Walk Before You Run With Online and Mobile: Guest Opinion
A mobile triple play describes a financial institution’s offering when it provides customers access to mobile banking in a total of three ways: mobile browser, text and mobile application.
As in baseball, triple plays in the mobile space today are rare–at least for many of the nation’s credit unions that are only just beginning to implement mobile strategies. Some experts believe lacking the complete triple play spells disaster for a credit union’s mobile program. What these experts are forgetting, however, is that truly successful credit unions don’t often take a one-size-fits-all approach to anything, from membership to products to service.
Because credit unions understand how to serve a niche, they can also understand that building out a mobile strategy to satisfy every single entry point is not necessary. In fact, that kind of thinking could create more damage than good. A credit union aiming to provide the full range of access may not be able to make the kind of time, technology and cost investment it would take, and could therefore, be tempted to abandon the project altogether. With more consumers expecting mobile access to their money, neglecting a mobile strategy is no longer an option.
Credit unions should begin their mobile strategies by first working to understand the makeup of their membership. How many mobile phone users belong to the credit union? How many of those mobile phones are smartphones? And how many of those people want to engage with the credit union via phone?
Only after gaining a full understanding of the membership can managers in charge of mobile engagement understand what is truly required to make a mobile banking strategy successful for their particular institution. After all, if 80% of the credit union owns only a feature phone, the development of a mobile banking app is not an immediate priority. Could launching the app attract new, younger members? Absolutely, and it should be part of the strategy down the road. Prioritizing the access points to best fit the current membership is the simplest and most cost-effective way for a credit union to enter the mobile space.
It’s important to understand that mobile banking is absolutely poised to take over online banking, and it will happen sooner than most of us think and probably sooner than many community-based financial institutions are prepared. An unfortunate side effect of this race to mobile implementation may be the neglect of online banking. Therefore, credit unions planning to launch mobile strategies must be sure to also budget and plan for the upkeep of their old-fashioned browser banking.
One area of increasing interest for consumers banking online and from their mobile devices is personal financial management, such as Mint.com, which takes a consumer’s various financial accounts from different institutions and brings them together under one roof, manageable with one online or mobile interface.
This type of configuration is incredibly attractive to today’s busy, bargain-hunting consumer. More than happy to jump from one financial institution to another to get the best rate, these consumers still long for the simplicity of one provider. PFM satisfies this desire for easy financial management, and credit unions that successfully implement it will be well positioned to inspire that ever-elusive loyalty.
PFM and other upgrades to online banking, just like the mobile banking triple play, present their fair share of budget, technology and time challenges. Fortunately, online banking upgrades can also be implemented slowly with the plan to expand over time. Credit unions that must prioritize would do well to consider starting with person-to-person payments.
P2P can be the first step toward bringing a member’s daily financial tasks under your one roof. This will be especially appealing to those mobile banking customers who want to transact right from their phone without having to worry about trips to the ATM, bringing along checkbooks or stuffing their wallets with a bunch of plastic.
P2P implementation is easier than you may think, and credit unions reap the benefits. So, too, are their members who now have access to a way to pay friends, family and even some retailers instantly and fee-free right from the online banking site of the credit union they know and trust.
Don’t get me wrong. The mobile triple play and a full-service online banking platform is absolutely the preferred way to go even for those credit unions that serve an older membership. But, if a credit union can’t make the full investment required, starting slowly with a few priority features definitely beats doing nothing at all.
Brian Day is Dwolla product leader for The Members Group
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