Small Businesses Willing to Pay for Mobile Access
Ask a few small-business owners about their mobile banking needs and their wish lists may read like this: capture and store receipts, block stolen credit cards and schedule appointments with their credit union or bank.
Give them what they want and they won't mind paying for these services, according to the 2014 Monetizing Mobile Banking for Small Business Customers Study, which culled responses from 147 U.S.-based small businesses that generate up to $4.99 million in annual revenue. The respondents said monthly fees ranging from $1 to $10 for certain unlimited transactions would not be a financial burden.
When it came to the most advanced interactive mobile banking services, small businesses said receiving transaction verification and advanced warning, capturing and storing receipts and requesting for payment flexibility for loans, mortgages or credit cards were their top choices.
On the other end, monitoring fraudulent activities, reaching an institution when needed, such as calling customer service or placing an inquiry and scheduling appointments at a bank location, were the three most important basic interactive mobile banking services.
Sprinkled in the middle were depositing a check, reporting and blocking lost and stolen cards, transferring money between accounts and paying off a loan, the survey's respondents said.
The three most important informational mobile banking services were accessing account information, receiving alerts and service guarantees, and knowing how they are protected, according to the study.
“A wide range of small businesses are willing to pay for more advanced mobile banking features, but most financial institutions are only offering free basic services,” said Jamie Zussman, business development associate for RateWatch, a banking data and analytics service and one of the sponsors of the small-business mobile banking study. Simon-Kucher & Partners, a strategy and marketing consulting firm, was the other co-sponsor.
The $613 million Alabama Telco Credit Union in Birmingham, Ala., launched mobile banking in August 2009 and its mobile banking app in April 2013, said Stanton Davis, vice president of marketing. Nearly 6,390 members have signed on but only on the consumer side. While the credit union doesn't earn revenue on mobile banking, that hasn't stopped it from moving forward with other services.
“We plan to roll out remote deposit capture for our members this summer,” Davis said. “It will enable members to take a photo of their check and deposit it via their mobile phone or tablet. It will be an added feature to our mobile banking app, so it's only available for Android and iPhone users.”
Meanwhile, 34% of the study's respondents said they use mobile banking on a weekly basis, while 33% use it less frequently and 33% have never used it at all. Eighteen percent said they didn't see a need for mobile banking. Comparatively, 75% said they use online banking on a weekly basis, 21% use it less frequently and 4% have never used it at all, according to the study.
For the most part, credit unions are trying to keep up with demand for mobile banking on the consumer side. Bringing those services to their business members is still a work in progress.
Many credit unions and banks recognize they need to offer more advanced mobile capabilities to small business members and customers but securing the budget to do so isn't always an easy task, especially for those without deep pockets, said Christine Barry, research director for Boston-based Aite Group's wholesale banking practice.
“While they may not pay fees for mobile access itself, they tend to use multiple bank products for which they do pay,” Barry said. “This is a revenue stream that financial institutions can't afford to lose.”
Indeed, approximately 45% of mobile banking users generating less than $20 million in annual revenue spend more than $50 each month on banking products or services, making them an attractive segment, according to a 2014 Aite study, Why Banks Should Offer Mobile Banking to Small Businesses, which surveyed 1,003 businesses in the U.S.
With record adoption since launching mobile banking in the spring of 2012, the $3.8 billion Desert Schools Federal Credit Union in Phoenix said its mobile users are two times more profitable than traditional members and are averaging 46 interactions a month with the mobile banking application.
“Mobile is the future of our relationship with members, and being able to update specific components of our mobile platform allows us to deliver a differentiated experience that improves member retention and loyalty while also attracting new ones,” said Peter Farrow, chief information officer at Desert Schools.
To that end, the credit union recently upgraded to the Vantage 5.1 next-generation mobile banking platform technology from Monitise, a global mobile money service firm. The move aims for frequent and rapid delivery of value-added features and mobile wallet capabilities.
In January, AT&T and Vantiv, a Cincinnati-based payment processor that counts credit unions among its clients, launched a mobile app that utilizes a card reader to allow businesses to quickly swipe credit, debit or prepaid cards for processing on a smartphone or tablet and a tablet-based, cloud-connected payment service that processes business payments.
“Over the last year, our credit union partners have expanded their offerings to include focusing on small-business solutions and breaking away from relying entirely on consumer services,” said Dustin Young, Vantiv vice president for mobile products. “We believe it is important, as do our partners, to offer solutions to both business owners and consumers, who are often one and the same.”