A Fresh Look At The Mobile Experience

Mobility requires credit unions to view their services through a lens of consumer context and provide members what they want, when they need it.




There’s little contention that the credit union industry is now competing in a digital world driven by mobile devices. This means that in order to fully meet your members’ needs, your cooperative must have a mobile presence.

There is contention, however, about what specific mobile offerings are the most important to offer; from the ability to check balances and make payments, to exploring financial products or filling out loan applications. In some cases, these opinions may be influenced more by the products and services offered than by what mobile users themselves actually want to achieve.

As the digital shift continues, ultimate success in this channel will require financial institutions to stop thinking of mobile as merely a device with on-screen real estate and start thinking about it as a holistic experience.

The Incredible Morphing Business Model

Consider how quickly the world has changed in just a few decades:

  • In less than 35 years, music has gone from vinyl to streaming.
  • In less than 20 years, publishing has moved from print to digital.
  • In less than 10 years, news has moved from a push model (driven by journalists) to a pull model (aggregated from blogs and tweets).

The landscapes of entire industries have been altered, causing economic and job losses that no one foresaw at the time yet in hindsight seem inevitable. Financial services will be disrupted as well — but this is a revelation that is not always uniformly recognized nor prepared for.

The evidence for this impeding disruption is abundant:

  • Within the last 15 years, prepaid debit cards have replaced checking accounts for one in five underbanked consumers and one in 10 members of the general population, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.
  • Within the last 10 years, crowdfunding networks have begun replacing some traditional bank-supplied loans.
  • Within the last five years, many small businesses have shifted from cash-only operations to accepting card-based payments through consumer mobile devices and the use of mini card readers.

This digitization of economics won’t stop — and as financial services leaders, credit unions will need to change as well.

Planning For Context

Smartphones changed everything by providing real-time access to consumers and enabling these individuals to be in the loop at every point of the financial cycle.

For example, these devices can allow your members to:

  • Review features before selecting
  • Compare prices before buying
  • Ask friends before deciding
  • Get coupons before purchasing
  • Check balances before paying
  • Confirm budgets before committing

Consumers can do all of this whenever they want and wherever they are.

Home computers may have introduced anytime banking into the equation, but smartphones and mobile devices have elevated that expectation to anytime/anywhere banking. And therein lies the dilemma, because the services consumers want on a mobile device are not the same as those they want at home.

For example, if a consumer is heading out to go shopping, they don’t need a balance history; they need the current available balance and the amount they can spend. If the consumer is in the showroom, they don’t need the ability to pay a bill; they need to know how much they can borrow, at what rate, and whether or not they are pre-approved.

Mobility ultimately requires credit unions to view their services through a lens of consumer context — i.e., what does the user need here and now?

As you adopt this new mindset, traditional concepts of product and channel will start to blur. Your offerings will still need to come equipped with fundamental capabilities, but these capabilities should be deployed systematically, within the context of a member's current situation.

This is a concept today’s Internet titans understand well. Services such as Google Now, Facebook Home, and CueUp (now owned by Apple) all try to anticipate the consumer’s next need and provide the right details at the right time, without the consumer asking first. Essentially, their relevant product features (maps, searches, music, reminders, phone numbers, and more) are brought together in exactly the product the consumer needs at that moment.

This is the opposite of past product development, where a team would decide features months or years ahead of the point of consumption. Today, such an attempt to pre-package products and channels is actually more likely to limit than enhance your mobile services.

3 Lessons from digital giants

Google, Facebook, and Twitter have become part of most people’s lives practically overnight and their mobile services are so attractive that hundreds of millions of people use them every day. Credit unions may face a very different set of challenges than these mobile mammoths, yet they can still learn a few things from the way such businesses attract and retain their customers.

  1. First Refusal: At first glance, this seems obvious. Traditionally, after making a consumer happy once, you could expect to see them return. But the mobile environment throws a wrench in these works by allowing consumers to more effortlessly compare products. If your competitor’s mobile interface is easier to work with, members can and will leave. Therefore, your attraction and retention strategies must be based on ease of use.
  2. Co-creation Of Products: Consider your personal Facebook page. It is unique to you — based on your settings, your likes, and your friends — and is constantly evolving over time. Similarly, your Amazon profile offers you products and services based on your history and preferences, allowing you to essentially co-create your own product. This individualization of service has proven enormously successful in other industries, so think about how your credit union might incorporate a co-creative approach into its own mobile experience.
  3. Accessibility And Usability: The most successful user experiences don’t try to pack in features that have to be used in a specific way. Rather, they avoid these prescriptive tendencies and try to remain responsive to user feedback. Jay Baer, author of the book “Youtility,” notes that people want help, not hype, so pay close attention to how users access your mobile interface, how they navigate it, and what they love or hate about it. Enhance what the consumer likes to keep them coming back and then do it again and again, in small cost-effective release cycles.

Next: 7 Keys To Mobile Engagement

About PSCU
PSCU serves over 1500 financial institutions with a complete range of payment card and eCommerce solutions backed by industry-leading fraud management, strategic consulting, and 24/7/365 contact centers. Our innovation initiatives marry new payments technologies, such as EMV and mobile wallets, with proven deployment strategies and analytics to empower credit unions to compete and prosper.


This sponsored content article is provided to the credit union community for shared insights and knowledge from a recognized solutions provider in the industry. Please note that the views and opinions offered here do not reflect those of Callahan & Associates, and Callahan does not endorse vendors or the solutions they offer.

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July 7, 2014



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