Can you remember the last time you walked into a bank to conduct business with a teller?
I can’t, and I'm guessing a big chunk of the population would say the same. A 2016 study found that 40% of customers had not visited a bank within the last six months. Some banks are digital-only; they have no brick-and-mortar branches, and all operations are handled online or through banking apps.
One Swrve financial services customer has revealed that more of its customers engage with its mobile app in one minute than visit all of its physical locations combined in one week. That's an astounding statistic – not to mention a huge acknowledgement that the era of mobile has finally arrived for the banking sector.
Shedding a stodgy image in favor of flexibility
The banking industry, in fact, is shedding its once stodgy reputation and paving the way toward a mobile-first environment. Banks are deploying very versatile apps and "fintech" (finance + technology) services – a direction and mindset that mobile marketers, retailers and other industries should follow.
From nearly anywhere, bank customers can open a browser or click on an app to do everything they used to do inside a bank and now expect to do from a mobile device: deposit checks, transfer funds, apply for a loan, check balances and more.
Forgot to pay the electric bill? Do it in a few quick clicks on your smartphone on the train.
Want to send $50 to your daughter for her birthday? Send a peer-to-peer payment from the couch while you're watching TV.
Need to check your bank balance before splurging on a sale item with your debit card? Check your bank balance in real time from inside a store to make sure the purchase won't overdraw your account.
The mobile economy has arrived
Bank and fintech apps are also layering on new capabilities, such as the ability to pay friends directly when splitting a four-way check at a restaurant through peer-to-peer (P2P) services like Venmo ($2.5 billion in Q3 2015 transactions), PayPal and SquareCash.
Some bank customers can even pre-schedule an ATM withdrawal via an app; they simply wave an NFC-enabled smartphone or look into the ATM’s camera for facial recognition to verify their identity and collect their cash.
By modernizing their services, banks are acknowledging that very common activities, transactions and expectations – whether consumers are traveling, shopping, dining out, searching for information, or managing their finances – have shifted to smartphones, apps and the mobile environment.
Let the website mimic the app
Banks are also re-thinking some long-standing mobile practices, including website redesign. Instead of optimizing their websites to accommodate smartphone traffic, for example, some banks are letting the simple functionality and graphical capabilities of their mobile apps inform the redesign of their websites. That in itself is a major shift – letting the website mimic the mobile app, rather than the other way around.
By doing so, banks are acknowledging the fact that more website traffic now originates from mobile devices than from computers, and bank marketers are making sure their websites go beyond mobile-optimized to become mobile-first.
Lessons for mobile marketers in other sectors
Mobile marketers can learn a thing or two by observing what banks are doing in the mobile environment – primarily making interactions and transactions easy and available anywhere, any time, any place.
Marketers must also ask questions about the future of business operations, especially as mobile payments become more accepted and commonplace, thanks to Android Pay, Apple Pay, AliPay and other digital wallets. How will mobile payments impact legacy business operations – everything from how stores are laid out, to the number of employees needed to operate them, to how customer service is delivered?
Bottom line: pay close attention to the financial services industry. A look at banking and fintech innovation provides insights into how to modernize an entire industry – and to meet the very real needs and expectations of mobile-first, mobile-always customers and clients.