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Retail Companies Offer Important Mobile Lessons for Banks

What’s my account balance? How can I make a payment this afternoon? And how are my investments doing right now? These are frequently the daily, and sometimes hourly, needs of today’s financial consumers, and being able to respond to these requests with quick service has become a must for banks.

Our dependence on mobile, however, is raising the bar even higher for banks’ service delivery in these areas. Financial services once done by paper and then replaced by online banking have made a major shift to mobile, and this shift is changing the game for banking.

In recognizing how mobile has changed the fundamental nature of customer engagement, it’s instructional to make a survey of other industries to evaluate their mobile innovation and best practices in serving customers. Retail, in fact, offers a good example of a sector where many companies have seized on the promise of mobile and innovated. Interestingly, while many retail companies have moved to a new level of customer service using mobile, many banks still haven’t fully embraced the potential of mobile, and, in turn, many customers haven’t either. For example, according to a American Banker/SourceMedia Research report, 84 percent of banks offered some form of mobile banking, a number expected to climb to 93 percent by the end of 2015, but only about a third of customers actually downloaded their banks’ apps.

In my work with a number of retail companies and banks, I’ve identified two mobile services from retail companies that I think offer particularly critical lessons for banks. These services can not only enable banks the opportunity to deliver improved customer satisfaction through standard mobile offerings, but also can help banks to strengthen mobile engagement through new offerings that can be personalized to customers’ needs.

1. Engaging customers through multiple channels - New mobile channels available through apps and social media have combined with traditional channels like messaging and email to provide an expanded range of options. As a result, companies needing to reach customers can face a complex challenge in identifying the most effective channel overall as well as an individual customer’s most preferred channel. Fortunately, new technologies enable a sequence of mobile channels to be automatically activated to deliver important messages in an escalated format, and these technologies also offer consumers the power to personalize their communication channel preferences. Using these technologies, retail companies like department stores can alert customers of important events, such as a package being delivered or a sale just beginning, by first using a push notification and then a text message, to help ensure the customer receives the message. In the same way, it’s critical that banks offer a multi-channel mobile capability for customers to tailor mobile communications in ways that suit their preferences. This capability is especially important for urgent financial communications, such as alerts about suspicious account activity.

2. Making use of “mobile context” information - Creating relevance for engagement from a customer’s past and current activities is a new concept that is being termed “mobile context,” and it’s opening a new world of possibilities for engaging with customers. Mobile context allows companies – with the explicit opt-in of mobile users – to gain insight into users’ patterns and preferences, and then act on this data to personalize services for them. These preferences can include everything from where customers like to go, to what mobile channels they like to use, to what kinds of products they like to purchase. Mobile context information is being enabled by mobile operators that broker the vast amount of data accumulated on their subscribers and by companies themselves that leverage this data with customer analytics. Retail companies have especially embraced mobile context to tailor notifications for sales, coupons, new product arrivals, loyalty program rewards and special events. Similarly, banks have the capability to make use of mobile context information to engage customers with everything from on-the-spot customer service, to microtargeted service offerings, to card-linked third-party offers. In addition, there are a number of customer protection use cases for this data, such as using geolocation to verify that a card holder’s mobile device is at the same location as a purchase.

Banks now have an unprecedented opportunity to engage customers through mobile. By taking advantage of the retail industry’s efforts in mobile best practices, banks can take advantage of multi-channel capability and mobile context to deliver superior service and provide more personalized offerings to cater to customers’ needs.

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Disruption in Retail Banking

Growth in internet and mobile technologies has transformed many industries and economies. The market forces and competitive landscape has completely changed in many sectors. iTunes has fundamentally changed music industry, Amazon has driven most big brick and mortar book sellers out of business, Expedia is one of the worlds' biggest travel company….. the list goes on. Internet and mobile technologies are big disrupters for most industries. What started (and tapered a bit!) with the dot com boom of 2000 has become a lethal threat to most business models today. Powered by mass adoption in mobiles phones, proliferation of smart phones and cheaper band-width, internet and mobile technology have changed many industries. The banking industry in has been dominated by a handful of big global or regional banks for 100s of years. While the credit crisis has shaken this industry, the core market forces for the industry have not changed. Will Innovation in Internet and Mobile technologies disrupt retail banking? Will there be 5 new names in global top 10 retail banks in 2020?


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