Demographics Matter to Mobile Banking Strategies

Understanding which mobile phone features members are currently using can help credit unions select a mobile banking technology with greater chance of success.


A recent survey conducted by Callahan's Internet Strategy Consortium provides insight into the types of mobile phone features that members are currently using, in order to investigate future barriers to adoption of various mobile technologies. The online survey of more than 11,000 credit union members examined needs and preferences among online members—the segment of your membership most likely to be the early adopters of mobile banking technology.

Members are already using mobile phone features that are similar to the types of technologies that credit unions are considering for mobile banking. Current usage patterns of these features provide insight into the potential barriers and segments of interest for credit unions. Some technologies are SMS text-based, while others involve mobile Internet access using a downloadable application or a mobile browser.

Comfort with Mobile Features Varies with Age
As expected, members are much more familiar with text messaging than accessing the Internet through their mobile phone. As the chart below shows, experience with text messaging varies by age, although at least half of the members in each age group are using text messaging to some extent. Members who are under age 39 are most likely to be sending and receiving text messages. Among members older than 40, more are receiving text messages than sending them.

Mobile Internet usage is far lower overall, with a maximum of only one-third of members in the under 39 age group. Mobile Internet usage drops off sharply after age 39, with lowest experience levels in the over 50 group.

Understand Your Membership's Demographic Profile
It important to consider the demographics within your own credit union to fully understand the likely adoption curve. The Survey Consortium found a wide variation of mobile Internet use by credit union. While the basic curve is the same across age levels, the proportion of members who access the Internet through their mobile phone ranged from a low of 19% to a high of 42%. For example, one community-based credit union saw similar levels of mobile Internet usage across the segments ranging from age 18 through age 49, with usage dropping in the over 50 segment. For other credit unions, the decline in usage came after age 39.

Consider Your Target Segments
The survey results do not necessarily tip the balance in terms of one technology over the other, rather they illustrate that the functionality provided by text-based products versus mobile Internet-based products will attract different segments. Some credit unions recognize that this is not an “either-or” decision and plan to implement both types.

In prioritizing technology implementation, credit unions must also consider the relative value of the various segments they want to attract and retain. While mobile Internet users make up a lower proportion of members, they are also potentially one of the best prospects for increasing credit union service usage. Their high use of self-service channels and higher incomes make them a very attractive market for credit unions.




Dec. 29, 2008


  • Based on our data, different member segments are interested in different levels of functionality and have varying levels of experience with related technologies. Everyone is not using a mobile internet browser, even if they have that capability on their phone. But some members want the ability to conduct transactions beyond just text alerts with balance or activity information. Some financial institutions are planning both types of mobile access to reach the needs of a broader group of members. Credit unions should consider the needs of their own membership, and those they want to attract.
    Denise Senecal
  • Is it really a comparison between User Interfaces or does each interface have a role in a mobile payments and banking solution? i.e. SMS for alerts, WAP for interactive confirmations etc.
    Jason Hurlbut
  • Comment 3 is very true. SMS is still relevant/convenient for alerts, etc.

    However, the ease of use of the interface will go a long way toward driving permanent adoption versus just trying it out a couple times OR only used when very important. If it isn''t simple and fast I''m not sure how much traction mobile home banking will have for the masses. I have an iPhone and sometimes use WAP mobile banking with my CU...still, I''m typically near a PC most of the time and I often feel it is just ''easier'' to wait for the easier PC interface. I''d think differently if the interface on my mobile phone was easier and faster. That might be a compelling argument for the application-based approach which (after initial install) is significantly faster than WAP and allows full design/interface flexibility.
    Scott Patterson
  • The point to consider is: a consumer will want to use their mobile phone to conduct banking and make payments. They likely won''t choose by user interface. Consider that it''s possible to register for the service using WAP, receive alerts via SMS and action payments and access banking services using a downloadable application.
    Jason Hurlbut