Mobility Matters: Reaching for the Desert Sky in Member Mobile Adoption
Stop thinking small. Mobile is in every hand today just about and there is no shinier proof than the recent rollout of mobile banking -- to a surprisingly huge membership segment – by Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, the $3 billion, Phoenix-based institution.
Desert Schools had been dithering about rolling out mobile for some years – “We knew we needed it to retain members,” said Cathy Graham, a vice president who said that such plans had been put on hold as Desert Schools found itself in one of the geographies hardest hit by the recession. But when the economy began to perk up, Desert Schools put mobile banking back on its must-do list.
Desert Schools pulled the trigger this summer – uploading apps to the Apple Apps Store, Android Play, and even the BlackBerry Apps store – and 90 days later it has a stunning number to report: “30% of our online banking users are now using our mobile apps,” said Graham. That is 57,000 users for the Desert Schools apps and they have been enrolled with minimal marketing push to the credit union’s 322,000 members.
“We have notices on our online banking site, we sent out emails, and we put up notices on Twitter and Facebook,” said Graham, who acknowledged the efforts, collectively, had been scant – but the member embrace has been thunderous.
Note: Traditionally, institutions have set modest adoption goals – usually 10% to 20% of online banking members in year one was the target for many mobile banking launches.
Why did Desert Schools do so much better? “There just was a lot of pent-up demand. Our members had been telling us they wanted mobile banking,” said Graham.
Desert Schools frankly would have been happier with a slower launch. It believed it had perfected the apps in arduous internal testing, but who knows until the service goes live? They were happy to have an anticipated trickle of adopters so they would have plenty of time to smooth out wrinkles.
There were in fact no bumps in the rollout – no hitches – but the members showed up in droves. “Members were finding the apps themselves in the Apps Store and installing them,” said Graham.
Think about it. This is the time for mobile and the Desert Schools case study illustrates it perfectly.
The iPhone was introduced in June, 2007. Nearly 500 million smartphones shipped globally in 2011. One in two US consumers used a smartphone in early 2012, per Nielsen research. Maybe five million iPhone 5s shipped in its first September weekend of selling and this nudges smartphone market share only higher.
Bottom line: smartphones are everywhere and so are high-speed data networks (3G and faster 46) that now cover much of the nation’s population. (Verizon claims its 4G LTE network can be accessed by 75% of the population. AT&T makes a similar claim.) Put together the ingredients and, suddenly, it makes perfect sense that, yes, members want mobile apps and when they have them, they will use them.
So it was at Desert Schools.
Tellingly, Graham admits that Desert Schools’ internal target adoption goal had been 15,000 in the first year (maybe 8% of online banking users). They got almost four times more in the first 90 days and, importantly, “these are more engaged and profitable members. Our average mobile banking user is twice as profitable as our average member,” said Graham. That average mobile banking user incidentally has 46 interactions per month with the app, which is 1 ½ per day.
The most common complaint heard by Graham regarding mobile banking: “When will you have remote deposit capture?” she said The answer is imminently, probably by the end of October.
Another finding: it seems the vast majority of members who have jumped on Desert Schools’ mobile banking come to this already well taught. “We get very few requests for help,” said Graham, who believes the early adopters probably have been using mobile banking apps from other institutions so they already know what to do.
Graham poignantly asks: “Just think what would have happened to those members if we hadn’t introduced our apps?
She indicated that now she wants to track a group of early adopters, “to see if they increase their relationships with us. So far what we are seeing is that many of the earliest mobile banking users also make heavy use of branches.” That’s hard to explain but it so far is fact for Desert Schools.
“I think the app increases our stickiness, she said.