While there are probably thousands of banks around the world without any kind of mobile offering, with most major consumer financial institutions having already deployed at least a bare-bones app, we can now say that the first era of mobile banking is now behind us. We can also say that now is when the race really begins.
There are two main reasons banks need to now start getting very serious about mobile. One is that they have a chance to play a dominant role in a mobile payments future that with each day becomes more promising. They have this chance because – ironically enough, in today’s era of “bank-bashing” – most consumers are predisposed to trust the mobile payment apps of their banks. In addition to this sense of security and efficiency, bank apps tend to be on the “home screens” of mobile users, making them a potential default choice for a range of activities going beyond traditional m-banking services. It also happens to be handy when making a large purchase to be able to quickly check one’s bank balance.
The second reason banks need to up their mobile game now is that this edge won’t last, as a range of new competitors in the m-commerce area gain ubiquity and consumers become comfortable making mobile transactions on non-bank apps. So just as banks are being offered an opportunity to reconnect with their customers and prospects in a more personal and powerful way than ever before, mobile presents perhaps the greatest threat of disintermediation these same institutions have ever faced.
In the first generation of mobile banking offerings, ease of use and an engaging interface were the only meaningful requirements (though a requirement that even today too many bank apps fail to meet). Now, however, even the ability to make secure payments to merchants isn’t enough to give “top-of-wallet” status to a bank’s mobile app.
“Payments alone don’t inspire many consumers to pull out their phones and open an m-commerce app,” says Maria Bichl, the head of business development at Cellum Austria, who covers clients in a range of other European markets, including her native Russia. “Instead, they want an end-to-end mobile experience in which shopping and banking are seamlessly melded with their other daily rituals.”
Because these daily rituals vary widely by country and region, banks that succeed in the second and third wave of m-banking and m-commerce will apply the same local knowledge to their mobile channels as to their other operations.
This, in turn, demands that banks develop better intelligence on what relevant technology is available around the world at all times, and on both the local and global ecosystems of potential IT partners.
“Cellum is capable not only of creating m-commerce and m-payment apps from scratch for financial institutions, but also to complement with tailored SDK a bank’s existing m-banking app with Bluetooth Low Energy or QR-enabled m-commerce functions, among other crucial features,” says Bichl.
But, she says, what banks need as much as new mobile capabilities is a vision of the enormous opportunities offered by the next wave of m-banking and m-commerce innovation. “Think beyond the transaction – mobile commerce is an opportunity to entice, acquire and delight consumers.”