The Future of Online Banking: When Worlds Collide

In episode three of this multi-part series on the future on online banking, author Tim Bunch explains why and how you need to blend the desktop and mobile experience. In his first installment, Bunch argues that online banking is your biggest and most important branch. His second article outlines the keys to building an online cross-selling strategy.

There is little doubt that mobile technology is taking the financial industry by storm. Remote deposit capture, mobile banking apps, and personal financial management tools have converged with mobile devices of all sizes. Amidst all the hype surrounding new (and therefore arguably more exciting) channels, financial marketers have let desktop banking fall by the wayside. To move beyond the buzz and really step into the future, we must start thinking differently. We must merge both channels — traditional desktop banking with mobile — to make gains in financial sustainability, technical efficiency and marketing forte.

Much like the 1933 science fiction novel When Worlds Collide, some people believe that mobile computing will destroy desktop computing on its second pass. While mobile computing is revolutionizing the way we communicate, it will not destroy the desktop. The two will merge together to create a more seamless user experience. We are already in the early stages of this merger. Microsoft, Apple, and Google are making their moves to unify an array of devices that appear to be worlds apart.

Mobile banking is generally thought of as a new channel or product, yet it is actually a reiteration of an old product: online banking. These two worlds have been viewed and treated as separate platforms, but financial marketers would yield the most by combining the best of both to create a unified “product offering of the future.”

So what are the building blocks of the future? There are some notable areas causing a great divide between the two worlds. Let’s explore some of these divides and find solutions to bring the two together. Here are 6 steps you can use to blend your mobile- and desktop worlds.

1. Consolidate Vendors

Third-party vendors often build mobile banking apps for credit unions and community banks, and many typically do an excellent job. However, using two vendors — one for mobile and another for online — creates a massive chasm between what should be a single, unified product. In short, your online banking provider should be your mobile banking provider.If your current online banking vendor doesn’t offer a top-of-class mobile banking solution, you probably have the wrong vendor.

2. Combine Marketing Platforms

Marketing to the users of both channels is often served through separate systems as a result of using separate vendors. Campaigns are created and built in two completely different ways. This results in creating one campaign for desktop visitors and one for mobile visitors. One of them is usually neglected. Treating the two platforms as one will save you time and money, and concentrate a unified marketing message on users vs. frustrating them with multiple (possibly even confusing) marketing campaigns.

3. Make Desktop Banking Multi-Device Compatible

Desktop banking websites are usually unresponsive to mobile devices. Mobile web programming has the power to adapt a website to comfortably fit any size of screen. Applying a mobile-compatible approach to your traditional desktop banking website will eliminate the need for a secondary mobile website. Redundancy will become a thing of the past. And when you add new features or update your code, it will be only need to be written once, and it will be published everywhere it needs to be.

4. Fully Mobilize Desktop Features

Most mobile banking apps and websites are a nothing more than a version of online banking that’s been shrunken and stripped. Take a moment to make a list of things users can’t do via your mobile app or website. Chances are, there is a lot that can’t be done on your mobile app. Take that list and work toward mobilizing 100% of those features.

5. Re-Think Desktop Banking Design

Desktop banking needs to be simplified. In some ways it needs to take a back seat, and let the mobile experience drive the concept. Everyone knows the KISS acronym… yet we tend to accept desktop banking as inherently complicated. This thinking allows financial institutions to tolerate and justify a more complicated user experience than they really should. If you can boil banking down to a mobile experience, why can’t you make the desktop version equally simple? In the web design community, this is called a “mobile first” approach. This technique designs the web for mobile devices first, and desktop second. “Mobile first” helps web designers eliminate clutter, focus on the essentials, and apply the KISS principle.

6. Unify The Visitor Experience

One of the largest discrepancies between the online and mobile worlds is the end-user experience. Mobile users have a completely rewritten, redesigned experience.

Familiarity and consistency helps consumers build trust. By creating similarity and unity across all of your online banking experiences, you are building trust with users. Visitors can know what to expect no matter how they are connected; they appreciate this. If most wired bankers know what the desktop version looks like… how it behaves… and how to get what they want, then why should the mobile experience be any different?

The Bottom Line

Many of financial institutions have already let massive disconnects develop between their online banking products. But just like with driving a car, you don’t want to over-correct or you’ll end up in the ditch. Instead, begin making levelheaded plans now. You must unify the mobile banking world with the desktop banking world. The future of online banking depends on it.

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