Can you really picture the future of banking? Here’s a hint: The key word is ‘picture.’
Of course, we’re all very familiar with the staggering resources devoted to developing, disseminating and popularizing the unending torrent of mobile apps, as least in part to cater to the whims of the millennials. In that sense, it’s almost depressing to think that, as an industry, we still haven’t done enough. But what if we haven’t?
It’s unfair to generalize, but we can at least hypothesize that many mobile apps, even those that are fully native, are essentially versions of older products retrofitted for the smaller screen of a phone or tablet. Even many apps that are mobile-only reflect this philosophy. However, the mobile environment is a fundamentally different.
We know that just about everyone in the 30-and-under crowd these days carries a smartphone, and with it a bewildering array of instant-gratification capabilities. We know this has shortened their attention span and fed their fickleness—brand loyalty frequently gets trumped by the wealth of options available from the app store. But there’s more to it than that. Every smartphone features a camera, and this represents a greater change than we’ve perhaps considered.
Just as the Internet gave rise to mountains of words, mobile has had just about the opposite effect. Think of how TV pundits being interviewed used to be identified: name, title, web site. Today, it’s just a Twitter handle, which means they and their audience both understand that all communication—even when discussing a subject as complex as the budget deficit or war in Syria—will be limited to 140 characters at a time. Of course, these few words will be supplemented with lots of images, and that’s a major transformation.
Just as every phone has a camera in it, and pictures now are more ‘selfies’ than anything else, we are fully immersed in a visual society. We may not seem to be speaking less, but we’re certainly using pictures more. And it’s absolutely imperative that this reality guide future endeavors in mobile apps.
The most recent survey from the American Bankers Association reports more than one in eight Americans have used a mobile device to deposit a check sometime in the past year. And of those consumers, 80% do it at least once month. Given the astonishing rates of adoption for most mobile technologies—mobile banking usage has gone from 12 million people in 2009 to a projected 45 million this year—how long is it before this is really the norm?
But that’s what we already have; what do we need that we don’t have yet?
Research indicates that millennials in particular are less than satisfied by the quality of service they receive from mobile applications. Maybe it’s because they’re frequently immersed in video games, or maybe it’s that in the era of instant gratification patience is more easily worn thin, but it’s reported about half of all consumers who try to open a bank account online give up before completing the process. That’s what all those billions invested in mobile apps gets us.
Industry observers speculate that the camera could be the tool to give us the next generation of killer apps. Bill payments handled via the camera? Optimal. Facial-recognition or iris-scanning technologies to supersede passwords? Perfect. Video conferencing with tellers and support staff trained to interact with digital cameras? Ideal. Financial advice dispensed through short videos? Heaven.
There’s no point bemoaning how much things have changed; we can only accept that they have. By the end of this year, there should be a host of mobile apps that are far more visual than those currently offered. Otherwise, potential customers might go somewhere else.