May 15, 2013

A recent Gallup Poll clearly suggests that the brand perception of US banks is nearing generational lows. From a global financial crisis to new fees that are often seen as predatory, the once-undisputed trust banks had with their consumers continues to erode across demographic categories. With demographics shifting toward a new, mobile-first consumer, banking institutions have an opportunity to completely rethink interaction and engagement to re-establish a stronger bond of trust with their customers.

Today’s “mobile-first” generation has seriously upset the traditional way of thinking. The digital age is upon us, and interaction has almost completely shifted from physical to digital. As banks and financial institutions struggle to understand how to compete under increasing regulatory pressures, tech intermediaries are coming into the fold to create new, direct-to-consumer relationships that seek to disrupt the financial services and payment industries forever. With trust low and consumers inundated with new offers for mobile services from all sides, banks cannot afford to simply follow technology innovation; they must begin to lead it.

Mobile is a Key Vehicle in Regaining Consumer Trust

While today’s consumer may visit a bank’s physical location once per month, they log into online banking services six times and their mobile applications much more, on average, during the same period. Mobile offerings are the best channel for banks to drive a more personalized, frequent interaction leading to a deeper customer engagement. Through mobile, forward-thinking banks can create the types of differentiated solutions – from real-time access, alerts and personalized user experiences based on certain factors, to unique loyalty rewards, deals and payment vehicles that match a consumer’s desires and profile – all designed to attract and engage their customer bases and to drive future monetization opportunities.

Mobile payments and commerce, both in store and remote, are a service expectation of the mobile-first generation today and of every consumer in the near future, and with so many different options out there, consumers haven’t identified a trusted provider. That leaves a gaping hole (and multi-billion-dollar opportunity) for banking institutions, payment companies, and other suppliers to fill as the trusted entity for delivering payments and commerce content. Mobile is no longer ‘nice to have’. It’s a ‘must do’ at every level, be it national, regional or community.

Catch Up to the Present

Though online adoption is still strong, banks generally realize that online customers will still end up using mobile as their primary, real-time experience. This is already evident in other industries. Take Windows 8, for example. The user experience of the new operating system is built specifically with the mobile user in mind, because while desktop and laptop computers are still in use, based on unit sales volume, computing will soon be done primarily on the tablet and the smartphone.

In order to ensure they stay ahead of the mobile curve, successful mobile experiences from banks of all sizes need to ensure that they have high engagement experiences as a baseline – 20+ touch points per month at minimum - by not settling for “less than excellent” solutions. Un-optimized solutions don’t drive adoption or engagement, and by extension trust, because they don’t contain the services that users want and they don’t have the user experience required by your different customer segments.

Leverage the Past to Build on the Future

Banks today have a golden opportunity to use this frequent mobile engagement to regain the trust of their consumers. As the plethora of new companies come onto the scene touting mobile payment offerings or mobile commerce content, its important for banking institutions to leverage their foundations and offer consumers the peace of mind of trust via regulated, safe, guaranteed, consumer-centric experiences in delivering payment and commerce services. In addition, their business models are built to provide direct-to-consumer customer support and for being the voice of reason and regulation in managing the housing of funds, funds transfers and settlements. All of this serves as an excellent foundation for further delivery of trusted content as well as managing the inevitable flow of exceptions.

In the world of payments, everything is fine until something goes wrong, and banks are at the center of helping customers deal with the nuances of settling within the complexities of the payment systems. By making sure these services are trusted and tested as reliable, consumers will naturally reassess who holds their trust in mobile payment and commerce offerings. Because who are you going to call at your friendly search technology giant when something goes wrong?

Use Your Data to deliver Real Convenience, Service and Value That Consumers Want

Finally, banks are privy to a lot of information that other providers simply don’t have in a manner that is controlled and safe via personal preferences and regulatory considerations. From available account balances to debt, banks can easily use this information in collaboration with consumer privacy considerations, to create a more compelling set of mobile services for its customers. Simple things such as bill pay and balances can really help a consumer make decisions about shopping or offers and the buying of both soft and hard goods. By stepping up and offering more pointed content to the consumer using their knowledge of the consumer’s preferences, demographics, location and transactions, banks can recapture the their trusted relationship that has been damaged in the past few years.

Many different companies have stepped into the void left by the banking industry’s hiccups. But as they seek to disrupt the long-standing relationship between the consumer and their bank with new technology, the banking industry has a secret weapon: trust. With a full-featured mobile offering, banks can re-establish trust and quickly find themselves in a deeper and more compelling relationship with the consumer that simply can’t be broken.

Carl Tsukahara is the chief marketing officer at Monitise, a global provider of mobile banking, commerce and payments solutions.