The whole mobile versus branch battle has been debated and discussed so much it’s hard to think beyond the conventional wisdom that says mobile is slowly displacing branch visits. Needless to say, once you get beyond this it’s a little more nuanced, particularly as customers increasingly bank across multiple channels and demand branch and mobile experiences to be as similar and familiar as possible.
Certainly 2015 was when we finally reached and went beyond the tipping point, as for the first time ever there were more people using a mobile banking app than visiting a branch.
According to Javelin Strategy & Research, the number of weekly mobile bankers exceeded that of weekly branch bankers over the year. This was a first and it highlights the immense shift that has occurred already as digital channel engagement grows while physical channel usage is shrinking.
In 2015, one in ten US adults began using mobile banking for the very first time – which equates to 25 million new mobile bankers.
Adoption of mobile banking and smartphones has more than doubled over the last five years. Such is the change that Javelin proclaimed that mobile banking is the “clear winner” in the battle between mobile and branch.
“Mobile is on a growth path to unseat PCs to become the ‘first screen’ through which bank customers interact with and judge their primary financial institution (FI),” said Daniel Van Dyke, mobile analyst at the research group.
“FIs will need to continue to innovate to outpace this increasing mobile banking adoption. With fintech start-ups and other vendors entering the space, consumers have more options than ever when it comes to mobile.”
It’s a similar picture in the UK, where the BBA said in the middle of 2015 that mobile apps had become the number one way to bank. By 2020 it’s estimated that UK customers will use their mobile to manage their current account 2.3 billion times in a year, which will be more than internet, branch and telephone banking combined.
David Ebstein, head of digital for financial services at EY, commented: “The British public is voting with its thumbs. Being mobile-enabled is a must, not a maybe, and banks that don’t engage properly with mobile channels risk losing relevance in customer’s lives. The next frontier of innovation will be delivering an exceptional customer experience through mobile, across products and services, and going beyond banking.”
We can look elsewhere for similar trends. MasterCard recently reported one in three (31.8 percent) Asia Pacific customers uses mobile banking apps, while half have made a purchase with a smartphone and one in five uses digital wallets. Wherever you go around the globe, mobile banking is more popular.
But is this mobile banking world really the end of the story? Certainly mobile is displacing other channels to greater or less degree – whether ATM, branch, internet (via desktop) or telephone. But the new mobile-first world does not have to mean mobile-only. In fact it’s clear customers desire a mix of channels to use. And, critically, they want the experience to match whether they’re in branch or on their mobile.
As Mr Ebstein explains, the task now is about “successfully joining the dots between mobile, internet and branch banking”. In essence what he means is building a truly omnichannel experience for the customer.
The tipping point has been reached and surpassed – mobile is king. But the task now is the balancing act of ensuring that banks get the channel mix right.
For banks the important thing is differentiation from the competition. Passing the tipping point in mobile also means saturation – the days when a mobile app made you stand out have passed. The challenge in mobile (and therefore across the entire channel mix, looking at it from the omnichannel perspective), is to create mobile apps that actually appeal to customers. Mobile experience can now be a differentiating factor if it can work across channels as well.
Andy Brown, Marketing Director Payments at NCR Corporation, has nearly 30 years’ experience in e-payment systems both from the delivery and support of systems in the Far East and Europe and in the product management and marketing perspectives. Based in the UK, Andy is responsible for the marketing for NCR’s payments solutions.