It’s Time for ‘Mobile-Only’ Design in Banking

Smartphones have become the primary screen among digitally connected consumers. As more people research, shop and buy financial services with their mobile device, a 'mobile-first' design strategy may not be enough.

What’s the biggest innovation that you recall in retail banking? The ATM? Mobile Banking? Taking pictures of checks for deposit? What if I told you Tinder and Uber were more significant innovations for the future of consumer banking than any of the above?

That’s right, these two apps are completely changing how customers behave on mobile screens and more so, putting them at the center of their own “egosystem” forever changing expectations and preferences in how they wish to interact with companies. In a mobile-first world, the concept of banking is ripe for digital transformation.

There’s a reason CapitalOne acquired renown UX design firm AdaptivePath. Did you know that 42 design firms have been acquired since 2004, with approximately 50% of the deals made within the last year?

While few are rooted in the banking space, the bigger trend toward design and user experience is about to trend across every consumer-facing industry. I believe the future starts with experience architecture, rethinking customer experiences based on other consumer segments that are changing how people interact with things and people. In fact, I dedicated an entire book to the subject, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.

Everything begins with shifting perspective away from iteration to innovation. Iteration is rooted in legacy and thinks of banking literately … physical, desktop/web 1.0, Web 2.0/social and now mobile. Innovative design starts fresh, and is centered around human behavior and preferences and comes to life in new mobile-first and mobile-only engagement that mirrors societal evolution.

‘Mobile-First’ Gives Way to ‘Mobile-Only’ Customer Experiences

For the last few years, “mobile first!” has become the mantra among savvy digital marketers. But a mobile-first approach seems to be more of an ideology than it is a standard in digital design. Recent research shows that marketers still invest in mobile as an afterthought, or as a bolt on to more mainstream digital programs. For some reason, executives still need more convincing to properly fund and support mobile initiatives that span the entire customer journey not just pieces of it.

While mobile is often referred to as the second screen, the reality is that smartphones are really the first screen among connected banking consumers. It’s always within reach. And, it is the first place consumers go to communicate, research, and share.

As of last year, mobile platforms accounted for 60% of total digital media time spent according to ComScore.  And, mobile devices accounted for one in four of all online purchases as reported in IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark.

The truth is that “mobile-first” should be the standard for all things digital. But here’s the canary in the coalmine, if that metaphor even makes sense today. According to a study conducted by Nielsen, roughly half of consumers believe mobile is the “most important resource” in their purchase decision-making. And, more than a third said they only used mobile exclusively.

At this point, mobile-first may not be enough in banking (or any industry). To be successful, brands and agencies must think beyond mobile campaigns and start to think about mobile-only as a complete foundation for the next generation customer journey.

Right now, mobile tends to exist without an owner to take accountability in the customer experience. As a result, mobile strategies for the most part, are focused on an isolated aspect of customer engagement, whether it’s marketing, commerce, loyalty, etc. and very specific instances within each.

This is because the whole lot of solitary programs is owned by different stakeholder groups that are strewn across the organization and not necessarily in tune or in alignment with one another. It’s not uncommon for these departments to not collaborate with one another and thus, the mobile experience is discombobulated by design, and impossible to deliver anything but an integrated customer journey.

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Catering to Mobile Users Throughout Consumer Journey

It is practically impossible for mobile-first consumers to undergo a digital experience on one screen, and therefor are forced, again by design, to multi-screen and/or channel hop to accomplish a desired task or goal. Some 90% of consumers move between devices to accomplish a goal, using an average of three different screen combinations each day.

They put up with this less than optimal experience because most CX strategies don’t consider the user experience elements of device and native behavior to that device as a journey unto itself. Said another way, consumers deal with it because most brands don’t cater to their mobile needs through every stage of the customer lifecycle … so they have no choice.

But, at some point they will. And when they do, they’ll defect. That’s why it’s time for mobile and marketing strategists to think beyond mobile-first and start thinking about mobile-only campaigns tied to mobile-only full funnel ecosystems.

Over the last year, my Altimeter Group colleague and I studied how brands were approaching mobile CX to better understand challenges and opportunities facing digital strategists. Starbucks, Zappos, Sephora, Intuit among others are beginning to explore a mobile-only approach in addition to integrating cross-channel strategies with omnichannel experiences. They’re looking at mobile as a marketing channel to not only deliver native experiences to the mobile screen, but also cater to them along the entire journey and relationship … specific to mobile.

Bringing Mobile to the Forefront of Digital Design

Mobile is not only reshaping the consumer journey, it is rebooting the entire consumer experience in the process. How and when consumers transact with brands throughout the lifecycle is also moving to the small screen — from research to purchase, to service and support, through loyalty and advocacy. Mobile is now both part of the customer experience and also emerging as a self-contained experiential platform.

Someone has to take the lead in bringing mobile to the forefront of digital design in banking. Investing in a mobile banking program just to check the box is no longer good enough. The reality is that mobile is now the first screen. Financial brands and their agencies must start taking the initiative to rethink the mobile customer journey. Doing so ensures that organizations can maintain (or regain) relevance among discerning consumers who are already becoming mobile-first and mobile-only.

It’s a mobile world … the banking industry must design accordingly.

Brian Solis is Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group, a Prophet company. Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. More so, he humanizes these impacts to help people see people differently and understand what to do about it. He is an award-winning author and avid keynote speaker who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation and innovation. Brian has authored several best-selling books including What’s the Future of Business (WTF), The End of Business as Usual and Engage!. His book “X,” explores the intersection of where business meets design to create engaging and meaningful experiences.

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