As iPads Burst on the Scene, CUs Consider Jumping on the Bandwagon
o iPads have become major online presence nearly from the moment of their launch.
o Credit unions and their technology providers note that current online banking software works on the devices.
? Some institutions and companies are working on banking applications specific to the iPad.
o Competitors to the iPad are expected on the market soon and standards may follow.
The sheer speed with which the iPad has become a household name has been remarkable, analysts and industry observers said, and that success has some credit union marketers and technologists wondering if they should jump aboard.
Apple sold 3.27 million of the devices between its April 3 launch and the end of its fiscal quarter on June 26, "becoming a major consumer electronics product category-unto itself-within one single quarter," said Forrester Research's Sarah Rotman Epps.
Meanwhile, a June survey of 3,990 online U.S. consumers in June showed only 5% had never heard of the iPad, compared with 25% in the same survey who said they hadn't heard of the Amazon Kindle, three years after its introduction.
Leading the charge are folks interested in gadgets in general, Epps pointed out, adding, "the success of the Apple iPad has created a halo around tablets in general." She pointed out that major names such as HP, Dell, Toshiba, Android and Lenovo are making plans to enter the market soon with their own entries.
And who's using them? "U.S. online consumers who own or intend to buy iPads and other tablets fit a typical early-adopter profile, and their characteristics have implications for product strategists. They own multiple PCs and connected devices; they're voracious media consumers; and they have an affinity for other Apple products but aren't exclusively 'Apple-ites,"' Epps said in her new report on iPads.
They're also online bankers who are on the leading edge of a new convergence of financial services and consumer demand, and it's time to at least start thinking if not acting on that fact, according to several credit union industry participants.
"iPad banking opens a new door for credit unions to begin contemplating-that of touch banking," said Tripp Johnson of CCG Catalyst in Phoenix, Ariz. "The iPad and tablet PCs in general will force credit union developers to rethink application design due to the very nature of the table being controlled by touch. Consequently, the opportunity exists to create a truly unique user experience."
That said, Johnson recommends a wait-and-see approach. "Tablet PC adoption is a couple of years off and for the immediate future I would recommend that CUs simply optimize their current online banking platforms to be tablet compatible versus developing a new platform solely for the iPad or any other tablet PC," he said.
"Having to support multiple online banking platforms can be costly and strong adoption for the iPad or table PCs for online banking has yet to be determined," Johnson said.
That seems to be the current strategy at San Diego-based Symitar, where marketing manager John San Filippo said, "While we have in fact developed an iPhone application for our goDough mobile banking platform, we don't have any current plans to develop something specifically for tablet computers like the iPad."
"Due to the greater screen real estate these systems afford, most users would likely use the normal browser interface to our NetTeller home banking system. That approach works well."
That line of thinking resonates with what Stu Fisher, senior vice president of e-commerce at notably tech-savvy Addison Avenue FCU in Palo Alto, Calif., has in mind. The $2.4 billion institution is working some iPad enhancements into the next iteration of its iPhone app which Fisher said already works on the new tablet device.
"To me, it's kind of like a third car. I like the iPad but see it as kind of a niche product for now. I'm not giving up my BlackBerry or laptop for it," he said. "But don't get me wrong. It's a great little device, beautiful and easy to use, and we'll all be watching the other tablets that are coming along now to compete with it. HP has one coming out soon and, keep in mind how quickly Google's Android platform began outselling iPhones."
Pixilation problems have been mentioned as an issue using the iPhone app on the larger iPad screen and industry observers also expect tech standards of yet-to-be determined nature to emerge as other tablets establish their niche.
One leading technologist, taking much the same tack as the Forrester analyst who noted that iPad owners own lots of other devices, too, observed that serving all channels may be the best tactic moving forward.
"Our consumers tells us all the time that their consumers want to access their financial lives at all time from whatever device they have. The iPad is the newest and most powerful one, perhaps, but it is certainly not the only one, and I'd have a hard time betting on any single channel," said Geoff Knapp, vice president of online banking and consumer insights at Fiserv Inc. in Brookfield, Wis.
"Does the richness of the applications, the things you can do touching the screen, differentiate the iPad enough for the consumer to put down his iPhone or Droid and instead carry the iPad as his primary connectivity device? I'm not sure yet," Knapp said.
"I am pretty confident, however, that the online banking experience will continue to be optimized and that we all will to continue to think holistically about this, and not just go create a bunch of different apps just to have them," he said.
John Flora, group product manager for mobile solutions at Intuit Financial Services in Calabasas, Calif., would agree. "Members have a wide variety of devices to choose from today and it's important for credit unions to take a holistic approach to mobile so they can meet the needs of all their members," he said.
That said, "nearly half of the mobile banking users we support are using iPhones," Flora added. "With iPad usage growing, there is a significant opportunity for credit unions to meet a specific member need. The credit unions that do so will be better equipped to win and keep these relationships."
And as for touch pads in general, going forward, Jonathan Corr, chief strategy officer for mortgage origination technology specialist Ellie Mae in Pleasanton, Calif., observed, "From a credit union's perspective, I see the movement toward tablets, whether iPad- or Droid-based, as an incredible opportunity to drive the next level of mobile banking applications. Although there has been some success on smart phones and the iPhone, the expanded form factor of these new devices truly allows folks to do a tremendous amount of banking and other financial activities on the go."