Branch Banking Lessons to Improve the Mobile Experience

To improve acceptance of mobile banking, many of the benefits of traditional branch banking need to be replicated in a digital environment.

Research from eMarketer found that 59% of mobile phone users between the ages of 18 and 34 now access their bank, credit union, credit card or brokerage account on mobile devices, proving how imperative it is for banks to make those options more appealing and user-friendly to retain loyal customers. Despite the popularity of mobile banking with young consumers, there are improvements that banking apps can make to attract a wider range of clientele and to grow the possibilities of how mobile banking apps are being utilized.

The key to unlocking the full potential of mobile banking lies in the tried-and-true branch model that consumers are already familiar and comfortable with. In fact, there are four lessons mobile banking can learn from the traditional branch experience.

Use Human Connections to Build Trust

While technology presents a wealth of opportunities for banks and consumers, human interaction is still a critical component of the banking experience. In fact, of the people who do not use mobile devices for banking activities, comScore found that 36% cited security concerns as the primary reason.

This demonstrates the misconception among consumers that online banking is less reliable or less safe than traditional banking. While consumers use online banking for simple, everyday actions, their preference tends to shift drastically toward a bank branch when an issue arises.

According to a study by Empathica, 60% cited the desire to visit a branch when there was a banking problem, while 34% preferred using the phone. In contrast, only 6% preferred to take up their issue online. Having human experts on hand to solve financial issues is a very important feature that customers are hanging onto.

For these reasons, mobile banking apps should make it easy to call or video call a trusted banking representative. Ideally, a customer can be matched to the same representative each time an issue arises to replicate the branch experience and build trust.

Leverage Data to Improve Recommendations

Data is a missing link that banking needs to integrate into their mobile offerings to better understand the contextual needs of their clients. Digital companies have been successful in using consumer data, such as purchasing and spending habits, to gain a better grasp of exactly what consumers are looking for. This is what a digital consumer expects from their financial institution as well.

Some banks have taken the initiative to tap into data, including BBVA, which launched BBVA Data & Analytics to better understand consumer behavior that can be used to make better recommendations. It is critical for banks to know when a customer is a right fit for a certain product and data is the best indicator of when and what is right for a consumer.

Provide Tools that Increase Engagement

Years ago, it was common to walk into a bank branch and your account manager would know you by name, fully understand your financial situation, and be able to provide a view of your finances. The level of financial complexity and reduced 1:1 interactions creates an opportunity for mobile banking apps.

Because banking apps can see spending patterns and transactional insights, there is the potential to provide more meaningful snapshots of a consumer’s financial situation. Some examples of customer-centric mobile features are dashboards that users can customize to suit their specific needs, and good use of visual interpretations of data that improve decisions in real time.

Mobile banking apps have to be user friendly and offer a smooth experience from login to sign off so that consumers feel engaged and gratified to review their finances and make important decisions electronically.

Connect Digital and Human Touchpoints

Even with the increase in mobile banking activity, people will still visit retail branches for certain services that cannot be immediately replaced by online interaction. For example, ATM services are a top reason why people continue to visit bank branches. In fact, Chase found that 33% of millennials were using their bank’s ATMs more in 2015 than the year prior.

Knowing that ATMs are an important point of interaction that mobile can’t yet replace, banks should strive to make this experience more efficient similar to how BMO Harris Bank has done. BMO Harris Bank recently launched the U.S’s largest cardless ATM network that allows customers to withdraw cash using their smartphones.

The simple process takes only 15 seconds, whereas a debit-card withdrawal takes approximately 45 seconds. Another added benefit is that the smartphone method is safer since there is no risk of losing a debit card or having it “skimmed” by thieves. With this innovation, BMO Harris is essentially tackling two issues with one solution while demonstrating its willingness to put the customer experience first.

Another process that traditionally takes place in-person and on paper is signing a mortgage, which can be difficult to replicate on a mobile platform. People typically value in-person interaction, so they can ask questions throughout the process. Even in this process, the majority of the paperwork could be executed digitally, saving time and improving accuracy.

Banks need to identify the right combination of mobile and offline procedures to save time and operational costs while improving customer satisfaction. In the future, digital and branch banking cannot continue to operate in silos, as they will eventually compete against each other. The benefits of both models need to be integrated to give consumers the maximum level of efficiency.

The customer migration to mobile provides opportunities for banks to engage with their customers, particularly younger generations. But this does not mean that key learnings from the branch channel are not useful. In fact, it is the contrary, as banks need to recognize the successes of branches and figure out how to best replicate the offline branch experience on digital devices.

Improving customer communication through better customer service, use of data, app design and integration of points of interaction are all key factors that will help mobile gain momentum in personal finance.

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