Build Your Digital Banking Strategy on a Mobile-First Foundation

Increasingly success with digital banking demands that banks and credit unions must cover every bet. Americans' love affair with smartphones must be catered to, of course, but financial marketers must make sure consumers' financial desktop experience remains state of the art.

The fast pace of smartphone adoption in the U.S. and globally is well-known, though how this impacts banks and credit unions is yet to be fully understood. But some strategic responses have begun to come into focus.

A Citibank survey of 2,000 U.S. adults found that 31% of consumers use their mobile banking most often out of all the apps they have, coming behind only social media apps (55%) and weather apps (33%). So the importance of mobile banking is clear. But what remains to be determined is how financial institutions can best use the mobile experience to preserve their role in consumers’ financial lives and remain relevant in the ever-changing digital buying landscape.

Here are four strategic issues to consider:

1. Which Route? Mobile Responsive Website vs. Mobile App

Banking consumers have different needs and they access information in different ways at different times during their digital buying journey. Often those varied actions impact whether they will be using a mobile device to view your mobile website or to access your mobile app.

For example, when a user knows your brand, and perhaps already does business with your institution, they will be much less likely to visit your actual website via a mobile device. So, with existing customers, you will likely see significantly more mobile traffic via your mobile app. Some experts estimate that over 80% of mobile banking customers use mobile banking apps, when there is a choice.

“A significant percentage of users access their banking accounts with both mobile apps and mobile browsers.”

However, the story doesn’t end there. A significant percentage of users also access their banking accounts with both mobile apps and mobile browsers. Therefore cross-selling to those consumers will need to be focused on both mobile responsive websites and on their digital experience within the mobile banking app itself.

Then there will be times when consumers who are less familiar with your brand, or perhaps are not currently doing business with your institution, will find your website through mobile search. This type of exposure tends to take place while people are doing some kind of research around a financial need or impending decision. It’s at this stage of the buyer’s journey where the mobile experience of your website will prove key to winning new business.

“If your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to a wide range of people, then a mobile website is probably the way to go,” suggests Clear Bridge Mobile. However, Clear Bridge continues, if an institution wants to improve communication and engagement with consumers who are already customers or members, then the mobile app is a better alternative.

For a financial institution it’s going to be important to offer a range of content to both potential new accounts and to develop loyalty and deeper relationships with existing users. So, make sure that your institution’s mobile strategy includes both a robust mobile-responsive website and a highly customizable and user-friendly mobile banking app.

Read More: Banking Providers Must Think Mobile-First in Today’s Omnichannel World

2. Mobile Banking CX Ranks Higher than Branch Interactions

The Federal Reserve’s most recent “Report on Consumers and Mobile Financial Services” states that “Among mobile banking users with smartphones, 54% cited the mobile channel as one of the three most important ways they interact with their bank, below the shares that cited online (65%) and ATM (62%), but above the share that cited a teller at a branch (51%).”

“Our smartphones have quickly become extensions of ourselves in many ways.”

Let’s sit with that for just a minute: This factoid is actually telling us that banking customers care about their interface with mobile banking more than they care about interactions with the staff at your branches. At first this concept is quite remarkable, but when you consider it fully it’s not a huge surprise. It makes sense that people would value their mobile experience highly — after all, our smartphones have quickly become extensions of ourselves in many ways.

But the notion that people care more about their mobile experience than interactions with real people in branches underscores the importance institutions must place on the digital buying journey.

There’s less and less point to sinking millions into traditional brick-and-mortar locations and maintaining the staffs to run them. With consumers being more apt to make decisions about the depth of their mobile relationship with you, now is the time to shift your budgets towards enhancing mobile platforms.

Read More: How To Give Mobile Banking More Curb Appeal

3. How a Mobile App Can Impact Retention and Cross-Sales

Because the adoption rates of mobile banking apps with people your institution already serves tend to be higher, it is essential that this app be directly involved in cross-selling and building loyalty. And for financial institutions interested in reaching the next generation of customers, it’s also worth noting that according to a 2017 study “46% of Millennials made 5+ in-app purchases and 70% made more than one.”

“The more time consumers spend in your app, the more exposure they have to your brand.”

This implies that more and more people are becoming comfortable with making decisions and new purchases via mobile apps. Your bank or credit union shouldn’t miss out on this trend just because this hasn’t become common in financial services yet. The day of applying for a credit card or auto loan after checking your account balance is upon us, and submissions of mobile applications will grow as tech-savvy younger generations mature.

The goal of your mobile app should be two-fold.

First step is to provide a robust and easy mobile banking experience and to offer in-app experiences or resources that will extend the time the user spends in the mobile banking app overall. To be clear, you must ensure that basic transactions remain simple, intuitive and efficient, but you should also try to personalize the content or options presented to the user to include other interactions they might find helpful or informative.

For example, let’s say a customer has recently obtained an auto loan. When they log into their mobile app to make a payment or to check their balance, consider offering them guaranteed asset protection (GAP) coverage or mechanical breakdown protection (MBP, also known as an extended warranty). This can be offered via a quick pop up or special alert message.

If you know they have a mortgage, offer them content links to DIY home improvements or ways to utilize their home’s equity for debt consolidation or home improvement.

The purpose here isn’t to make things harder or take longer, but rather to build trust with consumers, and to show that you care enough to personalize their mobile experience based on their financial needs and current realities. As they grow more comfortable within your mobile platform, they will also be more likely to press the “apply now” button.

And the more time consumers spend in your app, the more exposure they have to your brand, which keeps your institution top of mind for future financial needs or decisions.

Read More: How Bank of America and Chase Get Mobile Account Opening Right

4. Building a Mobile-Responsive Banking Website that Drives Success

Web design has become trickier. What works best on a desktop computer may actually detract from a positive mobile user experience. Google has done a nice job of summarizing some of the most important elements of a mobile website — but there are a few that definitely stand out with regard to online banking.

“A significant number of people start an application or purchase on one device and finish it later on another.”

One SEO trick often found on desktop websites is to pop up new windows with link clicks to avoid high bounce rates. Designers do this because high bounce rates can indicate a seeming lack of interest in the content on the page, and this can negatively impact search results. So this extra window can help keep users on your main page, thus keeping bounce rates lower.

However, on mobile more importance is placed on preserving a positive user experience. These users must be treated as possible new customers 100% of the time. So, on mobile it’s recommended that you not open new windows for links, as these can be disruptive and inconvenient to users.

Another key point Google found with mobile user research is that a significant number of people start an application or purchase on one device and finish it later on another. With financial services this is even more relevant. Lending and account applications are fairly lengthy, even when streamlined. So, making it seamless for a user to save the progress they’ve made on your applications, and then finish the remaining items at a later time, is essential.

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