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M-banking services should target offline customers - survey

07 October 2009  |  10287 views  |  2 Wells Fargo M-banking

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.

Until now, banks have been focused on moving customers from the online to mobile channel, says VeriSign, which partnered Fiserv and M-Com on the survey.

This means they are simply migrating some transactions from one low-cost self-service platform to another, making it difficult for banks to make a substantial return on their investment in m-banking.

The survey of 501 US mobile phone users, conducted by Palmer Research, suggests banks should instead target offline customers that use more expensive channels. Nearly two-thirds of respondents that do not bank online say they contact their financial institution once a week or more through channels such as call centres and interactive voice response systems.

Yet 60% of these customers would be interested in using at least one service via their handset if it was offered during a typical month.

Adam Clark, CEO, M-Com, says: "Mobile banking is by far the lowest-cost non online banking channel available today, at an estimated eight cents a transaction. If you compare that to other banking channels such as call centre at $3.75 and IVR at $1.25 or even ATM at 85 cents, you can see how moving consumers to mobile banking will yield significant cost savings."

The survey also shows that financial institutions should target the growing audience of smart phone users for mobile banking. Over three quarters of smart phone users say they would likely adopt mobile banking services in the future versus just 54% of basic cell phone users.

In addition, the survey again highlights the importance of educating customers about security, with 53% of respondents citing concerns about m-banking's safety as a key barrier that would prevent them from using it.

"Even though we have yet to see significant security threats when it comes to mobile banking, financial institutions need to address concerns over security to help consumers overcome their fears," says Charles Landry, general manager, products and innovation, VeriSign Messaging and Mobile Media.

Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 07 October, 2009, 16:45

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. 

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A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 08 October, 2009, 16:04

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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