Disposable Mobile Apps

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About a year ago, I presented to a fintech vendor’s customer advisory board. I showed them some of the results from the 2014 Aite Group/Financial Brand Marketing Survey, specifically, data regarding banks’ and credit unions’ mobile apps strategies.

In that survey, about half of the respondents indicated that their firm’s approach to mobile apps development was to have a single, integrated mobile app. One in five intended to develop separate, standalone apps, and three in 10 didn’t have a defined strategy. I commented during my presentation that:

“Half of you are headed for trouble, and that number could be much higher depending on what three in 10 do. Only 20% of you have your heads screwed on straight.”

You would have thought I had insulted their mothers. “Ron, you ignorant slut” might not have been what they said, but probably was what they were thinking. “There’s no way we can develop separate apps for every need.” “We need to have a single, integrated user experience.” “The cost of maintaining separate apps would be enormous.” And so on.

Apparently many of you agree with the customer advisory board. So much so, that in the 2015 Aite Group/Financial Brand Marketing Survey, the percentage of respondents who plan to deploy a single, integrated app jumped to close to 60% with those planning on developing separate, standalone apps staying steady at 20%.

20150302 MobileStrategy_v2

I have two messages for you:

  1. To the 20% of you still on the fence: Get moving. You gotta have a mobile apps strategy. Not a choice–gotta have one.
  2. To the 60% of you planning on developing a single, standalone app: You’re heading down the wrong path. Let me try to explain why.


If I say “mobile app” and you think “an app that provides access to account information and delivers account-related functionality,” you’re thinking too narrowly.

Mobile apps that guide consumers through big-ticket purchases like cars and homes (e.g., USAA’s Home Circle or Auto Circle), and helps them make smarter decisions about the products and providers of those purchases–as well as the providers of the financial services often connected to those purchases–are already being used by many consumers, and will be increasingly important tools for consumers in the years ahead.

You simply can’t cram all that functionality into your “single, integrated” mobile banking app. Prospects won’t download your big honking mobile banking app just to get at the functionality they need for a single decision or purchase.

In fact, they wouldn’t even think to do so. Your mobile banking app has become synonymous with account access, so why would they download your app to help them through the car-buying or home-buying process?

By limiting the number of users, you are severely curtailing your ability to generate awareness of your FI, create consideration for your services, and help consumers better manage their money and financial lives–which could drive more business your way.

All because you think it’s “too hard” and “too expensive” to maintain multiple apps. Oh boo hoo. Marketers who don’t stand up to this IT bullying won’t be in marketing for very long.


Can prospects walk into one of your branches (if you have any left–just kidding, Brett King made me say that) and interact with your employees and get “service,” i.e., get questions answered? Can they call your call center and talk to someone? Can they hit your website and find information about you to help them make a product or provider question they may have? Of course they can.

Can they access your mobile app to do so? Not likely. So you provide marketing support to prospects through your other channels and touchpoints, but not the mobile channel? (I guess prospects could download and install your mobile banking app, but they’re not likely to get much out of that process that will help them make the decisions they have to make).

If the mobile device is becoming as integral part of people’s lives as pundits say there–and I’m in 100% agreement with the pundits–then you are handicapping your marketing efforts by not developing separate, standalone apps that serve and support specific tasks, decisions, and use cases.


When a prospect walks into one of your branches, and walks out with a product brochure, what do you think they do with that brochure?

If you said “they keep the brochure forever and ever,” then you need to stop dropping LSD every day. If you said “at some point, they throw the brochures away,” then we can continue this conversation.

If you can accept the idea that people throw away your product brochures, you have to come to grips with the notion that people will “throw away” your mobile marketing apps. When the product/provider decision is no longer there, they will remove the app from their mobile device.

That’s not a bad thing. It will be a fact of mobile life (it already is, it’s just not happening to financial institutions just yet).

Having a range of mobile apps for customers, members, and prospects that address a variety of financial-related decisions will become important elements of your marketing strategy. The fact that many people will dispose of these apps after using it for a limited period of time isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

[For more examples of these types of apps, see an earlier post I wrote titled Big Idea: Activity-Based Marketing]

What will be important will be the number of people of use the apps to accomplish their objective, the value they get from the apps, and whether or not the app effectively served your marketing objective (creating and harvesting the data from the apps will be pretty important, too).

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