The finance industry is being transformed. Day-to-day interactions, for the most part, no longer need to take place in a branch. In fact I can barely remember the last time I had to set foot inside an actual bank. Mobile apps are increasingly becoming the go-to channel for our financial needs, supplemented by web, email, voice assistants and then, only if absolutely necessary, telephone or bricks and mortar branches. Consider this statistic from one of our banking customers: more customers visit their mobile app in one minute than visit all their branches combined in one week.

And yet despite this conclusive evidence, and the near-indispensable role that digital channels have in modern banking, we’ve noticed that there are still banks that are not delivering great user experiences for their customers. The result will be predictable enough: customers will seek a better alternative elsewhere, with a bank or fintech start-up that puts its customers’ digital experiences, and especially mobile, top of the priority list.

One terrific way to improve the app’s user experience is to center it as a source of great customer interactions. The benefits are manifold, but in short: great interactions lead to greater engagement, and moves you one further step to having a truly successful relationship with the customer. To help you along the way, we’ve created a checklist of a few things that we know, through experience, are essential for optimizing engagement with a mobile app in the finance industry.

1. Explain The Value Of Opting In For Permissions

How you ask a user to grant permission for push notifications will greatly affect the success of your app. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve downloaded an app, opened it for the first time, and as the welcome tour greets me, the default system opt-in prompt rudely pops up - unwanted, clinical, and gray - nonchalantly asking me to allow it, or not allow it, to send me push notifications and know my location.

My natural reaction, like the majority of people (about 55% at the last count), is to dismiss these prompts and carry on with my life. And once someone has opted out, it can be very difficult to get them to opt-in. This is problematic, as when push notifications are done right, they are a genuinely useful communication tool - notifying you of a low bank balance, for instance, or a fraud alert.There is, thankfully, a better way of asking. First, refrain from serving the default system prompt at the earliest opportunity (which is a bit like asking someone on a date before you’ve even had a conversation with them), and instead incorporate it into your onboarding flow.

The key is to explain to your customer the core values of opting in. For example a simple screen explaining that ‘We can alert you of suspicious account activity’ gives the customer a real reason to opt in. If they agree to do so, by clicking the ‘allow’ button on the in-app message, only then should the default system prompt be served. If they click the ‘don’t allow’ button, don’t serve the permission call and instead retarget them at a later time. Watch opt-in rates soar.

Opting in for permissions - two examples

2. Incorporate Lifecycle Messaging

It’s one thing being able to communicate with your customers, and another thing to engage with them in a beneficial and successful way. Treating all customers the same is not going to get you very far in the age of personalization and relevancy, so having a solid Lifecycle Messaging strategy in place is a must. Segmenting customers by their lifecycle status gives you the ability to serve them with the kind of messaging that they need at exactly the right time.

For instance new users should receive messages to help them understand important features of the app (e.g. how to make a payment or transfer), and make them feel comfortable with the experience.  After learning the basics, customers can be told about more specific features, such as managing a credit card, as their journey progresses over the coming weeks.

When a new user becomes an active user, they are ready to receive messaging campaigns for upsell opportunities (e.g. credit cards, car loans, mortgages etc), more personal financial advice, and rewards programs. If they slip into being an inactive user it is time to reinforce features and benefits over the coming weeks before it is absolutely too late to draw them back into using the app.

Lifecycle Messaging

3.Feature Discovery

If customers don’t know about features, they can hardly be expected to use them. And let’s face it, most of your customers won’t spend their spare time browsing around what they can do in your banking app. It’s therefore critical that you let customers know about the full range of features in your app, so that they can get as much value as possible from it.

Initial onboarding might feel like the perfect time to introduce fundamental features like checking your balances and setting up standing orders. However, users are often pretty impatient to get to the core app experience at this point, and information either doesn’t land or gets skipped over.  As an alternative, consider in-app campaigns later in the lifecycle that point out features that an individual user is yet to experience.

For more advanced features, such as ‘withdraw cash without a card’, it is beneficial to point it out in the context of use, with tip overlay in-app messages walking a user through every step of the way. Be smart about it though, don’t deliver these messages to customers who have already used the feature you are messaging about.

Feature discovery for customers should be an ongoing process, and it is naive to think that once a customer has been onboarded and has turned into an active user that they don’t need any further help discovering features. After an app update, where your fantastic new features become available to make your customers’ lives that little bit easier, it is vital to serve a ‘what’s new’ walkthrough.

Feature Discovery

4. Multi-Channel Distribution

As I mentioned earlier, customers use all sorts of devices and channels, which enables many different kinds of interactions. This is great news for the finance industry as there are now more ways than ever to engage with customers, which will expand your reach to the furthest most limits (for now anyway!). The important thing is to be ready to support these new technologies. For example, over 50 million Amazon Echo and Google home devices are projected to be sold worldwide in 2018. Being able to ask “Alexa, what is my bank balance today?” is something that customers are going to want to do, and there are already banks offering this kind of interaction.  

But customers don’t see your service as separate channels; they see you as a unified brand that they can interact with through a variety of channels. It’s therefore imperative to be able to share and synchronise data across channels, as well as all of your behind-the-scenes supporting platforms, to create a coherent multi-channel experience. This will enable you to deliver campaigns to specific individuals in the channel that is right for them, at a time that they are most likely to engage with your messages. It’s this kind of precise and powerful interaction that will really help you drive engagement.