When it comes to providing mobile banking to your members, the first question is: Should you do it? Looking at the increasing adoption rate of smartphones, and the number of competing banks and credit unions who provide their members with a mobile offering ... well, the answer is obvious.
Mobile banking is a value-added feature that helps members bank from anywhere, and it's becoming more of a baseline expectation with members.
A more interesting and complicating question is, which mobile banking access modes should you support? The three primary mobile access modes are text (SMS), mobile Web browser (WAP) and applications. Each of these access modes has different merits and drawbacks.
Text Banking: Text banking is a baseline offering that can enable you to reach all members, regardless of the type of device they use. Text banking can be used by members with older style handsets, but can also be used by smartphone owners who just want to perform a quick balance check without logging into an application or pulling up a website.
In addition to facilitating straightforward information exchanges, such as balance requests, text banking can be used to send alerts to members, helping them stay on top of their finances and even spot suspicious transactions.
Because text banking does not require a login, it is not appropriate for the transmission of more sensitive information, such as account numbers or payment information, which can limit the functionality of this access mode.
Additionally many members may prefer the additional security of logging in before accessing their information, and will gladly accept that “extra step” to ensure privacy.
Applications: Native mobile banking applications for Android, iPhone and other platforms are specifically designed to maximize the interactive features and functionalities of specific mobile devices.
Animations, page transitions, "drag and drop", access to phone services such as maps or native e-mail applications – all are available in a compiled app.
One drawback to the application mode is that building native applications requires design and development effort. And, if you want to target all members across multiple platforms you will need to create multiple versions, one for each platform.
This drawback can be mitigated by buying a mobile banking app from a service provider and then rebranding the app for your credit union. This provides your organization with the benefits of a rich interactive app without all of the production and maintenance costs.
Mobile Web Browser: This access mode provides access to mobile banking via screens and functions formatted specifically for mobile Web browsers.
Visitors to your website will see a specialized version when they access it from a mobile device. There have been great strides in development recently that allow credit unions to deliver a compelling and engaging mobile browser experience.
As with text banking, you will be able to reach a broader range of members via mobile browser than with applications, as anyone with the ability to access the Internet from their mobile device can potentially use the service.
The drawback is that this access mode is not as robust as a mobile app. There are certain interactive aspects that you will not be able to offer, and you will not have a presence in the app stores, such as Google Marketplace or iTunes.
So what is right for your credit union and its members? Here's a suggestion: ask your members. Survey them to see what they would like, and then use that data to inform your decision.
Above all, remember that mobile banking isn’t necessarily an either/or proposition; consider offering some combination of access modes, or, better yet, “all of the above.” Whatever works best for your particular member base.
Joseph Dickerson is a user experience architect for Fiserv Inc.