The Business Formula for Mobile Success

Consider the difference between 2:29 minutes and 1:20 minutes: It’s not very long, just a little bit more than the time it takes to read a blog post like this. Yet in that short span we can find a perfect snapshot of modern-day banking.

According to data recently released by mobile banking app developer Malauzai Software, that first figure  of 2:29 minutes is how long an average mobile session lasted with a business banking user; the second refers to the average consumer transaction. The unmistakable takeaway is that businesses spend more time on mobile devices engaged in transactions with their bank than consumers do.

There’s another little surprise in the numbers as well. About 60% of the consumers logging in did it via an Apple device. Among business users, the number jumped to 81%.

To be sure, in this environment of constant transformation, even the most comprehensive survey can offer little more than a snapshot in time; today’s killer app is tomorrow’s legacy technology. And this particular data comes from 200-odd users at around 20 financial institutions. But even in this micro-research, it’s easy to see how different mobile banking is from traditional practices, and how much it in turn changes everything else.

Those with a longer memory and attention span than the typical teenager might remember that the iPhone and iPad were not by any measure the first mobile devices to hit the market, or even gain mass popularity. Even Apple’s own Newton, which made a splash with its arrival some 22 years ago, trailed a variety of offerings (particular in certain overseas markets), and it faced stiff competition from rivals such as the Palm Pilot, the Psion and Sony’s CLIÉ, just to name a few.

The problem was that despite broad-scale adoption by tech-savvy professionals, they had trouble being seen as anything but cool toys. Even the most diligent users would have had a hard time doing complex banking on those nifty little gadgets.

Coincidentally, Apple had the same problem—it faced bankruptcy while dominating the market for students and creative types. The very idea of financial services conglomerates retrofitting their infrastructure to accommodate the most recent Mac-heads was completely laughable. And now the same devices that unleashed Angry Birds on an unsuspecting world are used more by business banking types than their consumer counterparts. It’s a world gone mad.

The flip side of the picture, meanwhile, makes the madness even more evident.

Yes, financial institutions do get it. As the most recent report from Ovum Research reveals, mobile banking is comfortably perched at the top of retail banks’ investment priority list. With a clear focus on cost containment and efficiency, banks are funneling evermore resources into the mobile area—the numbers shot up in 2014, and will likely keep rising next year. And since consumers constantly experiment with new technologies, the institutions understand that they must meet high expectations for user-friendliness, even with regular shits in platforms and applications.

However, the report also makes clear that the path to success is not really clear. While mobile banking is definitely no longer an outlier—even with some large institutions, it’s approaching two-thirds of all traffic—the road to topline growth remains a challenge. And therein lies the continuing mystery.

The reality is that the path to real revenue is not narrow. For every institution, a comprehensive mobile strategy must encompass all touch points, not function as a separate entity. Even banks that have poured resources into these initiatives may not have internalized this message. When business banking users are spending more time connecting than consumers, and doing it via devices that contain all kinds of personal data, it’s time to throw out every rulebook and create a brand new one.

Even with constant platform shifts, mobile technologies cut costs while easing and enhancing personal service, even for business banking. If that isn’t a formula for success, are we doing something wrong?

Written by Jack Dougal