Why the financial sector should deliver more mobile experiences
JOHANNESBURG – The financial sector urgently needs to strategically enable its customers to manage their money on the move. Across all demographics in South Africa, consumers are using mobile devices to purchase financial services and to manage their accounts.
This has largely led to the rise in branch closures at most major banks with Standard Bank closing more than 100 of its branches.
Consumers are more open to the idea of managing their money from a mobile device than ever before, especially for things like viewing debit transactions and bank account statements, paying bills and mortgages, reviewing credit card rewards, sending money to friends and family, and online investing.
This is something consumers of 10 years ago would never have considered doing on a phone. For those marketers and businesses operating in the financial services sector, this shift in mindset from face-to-face banking to faceless (digital and mobile) represents an ideal opportunity.
Savvy financial organisations can reach customers in new settings, to build rich, omnichannel brand experiences and, ultimately, to open up a new avenue for sales. With these mobile opportunities, however, come some potential risks.
Unlike more traditional retail businesses, which have been able to move into the ecommerce environment with varying degrees of success, those selling financial products and services woefully lacked a smooth transition to the mobile space.
A combination of strict regulation and consumer privacy concerns mean that financial brands must be extra cautious in their approach. Many consumers are still wary of making significant investment decisions via their mobile devices – whether it is buying insurance, applying for a loan, transferring money or signing up for a new credit card.
Customer experience investments can be a hard sell in many organisations, but brands are continually being rewarded for experiences that speak to who customers are and what they want in a highly secure and scalable fashion. The financial services market is no different.
The age factor
Younger generations have grown up with the expectation of managing all aspects of their daily lives via apps and portable devices, and their demands for financial services are no different. As is perhaps to be expected, there is a sharp correlation between age and use of a mobile phone to manage money and make financial purchases.
Younger generations are more likely to manage their money and make financial purchases via a mobile device compared to older generations that appear to be more sceptical, with many still preferring to make financial purchases in-person or via a computer at home.
Location, location, location
As the young people of today quickly become the money-conscious consumers of tomorrow, financial services providers should expect to see the shift toward mobile purchasing as the 'new normal'. As mobile increases for young people, it is likely we will also see a decline in demand for face-to-face interaction, with ever-fewer financial purchases being made in-store.
While many businesses have been keen to save costs by moving online, it is important that companies do not forget the value of face-to-face interaction and positive customer experiences. Rather than seeing mobile as a whole replacement to traditional storefronts, consumers expect an increasingly omnichannel approach.
Geo-targeting will be a major part of this approach with many marketers saying that they either already incorporate, or plan to incorporate, location-based technology into their promotional strategy. This will be especially important for financial services organisations, with many cautious consumers using their phones to browse for options, but still not wanting to commit to a decision without a face-to-face discussion.
Responsivity over apps
Most financial services providers already offer fully responsive, mobile-optimised websites. This focus on responsive designs rather than mobile redirects provides both an improved user experience and greater SEO value, making it a clear move for any business or retailer looking to take a mobile-first approach.
While mobile responsiveness is high, the adoption of mobile and tablet applications is slow. Financial services should offer apps across all platforms including iPhone, iPad, Android and tablets designed for the Android OS.
While it could be said that finance brands are lagging behind when it comes to apps, the reality is that providing an app is only necessary if it benefits the user experience. While online banking apps may receive regular, or even daily use, for many consumers purchasing financial products and services often represents a one-off event and – as a result – there is little need to keep an app permanently installed on their device.
Where apps can prove useful, however, is in offering after-sales support and as a forum for loyalty schemes and wider content-marketing initiatives. Companies that want the functionality of an app without having to build their own are also increasingly using progressive web apps (PWAs), which are web applications that are web pages or websites that can look like – and have the same features of – traditional mobile apps. PWAs load quickly, can be used offline, and can be easily connected with a platform that provides decoupled content management, such as Episerver CMS.
While it is clear that much of the financial sector is still playing catch up with existing mobile technologies, it is still important for these businesses to look forward and consider the innovations that could benefit their brands soon – and in the years to come.
One such technology is wearable devices, which are further redefining the way that consumers spend – and manage – their money on the move. As it stands, one in seven consumers now owns a wearable device, with the majority taking the form of either smartwatches or fitness bands.
Now, with both Apple and Huawei watches offering internet connectivity without the need for a mobile phone, the number of people using these devices to browse and shop is only set to increase. Despite this fact, our research shows that 72% of marketers have no plans to incorporate wearable technology into their approach.
In the same way that mobile banking apps have driven greater consumer trust and willingness to make financial purchases on the go, the rise of similar apps on smartwatches is set to cement this trend even more.
And it is not just wearable technology set to change the financial services market. More and more consumers are growing accustomed to dealing with chatbots and virtual assistants when managing their financial services online.
Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, such as the popular Plum financial advice app, are already being installed by hundreds of consumers, with demand for human interaction being overtaken by a need for speed and convenience.
Demand for Convenience Increase
The vast majority of consumers are turning to their smartphones and tablets to manage their money and purchase financial products and services while on the go. Over the last few years, fears related to the privacy and the security of mobile banking, are lessening. Instead, consumers are increasingly expecting convenient and truly omnichannel experiences.
From small P2P payments, to credit cards, mortgages, insurance and banking, the providers of today’s financial products and services need to start thinking about a mobile first approach. The days of mobile banking and mobile shopping being viewed as a minority activity, are behind us. Today, these are very much the new normal. Very soon, wearable technology, chatbots and location-based content will change the game once again.
While it is clear that financial services providers must work to a different schedule and cannot be expected to adapt at the same rate as brands in other sectors, the reality is that the shift to new, more mobile technologies will happen with or without them.
The shift to responsive design was a great start, but to be innovative and keep in line with consumer demands, today’s financial services providers must take a more open approach to innovation, customer experience and, ultimately, change.
By offering seamless, mobile first marketing approaches, companies within the financial sector can more readily meet the expectations of today’s consumers, increase engagement and ultimately provide leading experiences over other providers.
Nick Durrant is CEO of Bluegrass Digital, the provider of digital solutions for business.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE