Military life can be tough for those serving, but it’s also challenging for families back at home. Spouses and children of those in uniform often have a million questions around everything from their loved ones’ deployment status to their own healthcare benefits to financial and education concerns.
There are many resources available to help military families. In fact, more than 40,000 non-profits serving the military community have registered with the IRS since 9/11, adding to the programs from the Department of Defense and state agencies. With this abundance comes redundancy and confusion. That’s the last thing military families need.
The National Military Family Association (NMFA), a 45-year-old non-profit, knew there had to be a better solution. NMFA built an app called MyMilitaryLife, which aims to cut through the clutter of information available to military families and connect them with answers, sometimes to questions they didn’t even know they had.
Using Mobile to Reach Military Families
Mobile technology can often be the perfect way to cut through the noise and bring clarity to chaos due to the personal and immediate nature of mobile devices and the apps that power them. According to eMarketer, US adults spend nearly half of their day on digital media, with mobile devices the most prominent medium. In the case of NMFA, surveys uncovered the fact that military families, who are mobile by nature, are far ahead of the mobile technology adoption curve when compared to other groups.
NMFA also recently held a focus group near Fort Bragg, NC, where some military families expressed frustration with the confusing array of available support programs. A common sentiment was that they’d reached their “wit’s end” seeking the right information, reinforcing the opportunity for NMFA to build a mobile strategy. NMFA wanted to create an engaging and user-friendly mobile app that would serve as a one-stop resource for everything military families might need, providing them with the information they required and removing the confusion and frustration from the equation.
“No other military family support program has the decades of experience or offers what we do. We were in a great position to deliver a unique mobile experience to our families,” said Michelle Joyner, mobile initiatives director at NMFA. “For our app, we were looking for access to native functionality like push notifications and we wanted content-specific tracking to user types so we could understand how the app was being used and then make it better.”
MyMilitaryLife, built on the Appcelerator Platform and developed by and Clearly Innovative, is centered around “Life Paths,” connecting people with services and information based on major life events (moving, having a baby, spouse education, reintegration, etc.) military families often encounter. The user is guided through each Life Path by tapping on topics for answers to questions. Wondering how a spouse’s pay will change during military deployment? There’s a section for that. Unsure what happens to health and dental benefits for a surviving family member? The app can help.
In building the app, Joyner and her team really focused on understanding how it would be used, when and in what circumstances. Their ultimate goal was to give military families an engaging and customized experience that provides the exact information needed, when they needed it. The Fort Bragg focus group was part of an ongoing process to gather feedback from the community. At the same time, NMFA is using mobile analytics to understand how the app is actually being used in the real world so it can be refined over time to meet the varying needs of its unique users.
“With so many other resources out there dedicated to military families, we need to constantly evolve and improve our app to set it apart from all of the noise,” said Joyner. “Mobile analytics let us see who’s using the app, how they’re using it and figure out what’s missing so we can give families an app that’s a valuable resource for them.”
The results? Time spent on the app, usage and visits are all rising. NMFA is also actively sending targeted and customized information to its users via push notifications, which they’ve welcomed. Said one military spouse, “there’s a ton of info and it’s compiled into something fantastic and user-friendly…if you have a question you can quickly, right then and there, look up the info. There’s no more hope you remember to look it up when you get home. Everything is at your fingertips.”
NMFA’s experience is a tremendous example of how a focused investment in mobile can pay big dividends. An intuitive, cross-platform mobile app, customized to each user via insights from real-time analytics, allowed the non-profit to set itself apart from crowd and give its users a tool they actually use.
As this example shows, mobile technology isn’t just for photo-sharing or casual communication. It can allow nearly any organization of any size in any industry to better engage with those they are trying to reach.
NMFA continues to work hard to understand its users’ needs and optimize its mobile app to simplify and connect them with the right resources, fast. For NMFA, a well-designed mobile strategy didn’t just have a positive business impact, but was able to make a major difference in the lives of its users.