The longer we spend researching mobile banking, the more convinced I become that mobile banking is the most important innovation, or cluster of innovations, in retail banking in years, arguably in a century. Here’s why I think mobile banking is a much bigger deal than cash machines (ATMs), credit cards or home-based online banking:
In developing economies that lack a dense infrastructure of branches, ATMs and fixed-line telecoms, mobile banking and payments are bringing millions of people into the formal banking system for the first time.
In developed economies mobile banking will become the primary way many, perhaps most, customers interact with their banks. Banks need mobile banking to provide a platform for mobile payments and to protect their retail payments businesses from digital disruption as mobile payments start to replace card payments in shops.
Mobile banking is on a steep rise in the US. Almost one-third of online bankers currently conduct banking activities through their mobile handsets, and this population is poised to more than double by 2017. As indicated in our recently published Forrester Research Mobile Banking Forecast, 2012 to 2017 (US), younger age groups (Gen Y and Z) and familiarity with PC banking are fueling thisrapid adoption.
While checking account balances is the most popular activity, receiving alerts is the fastest growing feature; users will triple in the next five years. And with growing consumer comfort, mobile transactions, such as transferring funds from one account to another, will more than double during the same time period.
It’s the latest craze sweeping the nation… No, I’m not talking about Fruit Ninja, I’m talking about gamification.
There's a reason "gamification" is the buzzword on the tip of so many tongues these days. It takes ideas and structures from games - the video kind and other types - to guide companies in their quest to affect consumer behavior. So should digital strategists at banks and financial institutions use gamification to meet their business objectives?
We’ll get to that, but for now let's start by clarifying what we're talking about. Forrester defines gamification as:
The insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior.
These mechanics come in many shapes & sizes – SCVNGR, a mobile game developer, has a list of more than 40 – but here’s a quick list of four major ones:
· Points. The most basic element of gamification, points is any type of virtual currency – or, in a few cases, IRL currency. Digital strategists at banks & credit card companies have used this tool for years in the form of rewards points.
Technology is radically changing the way bank customers interact with their providers, and mobile touchpoints are at the forefront of this change. In the past five years, mobile banking adoption in the US has more than quadrupled, hitting 17% by the end of 2011. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 33%.
As such, eBusiness professionals and mobile strategists at banks are in a white-knuckle contest to out-do each other in the mobile space. To evaluate and gauge banks’ mobile offerings, we applied Forrester’s Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark to the four largest retail banks in the US.
What we found:
Big US banks offer solid, not-yet-splendid, mobile services. We employ 63 individual criteria in our Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark methodology. The combination of weightings and scores for the criteria generates an overall score based on a 100-point scale. In our inaugural ranking, the four largest US banks posted an average score of 63 out of 100 – above our minimum standards but far from perfect.
The past five years have been awful for most European retail banks. The financial crisis, and the resulting recessions in most of Europe's economies, nearly destroyed some banks and crushed the profitability of many of the remainder. Worse than that, it was a problem that was partly or largely of (some) banks' own making. Banks are being forced to shrink their balance sheets, sell off non-core businesses and cut costs (i.e. fire employees) just to survive. And Europe's ongoing financial crises are far from over as banks' fortunes are closely entwined with those of their indebted governments.
There's one small silver lining among these dark clouds. Over the past 15 years, eBusiness has evolved from providing an electronic brochure to become a fundamental strategic function within retail banks. One of the effects of the financial crisis has been to force most European banks to focus on how to generate profits in their core retail banking operations by serving customers efficiently. Digital banking is a big part of the answer. So, despite the bleak economic outlook, most retail banking boards know that they must continue investing in digital channels. Digital strategy is an increasingly important component in overall strategy.
I'm still surprised when I find heads of eBusiness who remain marginalized within their firms, reporting into IT or marketing rather than a centralized distribution channels function alongside branches. The leading banks no longer make that mistake. That has greatly increased the power and influence of digital banking executives, but also their responsibility for the overall success of their businesses.
Here's our view of the top five priorities for eBusiness and channel strategy executives at European retail banks:
There are a number of firms that we watch closely at Forrester because they stand out for sustained innovation. Behind the technology giants like Google and Apple, there are a number of established firms that are using technology to adapt rapidly and successfully to changing customer behaviour and needs. One of them is Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Over the past four to five years CommBank has introduced a series of digital innovations to serve its customers better including:
Finest Online. In the course of its "Finest Online" project from 2007 to 2009, CommonwealthBank of Australia redesigned its NetBank Internet banking service with the objectives of building an excellent customer experience and driving online sales. The bank implemented new content and functionality to support the customer journey and integrated new secure site sales processes with in-person channels and the bank's multichannel customer relationship management (CRM) system. The two-year, cross-organizational project boosted online sales, increased customer satisfaction, and improved the bank's image. (Forrester clients can read our case study.)
At our Marketing & Strategy Forum last November, Sean Gilchrist, head of digital banking at Barclays Bank, talked passionately about the importance of customer experience to the work being done by his team at Barclays. It's good to see some of the results of that focus on customers in two innovations introduced by Barclays in the past few weeks:
Firstly, Barclays has started rolling out a new online banking interface. While I'm sure that not every customer will like the change, the point is that Barclays is taking a modular (or widget-like) approach to displaying content and functionality in anticipation of having to serve customers on a rapidly growing range of digital devices. We think that approach is going to become increasingly common as eBusiness teams adjust to the fragmentation brought by the Splinternet.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Finovate, it’s a fast-paced format with seven-minute live demos and pitches from 35 financial technology vendors. It’s produced by Online Financial Innovations, the people behind the excellent NetBanker blog.
I was lucky enough to go along to the show in London today. Unlike last year, when four or five themes dominated the day, this year’s exhibitors were more diverse. Among them were:
Hotcakes, you've got some competition: the phrase "selling like tablets" might soon enter the global lexicon. And it's not all hype — though there is a fair bit of that as well. Tablet users in the US are estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 51% from 2010 to 2015. That’s a fast-growing market for firms of all stripes.
As such, the tablet as a touchpoint is becoming a critical consideration for eBusiness & Channel strategists. This is especially true for executives at banks, as financial transactions benefit from the immediacy of the mobile channel, but users often struggle to make these transactions on smaller smartphone screens.
In my new report, I outline the process Citibank went through in building its own tablet banking strategy, developing an iPad app, rolling it out to customers, and continually improving the service. We outline how Citi:
Over the past couple of years I have been intrigued by the concept of a 'digital wallet' that will combine mobile payments with a variety of other benefits for customers. The more people I talk to, the more convinced I am that mobile digital wallets will mark a big shift in retail payments. A mobile digital wallet is more than just a mobile payment system because it combines:
Mobile payment. Digital wallets are likely combine several different payments systems into a single service, including mobile contactless payments, online (i.e. web) payments, and over-the-network mobile payments, making it easy for customers to make a variety of different types of payment from a mobile device.
Barcode scanning. Scanning barcodes or QR codes will let customers get more information about products, and let them pay for items on their phones before showing an on-screen receipt to leave the store.
Loyalty rewards. Instead of carrying (and sometimes forgetting) a separate loyalty card, digital wallets will track customers’ spending and offer merchant-funded rewards, either on the phone or at the point of sale.
Coupons and offers. Digital wallets are likely to offer customers coupons and location-based offers.