Internet banking is undergoing a transformation. In many ways, this evolution of the legacy Internet channel is being driven by the emergence and potential prominence of mobile banking. According to a report from the Federal Reserve, Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015, “the prevalence of mobile banking continued to increase, reaching 39 percent of mobile phone users with bank accounts and 52 percent of smartphone users with bank accounts.”
As Internet and mobile channels continue to evolve, so does the proliferation of other device categories, such as wearables, including smart watches. The expansion and convergence of these new categories give financial institutions the ability to better service customers and create a consistent user experience regardless of channel.
This is not about a single channel handling all customer interactions; users will likely choose all channels, and some will likely lead over others. Rather, it is about a blended experience across channels. Ask the management team of any community bank if they still offer telephone touchtone banking and the answer is yes. Channels rarely go away and there is nothing wrong with that. Again, the challenge is blending all these categories.
How Does This Impact Internet Banking Today?
The Internet channel can be classified as legacy technology. The way a customer uses the channel, the screens they see, the features available to them, are all “set-in-their-ways” and reflect a certain very specific design sensibility. No doubt this is a powerful legacy, so much so, that when the industry started creating the mobile banking experience, it was highly influenced by the Internet. Internet led the charge. Internet defined the standards. Then something changed. Mobile devices became ubiquitous.
According to the Federal Reserve study, as of December 2014, 87 percent of the U.S. population ages 18 and older owned or had regular access to a mobile phone. The smartphone was the most popular type: It runs applications in addition to accessing the Internet and functioning as a phone. The application is the single most significant part of this evolution toward smartphones. Easy to use, much more fun than the Internet and reflecting a new design sensibility, the smartphone marked a departure.
Mobile Is Now Driving the Evolution
The Internet needs a refresh. It is a somewhat old and stale legacy technology that has not been seriously refreshed in a decade. This technology and design refresh is being led by mobile. Internet banking will start to look like mobile banking apps, which have proven to be “cooler” and easier to use. And all of them will start to have a consistency in the features offered and their look. The customer wins. They get to do whatever it is they are trying to accomplish, via whichever channel they choose. The end result is a platform that is convenient, consistent and engaging.
The Best Customer Experience
There are many industry terms that try to encapsulate the concept of the many customer channels. The phrases “digital channel” and “omni channel” represent some of this industry jargon. We all generally agree that the goal is to have mobile, Internet and other systems provide a consistent experience for a customer. Bank boards and management teams should demand that the channels converge around whatever makes the best sense for the customer. The technology and the design sensibility are all avenues to the primary goal of creating satisfied and delighted customers.
The good news is that this is attainable today in a way that was never imagined a decade ago. The technology involved in delivering customer channels, such as Internet and mobile, have matured and in many ways blended due to industry forces and the regular movements of the technology markets. This is good for bankers and good for customers. This next step of transforming Internet banking will create the next big opportunity for banks to differentiate their digital strategies.