What Consumers Actually Want From Their Bank’s Mobile App

By now, just about every bank and credit union has a mobile app to complement their website and branches. Many apps, however, offer the same basic set of features and functions. Financial institutions can improve their mobile user experience by prioritizing several key features valued by consumers.

The whole banking world knows mobile apps are a core element in the future of finance, spurred by Covid-19’s massive pivot to digital platforms in every industry. The Ipsos-Forbes U.S. Weekly Consumer Confidence Survey found that just over three-fourths of Americans (76%) are using their financial institution’s mobile app for their everyday banking needs.

It’s rare to see people walking around without their phone clutched in their hand — even more so when they manage their money in the cloud. And mobile banking is becoming more popular than online banking (via a desktop computer).

In 2019, mobile banking apps were the primary way for people to access their bank account (34%), followed by online banking (23%), bank tellers (21%), ATMs (20%) and telephone banking (2%), according to Forbes.

“When developing a banking app, it’s important to consider how you can optimize the user experience by facilitating their needs,” says Tiahn Wetzler, Manager of Content and Editorial at mobile marketing company Adjust. “The ability to independently send and receive transactions, apply for loans see their status for multiple accounts and access customer services from any location is unrivaled by physical stores.”

But what are the features that people actually care about? Unless financial institutions are diligently keeping track of what their consumers are doing on mobile apps (and asking them what they prefer), it’s difficult to gauge exactly what people want more of.

Keep An Eye Out:

Your institution may be looking for new ways to customize the user experience. You don’t have to invent them, however. Many features already exist that you can integrate into your mobile strategy.

Getting the features right matters. Stephen Ehikian, CEO and Co-founder of contact center software provider Airkit, tells The Financial Brand his company has found in surveys that 40% of customers will leave their current provider if they found a better digital experience somewhere else.

“Great CX is no longer an option — it’s the difference between extinction and survival,” Ehikian firmly believes. In addition (as if survival weren’t enough), there is a significant cost benefit to the institution. “A digital interaction can cost one-tenth or less of a branch or phone interaction,” Ehikian notes.

Here is a selection of the advanced mobile banking features and functions that banks and credit unions should consider adopting to stay up with consumer preferences.

Upgrading Biometrics

Starting with biometrics is appropriate: when people first open their mobile banking app, they don’t want to type in passwords or key codes. In a world where their face is already recognized by their phone, people want to open their bank’s app and have it immediately recognize them in the same way.

In August 2021, FICO found that 61% of people in the United States would be happy if their banking provider started capturing their biometric information, with over half of those saying they would just like to know why their financial institution is gathering that information.

This is a remarkably stable level of interest. In 2018, 67% of consumers wanted to see their financial institutions integrate biometric controls into their software, according to GlobalData.

Payment apps are already excelling in this field. Apple Pay, for one, already garnered 43.9 million American users as of March 2021, according to eMarketer.

What does Apple Pay do really well that makes the mobile wallet so popular? With one touch (and without typing in a single password), people can get access to the cards in the digital wallet and make purchases without ever pulling out a piece of plastic. And if the user has the Apple Card in the wallet, then the app displays all their account and transaction details, and allows them to pay any amount at any time in literally seconds, all built off the initial instant biometric ID login.

Banks and credit unions can adopt similar technologies and embed them into their own mobile banking apps. For example, Wells Fargo has incorporated several biometric technologies into its mobile app (versions of Android and Apple’s face ID and touch ID).

Most financial institutions can’t create such capability themselves, but working with their primary technology vendor or a specialized provider can incorporate biometric technologies as an easy way for people to securely access their banking information.

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Credit Score Functionality

Not even a decade ago, people used to only check their credit scores once a year — the technology wasn’t available for anyone to check it more often. But, now, credit card companies like Discover and fintech apps like Credit Karma offer customers the freedom to check it as often as they like.

The youngest generations specifically are taking advantage of this — Discover’s 2020 annual Credit Health survey found that more than three out of four (77%) Gen Z’ers and 82% of Millennials are actively working to improve their credit scores (compared to 60% of Gen X and 27% of Boomers).

Read More: Bank of America Grabbing 1 in 3 Gen Zs and Millennials with Mobile

Instead of going through yet another outside finance app, these younger generations would prefer to go through their primary banking provider’s app. Actually, more than half (57%) of individuals 21 to 40 years old find it critical or important that credit score information is a mobile banking feature, according to a 2020 Cornerstone Advisors report.

PYMNTS.com in their 2021 Mobile Banking Report echoes Cornerstone’s data, with Millennials leading the pack:

people who want credit score features in mobile banking

Easy Connectivity

Many financial institutions may be reluctant to open up account data (with customer permission) to a third party fintech app. Yet, banking customers want easy connectivity at the push of a button between their bank or credit union app and other banks, neobanks and fintechs.

Many people don’t want to have to run all their financial accounts separately. Data aggregator Plaid says people these days “expect to be able to link their Chime account to their Chase account, their Chase account to their Acorns account and their Acorns account to their TurboTax account, ad infinitum.”

All banks and credit unions may have to get on the open banking bandwagon sooner or later. Looking forward, the prospect of federally-enforced data-sharing rules could expedite the process.

To get ahead of the curve, banks and credit unions can start upgrading their technology before the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officially enforces data sharing between financial institutions. For instance, there are companies that financial institutions can partner with to make data sharing easy and secure, such as Plaid, MX, Stripe, Codat and Jumio, to name a few.

Seamless Customer Service

Banks and credit unions recognize that people are visiting their mobile app for their daily banking needs and going to branches less often. The problem is apps often are not making things easier. “64% of consumers complain that they can’t solve their problem in a timely way or at all” with bank mobile apps, Stephen Ehikian states. Chatbots and virtual assistants can help, depending on their level of sophistication, but even the best have limitations.

Even though people like to solve problems digitally, they often end up calling a financial institution’s customer service when they run into issues because the solutions aren’t easily found on the app, says Ehikian.

“Phone dominates because these consumers who try to get help via immature digital channels give up and revert to the customer service call,” he maintains.

“For example, a customer wants to make a bank transfer,” he explains. “That customer should be able to initiate the transaction on the app, confirm that transaction via text, and if there’s an issue, hit a link on that text to speak to someone who knows exactly why they’re calling.” It’s a combination of improved app functionality and design combined with a seamless way to connect to a live person.

Customizable Alert Systems

Baby Boomers lead the pack of consumers who want real-time notifications of account activity. Yet, it turns out they’re not the only ones — almost 60% of all consumers want this feature, according to a PYMTS survey.

People who want real-time notifications in mobile banking

It’s important that banks and credit unions don’t overwhelm their customers with alerts, but it is essential that people can decide when and how they get push notifications from their financial institution.

Take Chime, for instance, which does this well. Customers of the neobank get to decide which notifications — like debit card purchase and balance alert — they want.

Chime store notification app consumers want

Let Customers Decide:

More than anything, people just want to be able to control when and how they get notified about their account.

Communication with customers can be something more than just notifying them of their balances or potential fraudulent alerts. OneSignal, a software company specializing in phone notifications, recommends that banks and credit unions consider sharing financial education tips and tricks as well.

For example, if your institution onboards a customer one week, the app could push out the following week a series of educational articles about the app, touching on the other features they should familiarize themselves with. Of course, an easy opt out is always a good feature to avoid annoying people with messages they don’t want.

Authentication Control and Log-in Security

Authentication isn’t fun nor flashy, but it is “very” or “extremely” important to over six out of every ten customers and “somewhat” important to another 24%, according to the PYMNTS’ study. Many say they want to be able to “set additional security requirements for specific transactions.”

“A significant share of consumers believe that having more control over authentication significantly lowers their chances of experiencing mobile app fraud,” the report reads.

Much like alerts, there are certain transactions for which people want extra authentication.

App functions for which people want extra authentication

P2P Integrations

Ever since the birth of Venmo, the banking industry has been swept up in the P2P trend — people want to send money easily and efficiently to their friends and relatives without running to the ATM for cash or jumping through complicated hoops.

Financial institutions seem to understand that people want these technologies, so they’ve opened up their digital doors to the likes of Zelle and Venmo. However, it’s not enough.

What’s the problem? Often, banks and credit unions assume that consumers will just download the pre-existing apps of these P2P solutions, when what people actually want is an integration through their financial institution’s mobile app.

J.D. Power in its 2020 Retail Banking Satisfaction Survey found that “satisfaction is significantly higher among customers who have linked their bank accounts to digital payment services than among those who have not.”

Don’t Stop Short:

Your financial institution may be partnering with the likes of Zelle or other P2P fintech apps. However, what people want are for those apps to be integrated into their primary banking app.

Even though almost four out of every five (79%) banking consumers are using P2P features through one company or another, almost half (47%) say they don’t know if their financial institution offers a P2P feature, according to a Fiserv June 2021 report. Another one out of five say they’re certain their institution doesn’t support the option and only a third says their bank or credit union offers a P2P service.

Banks and credit unions can help their customers by establishing partnerships with P2P vendors and integrating the P2P function into their mobile app. And if your institution already has done this, be sure to let people know the capability exists (and is easy to use) through the mobile app.”

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