With the recent flurry of announcements about new mobile banking and payments initiatives, it's clear that mobile is really beginning to matter. But who exactly does it matter to, and how are consumers using the mobile channel today versus how they might use it in the future?
Although 18 percent of U.S. consumers are already significant users of mobile banking, not all mobile banking consumers are the same, as a recent Novarica survey of 2,500 people shows.
• Ten percent of U.S. consumers fall into the "Emerging Mobile" segment. These typically are younger, middle-income consumers who tend to be less loyal and most likely to switch banks due to inferior banking options.
• A further 8 percent of consumers (bringing us to the 18 percent figure cited above) belong to the "Ultra-Connected" segment. This segment is also made up of younger consumers, but in contrast to the Emerging Mobile set, these consumers are more affluent and include a high concentration of successful business owners. This segment also demonstrates a strong affinity for multichannel interaction and is more relationship- and advice-oriented.
• While not quite as dedicated to the mobile channel as the two "mobile-enabled" segments described above, Obsessive Service Addicts, who comprise an additional 5 percent of the U.S. population, are nonetheless inclined to use the mobile channel to check on their finances (along with frequent use of every other channel). Interestingly, this segment is made up of both lower-income females and higher-income males -- the common trait seems to be a desire for control over their financial lives.
Maximizing Mobile's Impact
Contrary to the popular view that mobile is for the young, early adopter crowd, the data shows that there are clearly some big differences among the behaviors, needs and profitability profiles of different customer segments that use the mobile channel. And banks have an opportunity to maximize the impact of their mobile banking efforts by designing and deploying mobile capabilities that appeal to the unique needs of their customer base.
For example, a bank that's looking to grow its mass affluent relationships would do well to understand how many and which of its customers fit the "Ultra-Connected" segment profile. Given the value to be derived from this segment on both the consumer and small-business fronts, deploying (free) mobile remote deposit capture for this highly profitable and competitive market segment is likely to be justified. This segment also is more likely to use multiple channels and may therefore prioritize having a more seamless experience across channels (for example, the ability to set and receive alerts across channels) or may opt for richer payments capabilities at the online channel over a new mobile capability.
The key take-away is that, in order to maximize their return on investment, banks should prioritize the functionality they choose to deploy at channels based on the preferences of their most profitable customers rather than according to the artificial barriers presented by organizational silos within the bank or by application silos within channels. Already, the lines among previously siloed online banking, bill payment, person-to-person payment, and personal financial management solutions are blurring and we're moving toward the next generation of online banking, where consumers can manage all of these functions from a single user interface.
Consumers will expect a similar experience at the mobile channel and across a wider range of devices, including tablets. Banks will need to determine how they'll respond -- ideally based on an empirical understanding of which customers will actually provide a return on these investments.
Madhavi Mantha is principal and head of banking research at Novarica, the research and advisory division of Novantas LLC.