: providing an alternative to printing and using reams of paper, which is bad for the environment
Common use cases and industries for mobile data collection
You can use mobile data collection for any interaction that involves people and the gathering of data. On a related note, a significant number of online B2B queries have shifted from the desktop and laptop to the smartphone.
In 2018, the Boston Consulting Group estimated that by 2020 70 percent of B2B queries would be made on smartphones. That makes potential use cases for mobile data collection applicable to a wide variety of industries and purposes, though some figure more prominently than others.
Here are some common use case examples:
Turning data into information
Organizations apply data, identify patterns, and compile metrics and statistics to determine which assets and employees are the most productive. They can use those insights for predictive analysis and better business decisions.
Using mobile data collection, organizations can collect data accurately and automatically in real time with advanced mobile features such as offline mode, signatures, GPS (geolocation), photos, and QR/barcode scans, and then use the data promptly.
Start the conversation with potential customers by collecting and storing contact details using a mobile device. For example, a startup could hold a contest as an incentive to acquire contact details from event attendees via mobile tablet kiosks.
Gather information for market research, product research, or a social science experiment using a mobile device and setting up skip logic between questions to get exactly the data you need. For example, a social scientist could observe cultural and social structures by asking questions and recording answers on a tablet.
Feedback and evaluation
Find out how pleased customers are with your product or service by handing them a tablet and asking them for their opinions. For instance, a coffee shop could run a survey on a tablet inside a kiosk to measure customer satisfaction.
Evaluate your employees’ performance. Collect information on daily routine tasks such as entry and exit registration, inventory management, and completed tasks or mission critical information such as number of sales, upsells, and new customers. This data gives you insight into employee productivity.
When looking at which industries are working remotely, it’s probably easier to understand which industries have not been impacted by the move to remote work. Indeed, they are few. For all of us, work has become more productive out of necessity. Now we use our mobile devices (in addition to desktops and laptops) to access apps and cloud-based software that allow us to keep working, regardless of location or time of day.
That said, industries and businesses that have never been office bound stand to benefit even more with mobile data collection.
Here are the industries that are making use of mobile data collection and the ways each industry benefits from it:
- Healthcare. This was one of the most applicable use cases for mobile data collection, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The healthcare industry conducts patient screening, accepts medical histories, schedules appointments, and collects signatures via HIPAA-compliant mobile data collection. Offline data collection is just as critical for COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites as well as in-person doctor visits both in outlying and rural areas.
- Inspection. Health, food, building, and other inspectors find mobile data collection handy to submit field reports, collect e-signatures, and collect rural site data. They can also seamlessly submit their findings to a home office instantly online.
- Beauty, wellness, and fitness. The beauty and wellness industry uses mobile data collection to facilitate customer check-ins, appointments, customer payment, and even, as a result of the recent global pandemic, customer health screening. Mobile data collection also makes it easy for stylists and business partners to submit timesheets and work logs.
- Construction. Whether a construction site is in a busy urban area or a remote rural landscape, the industry makes heavy use of mobile data collection to post progress updates, site plans and inspections, and general communication. There’s often a need to collaborate with the home office to ensure job details are accurate and with local governments to file permits and secure approvals.
- Facilities and logistics management. Facilities and logistics managers use mobile data collection to audit conditions, take inventory requests, log purchasing decisions, and collect digital signatures.
- Energy and utilities. Utility workers generally conduct most of their work in the field and need mobile data collection to file reports, equipment audits, and maintenance and project status with their home office. Also, “meter readers,” whether in urban or remote settings, need to relay energy usage data into a database.
- Food and beverage. In the wake of the global pandemic, no sector has been hit harder than food and beverage (aside from frontline health workers). To survive, the industry had to change how it conducts business. That meant employing mobile data collection by displaying menus via touchless QR code, taking orders and collecting payment online via mobile, and scheduling and recording work hours in a contactless way.
- Real estate. The real estate industry uses mobile data collection for everything from taking attendee information at open houses to collaborating with vendors on logistics fulfillment. Increasingly, new home buyers and those looking to refinance are submitting their information for real estate transactions online or via their mobile devices, which includes signing confidential documents.
How are people using mobile devices for work?
When discussing mobile devices for work, we should differentiate between actual devices. According to Pew Research, almost all American adults now own and use a smartphone, to the tune of 85 percent. However, also included in the mobile device definition are tablets.
Tablet usage has been rising in recent years, and the combination of both cell phones and tablets has enabled employees and their teams to collaborate, work in cloud-based apps, access company information, and be more productive. We surmise that this growth saw a boost over the course of 2020 when many employees in the U.S. (not to mention globally) began working remotely.
From a generational standpoint, millennials have skewed slightly more toward smartphone use, while Gen Xers have been more inclined to use tablets. However, the most recent data suggests a closer convergence for these two groups, with Gen Xers increasing usage of smartphones. Interestingly, the Silent generation’s adoption of both smartphones and tablets is outpacing all age groups, indicating a growing comfort level with the technologies.
As the amount of work we do on devices continues to increase, a significant number of enterprise organizations are implementing tablet-specific apps to optimize experiences for users who prefer to use tablets instead of their smartphones. This makes sense for corporate enterprises, as tablets offer larger displays and more workspace for users to view multiple sets of data, screens, tabs, and information at once.
Benefits of mobile devices for work
Now that many companies have shifted to either a remote work or a hybrid work model, even greater numbers of people are using mobile devices for work. The benefits are numerous: These devices boost productivity, add flexibility, and increase the morale of the workforce.
Below are some specific ways using mobile devices for work benefits the organization as a whole, specific departments, and individual teams:
- Reduced paperwork. Arguably the biggest benefit for organizations using mobile devices is the reduction in paperwork. Mobile devices not only speed efficiency but also aid in sustainability, which is critical in our day and age.
- Easier data access and accuracy. With mobile devices, data isn’t siloed in your office or your work computer. You can easily and securely access your data through various proprietary and third-party apps from any mobile device you own. Plus, data entry is more likely to be accurate given validation and requirement rules built into data-collection forms.
- Enhanced workflows and mobility. Without mobile devices, project needs, approvals, and dependencies rely on the right person logging into their computer the next day or after the weekend. Mobile devices enable faster approvals or completion of project deliverables by any authorized user on the go.
- Fieldwork. Mobile devices for field data collection make work possible via text or app where a computer isn’t practical. Workers can also interact with customers in real time while using their devices to take pictures and/or video. In areas without an internet connection, mobile devices can connect to proprietary and third-party apps that have offline modes so you can still be productive.
- Faster customer response time. Admittedly, this aspect can blur the line between work and personal time, but mobile devices allow for faster responses to and from customers, vendors, and the office, increasing efficiency across the board.
Of course there are a few disadvantages that come with mobile devices in the workplace. In addition to the potential fatigue from the “always on” factor mentioned above, there’s distraction from personal messages and news alerts, costs (if you’re providing company devices for business only), and potential security issues if employees aren’t using password-protected Wi-Fi, encryption, HIPAA-compliant apps, and/or VPNs. That said, there are relatively easy ways to combat these issues, and the benefits of mobile devices outweigh the risks.
Other considerations when looking at using mobile devices for work are device and operating system compatibility.
Mobile data-collection trends and their impact on work processes
While mobile data collection has grown in recent years, that momentum accelerated last year. It’s impossible to separate the pandemic’s impact on mobile data collection or business in general. Also, in 2020 the variables of device proliferation, technological flexibility, remote work and schooling, and the need for touchless data collection came together in unique ways.
Compared to the prior year, 2020 saw significant growth across the board with a 220 percent increase in mobile app users and an eye-popping 1,546 percent increase in the number of mobile form submissions, reflecting the industries and users that have embraced the speed and efficiency of collecting data via mobile apps, particularly during a pandemic.
Mobile devices have clearly emerged as an important tool in our work processes, and that importance is highlighted when combined with the need to collect data. In this section, we’ll look at both the geographical and industry trends for mobile data collection as well as a breakdown of which industries are making the most of it in their work processes.
In total, 181 countries used mobile forms for data collection. Unsurprisingly, the United States led the charge in the number of users with approximately 42 percent. The trend is similar for the number of mobile form submissions by country, with the U.S. seeing 52 percent of submissions.
While many countries are using mobile forms, for a simplified view, we’ve highlighted a handful of them to look at the difference in the mobile form conversion rate. Given the large number of users in the U.S. who have installed the app, it isn’t a surprise that the U.S. doesn’t have the highest conversion rate. App users in the United Kingdom and Australia demonstrate a higher rate of engagement, leading to higher conversion rates.
The mobile form conversion rate is the number of users who received mobile submissions through their forms divided by the number of users who installed the app. The countries included in the chart below have a minimum of 7,000 installed app users.
Mobile data collection use by industry
Earlier we touched on the reasons certain industries use mobile forms. Now let’s take a closer look at how they break down.
With a minimum of 150 users as a guideline, the top users of mobile data collection are overwhelmingly found in the beauty and personal care industry. The beauty industry is broken down into several different categories like beauty centers, manicure and pedicure, hairdressers, and more. When combined, it leads by a wide margin.
With the pandemic forcing many salons to shut down, reopen, gain customer consent, and screen customers and employees, all while handling appointments and check-ins, mobile data collection has become significantly more important for this business segment. Additionally, salons and restaurants benefit from not having to store paper, which in many cases there’s no physical room for.
The healthcare industry collects digital patient data on the go, with the pandemic increasing the need for touchless forms and data collection through QR codes. The education industry was already making use of mobile surveys and forms, but as students around the world began remote learning, this spurred usage of mobile data collection through tablets and smartphones.
The number of mobile submissions shows a slightly different picture, with beauty maintaining a high rate but business leading the charge as an industry. The business industry includes a wide range of commerce from small to enterprise businesses, entrepreneurs, and more. Given that wide swath, the number of mobile submissions collected from consumers makes sense.
Also of interest is the nonprofit sector, which was called upon heavily during the pandemic for everything from volunteerism, food assistance, homeless assistance, COVID-19 testing, and more. Considering the fieldwork component, this industry is seeing increased mobile data collection.
Popular form types on mobile
When looking at the trends for the two form types within mobile data collection (classic or card form), the classic form is used more often and receives more submissions than the card form. However, on average the card form yields more submissions per form (at a two-to-one rate) than the classic form.
This seems to indicate that while the classic form structure has a level of familiarity among form owners, the card form structure (which displays only one question at a time) may play a role in the higher rates of completion and submission among mobile form respondents.
Mobile form category types
The report form (such as for incidents, complaints, field updates, IT bugs, etc.) is the leading usage category for mobile data collection. Many users also created consent forms via the mobile app as the pandemic necessitated that organizations, health practices, health departments, and local governments screen for COVID-19 and gain consent for vaccination. Registration forms (for online and in-person classes, workshops, events, and memberships) rounded out the leading three types.
While report and consent forms lead among mobile form owners, it’s interesting to note that evaluation form submissions come in fourth, at a much smaller percentage of owners.
It’s also worth noting that the volume of online surveys has grown in recent years given the low cost, accessibility, and no-code aspect of administering them. Together with the introduction of remote schooling and work over the course of 2020, survey submissions will likely loom large on mobile devices, encompassing everything from student surveys to employee satisfaction to customer experience feedback.
Popular integrations among mobile forms
When it comes to the most popular third-party integrations featured in mobile forms, Google occupies four of the top six spots, equating to almost 82 percent of overall integrations. This isn’t too surprising given the degree to which Google permeates online behavior, including tracking mobile form user activity and storage and connectivity solutions related to form data. This differs slightly from standard forms, where CRM and project management integrations are also popular, in addition to Google’s solutions.
Popular widgets among mobile forms
Widgets — form elements that make it possible to collect nontraditional data within forms, such as an e-signature or unique ID — are widely used on mobile forms and help their form owners capitalize on specific remote data-collection needs.
Collecting signatures on the go comes in handy for field or remote needs like consent, patient screening, vaccination, and municipal work. The two signature widgets combined to lead usage at over 35 percent.
List widgets are a great fit for registration, order, or booking forms, as well as for inspection reports, volunteers, or patients documenting injuries for medical forms; they are also popular among mobile forms.
Recommendations for mobile data collection
Based on the raw mobile data and usage of Jotform’s global customers, as well as the growing trends within the industry and our business, we’ve identified three areas that provide prescriptive guidance and best practices for mobile form users.
Area 1: What information are the top industries collecting through mobile forms?
- Healthcare industry
- Based on usage trends, this industry is collecting e-signatures for ongoing testing and vaccination, as well as medical history releases.
- The industry also leverages terms and conditions within mobile data collection to aid in testing, field activity, and new patient enrollments.
- Finally, healthcare organizations are using GPS location for field activity likely connected to COVID-19 testing and health incident reporting.
- Food and beverage industry
- The food and beverage industry has changed drastically due to the pandemic and now makes heavy use of QR codes that allow patrons to open menus on their mobile devices.
- The industry has also used barcode scanners for some time to manage inventory via mobile and reduce human error.
- Beauty and personal care industry
- In response to the pandemic, this industry increased the use of e-signatures, checklists, and terms and conditions to collect health screening data and sign-off for service via mobile.
- Mobile is also a handy way for this industry to collect feedback on services rendered, often via checklists.
- Construction industry
- The construction industry collects photos to survey sites and document projects via mobile, and grabs e-signatures for approval of projects in the field.
- This industry also relies on YouTube embeds in mobile forms to book new projects and collect prospect information.
- Nonprofit industry
- Nonprofits run on tight budgets, and with field-workers conducting operations remotely, mobile progress and status reports that collect GPS locations for individuals and vehicles help ensure safety and save on costs.
- Nonprofits also use QR code readers to collect donor, volunteer — and patient (in the case of testing or vaccination) — information in a contactless way during remote work.
- Mechanical engineering
- This industry uses mobile forms to collect photos of site projects, and form calculation widgets to compute and report on the surface area of complex objects.
- This group makes use of GPS via mobile to document a site’s location and associated information.
- Entertainment industry
- The entertainment industry (which includes outdoor recreation, amusement parks, and the like) collects information from customers and participants, such as their birthdays, onsite via mobile devices.
- This industry uses mobile forms to collect signatures on smartphones or tablets for summer camp or park waivers as well.
Area 2: What form types perform best on mobile, and which widgets do they employ?
- Report forms
- Report forms are among the top two form types by users and submissions. When we revisit the industries that make the most use of mobile data collection, there’s natural crossover in the report forms that perform best on mobile considering their use and breadth. Report forms encompass a variety of on-the-go needs, such as accidents, incidents, onsite inspection and maintenance, law enforcement, fire, medical, field activity, and work expenses.
- Consent forms
- Consent forms rank third as a form type by users and submissions. Their medical application is a natural fit for mobile data collection, but the pandemic ratcheted up usage even more. For example, all remote COVID-19 testing and vaccinations require patient consent along with more typical medical use cases like clinical trials and medical studies. Other use cases popular with mobile consent forms are model releases, onsite activity waivers, and parental consent.
- Registration forms
- Registration forms are popular for mobile data collection because they’re a great way to onboard students for classes and others for online workshops remotely. Another remote application for registration forms is health related, both for patients and for health volunteers (testing for COVID-19 and administering vaccines).
- Report form widgets that make the most of mobile data collection
- E-signature: great for collecting signatures for business, work approvals, permits, and waivers to ensure mobile forms help move the workflow along
- Take photo: enables the collection of photos of injured parties, patients, applicants, account holders, staff members, inspection work, and volunteers to speed up work processes
- GPS location: allows accident and incident reporting, as well as onsite field activity, to be logged quickly and easily by collecting the exact location of respondents filling in your form
- Consent form widgets that make the most of mobile data collection
- E-signature: provides not only the ability to work seamlessly on the go by collecting signatures for health-related consent forms, but also carries over just as easily to non-health use cases
- Terms and conditions: popular because it can be linked to from mobile forms for quick access and acknowledgment, particularly for health waivers, general liability, or for construction or work contracts
- Checklist: helps collect mobile feedback for surveys about service and is handy for health-related forms that allow respondents to select all applicable options for a single field (i.e., select all known allergies); also saw increased usage for quizzes during remote learning
- Registration form widgets that make the most of mobile data collection
- QR code reader: enables a touchless experience for sending data with a mobile device, something that comes in handy for health screening, food and beverage, and events
- QR code reader: enables a touchless experience for sending data with a mobile device, something that comes in handy for health screening, food and beverage, and events
Area 3: What are mobile form owners doing with the information they collect?
- Mobile report forms that gather data on incidents, onsite maintenance, field activity, and the like transfer information to workbooks and databases. Google Sheets and webhooks (which allow submissions and notifications to be sent to a desired end point like SMS or SQL via URL) are usage integrations that work well for mobile report forms.
- Storage is vital for consent forms, as the number of forms collected quickly becomes vast. Unsurprisingly, mobile form owners are storing their consent documentation and the associated contact details in cloud storage apps like Google Drive and Dropbox. Users also send their notifications for consent to SMS via webhooks.
- Whether it’s remote learning, mobile health, or other onboarding, mobile form owners use the data collected from their registration forms to communicate with customers and manage their relationships in Mailchimp. Mobile form owners also organize collected registration data with Google Sheets and Jotform Tables.
- Similar to the use cases above, those collecting survey data that will be used for decision-making and to inform studies are opting to organize that data with Google Sheets and store it in the cloud via Dropbox.
Best practices for features and functionality
Finally, we should note some best practices related to the functionality of mobile data collection. In the wake of the global pandemic, usage of mobile devices for work in general and data collection specifically has become widespread, almost an expectation among users. Popular functionality in the space reflects how the industry is catering to an improved customer experience:
- Kiosk mode locks a form onto the screen of your phone or tablet and turns your mobile device into a public survey station — perfect for events, health screening, or vaccinations. Whenever anyone submits a response to your form, the data goes to your Jotform account, and the form refreshes automatically so that multiple people can fill it out.
Thirty-four percent of Jotform’s mobile submissions come through kiosk mode, making it a popular feature for form owners and end users alike. Additionally, kiosk mode offers screen lock, inactivity timeout, printing options, and customizable welcome pages.
Touchless kiosk mode enables customers to supply information on their own mobile devices or tablets through a simple QR code. Organizations can use it to collect data, screen customers, and meet a number of other needs.
- The ability to collect signatures and payments is another best practice for mobile forms. We’ve documented the need to collect signatures spanning multiple use cases. And giving vendors, business partners, or donors the ability to transact within your form on a mobile device improves the customer experience.
- Fieldwork in rural areas can present a challenge due to the lack of Wi-Fi or online access. That’s why mobile form owners seek the ability to capture and collect data offline for their teams.
- Not all mobile apps are built the same, and use cases sometimes require specialized capabilities. This is particularly true of the health industry. As a result, some users will look for relevant versions of mobile apps.
For example, Jotform recently introduced our health app. In a short amount of time, hundreds of HIPAA-compliant forms have been created through the app, thousands of payments have been collected, almost 10,000 appointments have been scheduled, and eight in 10 users are organizing and collaborating on their collected data in Jotform Tables.
While healthcare is the largest use case of the health app, other industries using it include beauty and personal care, nonprofit organizations, and education.
We hope that by taking these recommendations into account, and keeping customer experience front of mind, mobile form owners give themselves a better chance to maximize successful data collection during the submission process and afterward.
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