American financial institutions should mine the untapped market of offline customers as a potential target audience for mobile banking and payment services, a survey commissioned by VeriSign suggests.
This research is on the right track, and I recommend a high degree of willful precision in acting on the recommendations. While smartphone users are indeed an important population, in the US one segment of smartphone users are really accounting for the lion's
share of actual usage: iPhone users. Our recent mobile banking survey showed that a whopping 50% of iPhone users are using mobile banking today, yet if you remove iPhone users from the overall smartphone population you'll find that the people with Blackberries,
Treos etc just aren't all that great of an audience.
From a different survey fielded last year (also with a couple thousand consumers) we also found that one particular mobile banking application represents unique growth and fee opportunities to bankers, tech vendors and telcos: person-to-person payments to
the unbanked. Our 2008 report showed that lower income predicts *higher* interest in using mobile banking to send funds to other people.
Because of mobile banking's unique "app-specific" appeal to certain low income people, bankers must also stop today's common practice of requiring customers to enroll via desktop/laptop Internet. The reason is that many of tomorrow's mobile banking customers
will bypass traditional fixed-location Internet banking altogether, so if you limit enrollment in M-banking to those that use a desktop or laptop, you'll miss the boat. For more on this see either our 2008 Mobile Banking Benchmark report, or just wait a week
or two for the latest version that scores actual mobile banking offerings from the largest US banks against criteria we developed based on our seven years of longitudinal consumer survey responses.
Interesting statistics - I spend a good deal of my time with banks in the Middle East, many of which are looking to mobile banking as a way to engage customers who don't have day-to-day Internet access, but do have their phones with them.
Unfortunately, the approach we take - using the video channel on 3G phones to deliver fast, intuitive applications - isn't available on US networks, but the the business case for providing service is very similar.
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