The first email I received at work in 2014 was from a bank; along with a festive new year’s greeting, the email touted the bank’s new mobile app and a new feature that let customers set up travel notifications directly from the bank’s website. Later that day, I was in an airport reading a friend’s Facebook post about how she wished “more apps were like Uber.”
These are just a few small anecdotes about ongoing digital trends impacting businesses and banks both large and small. I recently spoke with a banking executive who put it simply: “Digital is what we do now.” (This quote is now the header of my Twitter feed.)
Forrester recently published our Trends 2014: North American Digital Banking report, in which we identify major forces impacting banks and lay out five actions that we recommend digital strategists take to prepare for the future of digital banking. Here’s a sample of some of our findings:
Banks will face a sustained – yet unclear – regulatory environment. In both the US and Canada, banks are confronting an uncertain regulatory future. The Dodd-Frank Act was signed into US law on July 21, 2010, but a large number of the rules and regulations remain unwritten. It's unclear when they'll be finalized, and the fact that 47% of deadlines have already been missed – according to the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell – doesn't bode well.
Social lending, or peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, is not even ten yet, but it has caused a great deal of commotion already. Consumers, regulators, and banks continue to be perplexed by a business model which is so emblematic of the digital economy, or of digital disruption. Thanks to digital tools, potential lenders and borrowers can interact with each other online without the involvement of banks, credit unions, and other traditional financial institutions. And nothing epitomizes the confusion about how banks should respond to the phenomenon better than the initial ban of Wells Fargo on its employees investing in P2P loans, lifted only a few months down the line. So is P2P lending a threat to banks or not? We think it is.
Forrester first wrote about peer-to-peer lending in 2006, soon after the launch of the first P2P lending marketplace Zopa. We argued that lending would never be quite the same again and indeed, it hasn’t been. As we write in our new report, a lot has happened in those eight years:
One word describes the state of US health plan digital strategists at the end of 2013: exhausted! The October 1, 2013 open enrollment milestone for the public exchanges became not an event but an epic saga. Integration failures, wobbly deadlines, and substandard policies that became the walking dead stymied large numbers of potential plan buyers, who either gave up or stood on the sidelines. But through a lot of persistence, 8 million Americans had managed to enroll in the public exchanges by mid-April 2014.
But with the enrollment process behind them, these tired digital strategists can’t rest. It’s time to shift attention from getting customers to keeping them. And not surprisingly, what matters to consumers when it comes to picking health plans is whether their doctors are “in-network”. But other practical aspects of the health insurance experience also matter, like:
Ease of resolving problems. When it comes to handling the nit-natty issues of plan maintenance issues like claims and payments, consumers want easy. That means that health plans have to make it easy for them to view their payment history, get their individual plan bills paid, monitor claims status, and access statements and tax documents online and increasingly through a plan’s mobile site, especially for that critical “young and healthy” segment.
Have you ever stopped to think where your last online order came from and how it got to your house? We might assume that the package on our doorstep has probably just made a lengthy and complex journey across the country (courtesy of the belly of a UPS freighter, a handful of trucks, a few miles of conveyor belts and some good old human muscle) from a large, nondescript distribution center located in the suburbs of a city we've barely heard of. You may be surprised to learn then, that today it is increasingly likely that the package at your door came no further than a few miles down the road from a locally based store of the retailer you ordered online from. Of course, as consumers, we don’t really care where our purchases came from or how they found their way to our doorstep - as long the right merchandise arrives damage-free and on time.
As my colleague Benjamin Ensor wrote some time ago, innovation often happens in clusters.This means that innovation by one company causes its competitors to not only match it but also to try to leapfrog it — resulting in rapid cycles of innovation. This is what is happening in Poland right now. During my trip there last week, a few bank executives told me of the increasing internal and external pressure not to fall behind digital innovation. There a couple of other reasons why Poland is a great testing ground for new financial services ideas; it has:
Most retailers, and other selling services, look to drive traffic in-store, to their mobile app, or to their website. But why not engage your customers where they already are, on social networks and media platforms like Facebook and The New York Times. Mobile allows you to do this.
Facebook’s F8 announcements today put forward new tools to do just that.
This is the notion of “borrowing mobile moments” that we talk about in our new book, The Mobile Mind Shift. For brands that don’t already own their customer’s mobile moments or can’t manufacture mobile moments effectively, third parties like Facebook, with large audiences and minutes of use, can offer instantaneous engagement. It’s highly contextual and offers a great mechanic to engage with your customers – where they are and where they want to be.
Facebook has driven 350M app installs through their mobile platform. For those of you looking to generate revenue, 60% of the top grossing ads use Mobile App Ads. (Source: Facebook’s Ime Archibong)
One quick case study:
“Facetune” – tweak and tune photos before you share
#283 to #2 in under 5 days in the US with $500 in marketing budget
#1 in 78 different countries (now in 94 countries they are the #1 slot)
You want to increase the engagement in your mobile app
One solution - and the most common - is to drive engagement in your app directly through push notifications.
Over the past few months, I traveled to several different eCommerce- and retail-related conferences, including events in Brazil, China and Colombia. The eCommerce markets in these countries are wildly different, yet a few common themes emerged at the events, especially in relation to omnichannel:
Retailers aim to leapfrog with their omnichannel initiatives. In all three markets, there are a number of traditional retailers that are just launching or building out their eCommerce offerings. Given that these retailers are starting with a clean slate when it comes to digital initiatives, they are aiming to forego the siloed approach that many US and European retailers took when they launched eCommerce. Instead, as these retailers look to develop or expand their eCommerce initiatives, they seek to create integrated offerings across all of their channels that emulate best-in-class omnichannel offerings around the globe.
Europeans spend €5 in-store for every €1 spent online after researching products via digital touchpoints. Digital activities influence a significant proportion of physical store sales. Yet, many eBusiness professionals tend to evaluate their digital efforts in terms of online sales generated and struggle to measure the value of a website and digital activities in terms of the overall influence on the shopper journey.
The key for eBusiness professionals is to recognize the influence that digital has on purchase decisions across the customer lifecycle and keep consumers within their own ecosystem, no matter where the final transaction takes place (in the physical store, on their website or via their mobile app).
But how can you quantify the influence of your digital presence on physical store sales?
For several years we have published the cross channel retail sales forecasts in the US and for the first time Forrester has developed a European version focused on seven European markets: UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Sweden. The forecast projects the growth of cross channel sales - sales that are influenced by the digital touchpoints but where the purchase is completed in a physical store.
A few key takeaways from a European perspective include:
Rumors have been circulating about a potential Apple iWatch. Very few executives we have surveyed about wearables have a strategy or are planning a strategy for their content and services for wearable devices. I am in love with my Pebble, but anxious for something more stylish that looks and feels more like my FuelBand, but with color, multiple apps, and a display that does just a wee bit more.
A few early tips. Think:
1) Atomized content (think small, minimal)
2) Dynamic content delivery based on a combination of real time, historical and operational data. (See report)
3) Notifications - the majority of interactions with your customers (for many of you) will be glanceable alerts. (And, yeah, you are going to have to stop measuring the performance of your mobile apps based on opens and time spent.) I don't necessarily need to make a purchase on this device, but I need to know if the sale is on. I need to know if the gate for my flight has changed. I can go into the app to change my reservation. Apps will soon be too heavy and finding/opening apps will involve too much friction to receive simple bits of information.
Here is an artist's mock up of a potential Apple iWatch device as well as a photo of the Samsung Gear Fit.
Nike reportedly laid off their hardware engineers from the FuelBand team. (See CNET) Financial analysts are speculating that it is to focus on software. Besides, hardware is difficult and the margins tend to be low. We've seen it with product recalls and free replacements from competitors Jawbone and Fitbit. It is difficult to ship excellent hardware products consistently.
My point of view:
1) I have about 5 wearable devices and 4 mobile apps on my phone to track my steps, active calorie burn, route, etc. I wear bulky devices with built in heart rate monitors. I wear a Nike FuelBand and other single purpose devices. I compare the data I collect from the different devices. Last week on a day I burned more than 1,200 active calories and 1,200 inactive calories, two devices were within 2 calories of each other. One was simple - no display. One was bulkier with a full range of sensors. Nike has been more focused on active calorie burn than total burn - which as a runner - is what I want. Mobile apps can do this, too.
2) Mobile apps scale faster with almost no barriers to acquisition. The same CNET article reported that Nike has added 10 million users to its Nike+ platform since August 2013 growing from 18 million to 28 million users.
3) Nike's resources will be better spent figuring out how to ingest more data sources and improving their (software = mobile app) engagement with consumers. The engagement mechanics within the mobile app are the key to shifting consumer behavior. (See Forrester mHealth report)