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The mobile imperative for retail banks.

Mobile has become a fifth appendage, an extension essential to get through the day. That makes your bank’s approach to mobile a good gauge of your capability as an experience business, one focused squarely on customers and how to delight them. With phones in their pockets, consumers should be able to research, compare, apply for, transact, and engage with all your products and services in a simple, seamless, and occasionally surprising way. 

Leaders in retail banking are no longer going mobile — they’ve gone. To satisfy customers, keep up with competitors, raise revenues, and ensure an always-on connection, you need to mobilize, too. 

Let’s talk about customer satisfaction first. From January 2015 to November 2016, banking via mobile phone was up 54 percent, according to the Adobe “Mobile Maturity Study.” It’s the only device with a steady uptick in use for retail banking since 2014, as our graph shows. But by mobile, we do mean smartphone — and it’s clear looking at the chart that, for retail banking use, the phone line trends up strongly while the tablet line flattens. So much for having more real estate for complex banking products.

Retail Banking: Smartphone has increased 121% since 2014.



Q1 2014

Q1 2015

Q1 2016

Q1 2017

Financial services firms have responded to customer preference by investing in mobile — it ranked first for increased 2017 budget expenditures among the over 850 financial services respondents to the Adobe and Econsultancy “2017 Digital Trends in Financial Services and Insurance” study.

Respondents’ 2017 budget plans by channel or discipline.




Social media





virtual events



Search engine


Social media

It’s not just “me-too-ism.” The average number of product holdings — like loans, CDs, credit cards, and mortgages — increased right after consumers adopted mobile, according to Fiserv’s “Mobile Banking Adoption.” Customers also increased number and value of point-of-sale, ATM, and ACH transactions, bringing increased interchange revenue to banks. Attrition is lower among mobile banking users, too.

But it’s not only about revenue. Increasingly smartphones provide the only way you can stay connected to customers anytime, anywhere, with email, text, web, app, social, and yes, even phone.

Recognize the obstacles to mobile.

girl holding phone in urban environment

Still, it’s not easy. But what’s clear is that right now, customers of every age find mobile banking best for transactional tasks like checking balances and depositing funds. And as Forrester’s “2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark” says, many banks fall short when it comes to sales and service via mobile — and that’s reflected in customer activities.

Bank-related tasks performed by smartphone users.


Monitored bank balances

Made account deposits

Originated a loan or mortgage

Applied for a credit card


Monitored bank balances

Made account deposits

Originated a loan or mortgage

Applied for a credit card

Source: 2017 ADI U.S. Finance Survey

That may be contributing to slowing adoption of mobile banking. Although 53 percent of smartphone users have used mobile banking in the last 12 months, that number has grown only three points since 2012, according to the Federal Reserve “Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2016.” The survey cited security as the major concern, along with the difficulty of banking on a small screen and using banking apps. Banks themselves cite fragmented channels, difficulty of sharing data across legacy systems, and security and performance as barriers to delivering personalized experiences via mobile, according to the Adobe and Econsultancy 2017 “State of Digital Transformation in Financial Services” study.

Let’s look at how banks can manage these obstacles and use mobile to acquire customers and deepen relationships.

Move the needle on mobile acquisition.

Let’s start at the beginning: customer acquisition. Within three years, 87 percent of digital leaders anticipate mobile will be a major or primary source of new account origination, according to the “State of Digital Transformation” study. To drive prospects to their mobile websites, most banks currently use mobile search, social media, and display ads. But they stop short of letting customers enroll in accounts or apply for products on their smartphones, according to Forrester’s “2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark.”

See mobile as the source of new future accounts.

87% indicated mobile will be an equal or higher source of new accounts in 3 years.

Mobile will be a source equal to other options accounts. (27%)

Mobile will be a major source, overtaking other channels in volume. (41%)

Mobile will be the primary source. (19%)

Mobile will be a limited source for new account openings. (13%)

That gives banks an opportunity to outpace competitors by making it easy to research, apply, and ultimately onboard via mobile. Right now, customers cannot “pass Go” until they sign up on their desktops. And that’s not going to delight customers who want the instant gratification of signing up for mobile right now.

You need to offer a responsive, user-friendly, and secure enrollment or application process designed for mobile. That doesn’t mean shrinking the desktop or, worse still, your paper-based forms. Instead, you need to implement responsive forms and documents integrated with existing apps and websites. Let users work offline and sync when they’re connected. And once customers log in, make sure guidance on mobile banking and information on security and privacy are easy to find.

To ensure the best possible experience — and the greatest customer conversion — enable segment targeting, analytics tracking, and A/B testing to make sure you get it right. What you learn here will also serve you in other application processes, from car loans to credit cards.

Balance channel preference.

Woman using touch screen device.

Once you have mobile banking customers on board, you may ask if you should encourage them to go all mobile, all the time. In a word, no. Eventually, you’ll want to offer solid mobile options for all your products and services. But customers who didn’t grow up on mobile or even on digital may still look for a friendly, helpful experience at your branch when they’re filling out a loan application or selecting a credit card. That means desktop or branch visits will complement the mobile experience. As with other channels, integrating mobile web and apps requires a solid digital foundation to unify data, manage content, and test and optimize experiences.

Even customers who use mobile visit branches regularly.

Use mobile baking:


Gen X


Visited a branch in the last year:

71% averaged
11 visits

71% averaged
11 visits

Customer satisfaction still ranks higher for those who mix and match banking channels, according to J.D. Power. Overall satisfaction among those who visited a bank branch within the past 12 months is 27 index points higher, on a 1,000-point scale, than those who didn’t. Even millennials who visited the branch scored 20 points higher. 

What’s critical here is understanding your customers’ channel preferences through mobile, branch, and web analytics, and then acting on them through targeting and testing. But most banks are still limited in the capabilities they can extend to mobile channels. By building capabilities, you can move toward providing personal, useful mobile interactions and even mobile video. As the portion of your demographic using mobile increases, you’ll be able to entice customers and increase their loyalty at the same time you cut costs to serve them.

Desktop capabilities move to mobile.

Capabilities respondents are able to extend to mobile channels






Mobile site

Mobile app

Lure customers with mobile apps.

For 52 percent of respondents to the 2017 Econsultancy and Adobe “State of Digital Transformation in Financial Services” report, appealing to new generations of consumers — younger, increasingly mobile-first people — was a top-two concern. One promising approach to engage millennials and Gen Z-ers is through apps. Large retail banks and many of their regional and local counterparts have launched solid smartphone apps that reduce transaction friction and discourage bank hopping. For example, Bank of America’s app displays useful account information even before login and supports appointment scheduling, according to Forrester’s “2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark."

Keeping up with consumer demands means you need to work continually to understand what your customers want to do on mobile and adjust your mobile approach to suit. After a bad mobile experience, 85 percent of consumers are unlikely to do business with a company again, according to “Transforming the Mobile Customer Experience” from V12 Data. And difficult mobile navigation has prompted 70 percent to abandon a website. It’s clear you need to make sure the basics are solid, like intuitive navigation and easy-to-access guidance. And when customers need support, make sure it’s readily available via text, live chat, or social media.

Realize that your experience can’t just match that of your banking peers — your customers’ rocketing expectations are set by other industries. If Amazon’s app knows which credit card your customer uses to make a purchase, then your bank’s app should know their payment preferences too. If the Starbucks app can let your customer know within a minute when they can pick up their half-caf, non-fat, extra-hot latte, then your bank’s app should alert them when they’re about to exceed a spending limit they set.

Customers will use mobile banking more frequently as they gain confidence with transactions like transferring funds or adding a new bill payee, according to Forrester’s “2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark.” But transactional apps are almost a yawn. The best apps let customers find what they’re looking for by rethinking the small screen, view offers prompted by their actions across channels, apply quickly to loans and credit cards using capabilities like instant fill and image scanning, and incorporate tools for personal money management, including goal tracking.

Mobile can be the fast path to customer conversion and upselling of services in a world where consumers value self-service more than individual brands. But to provide the best possible mobile customer experiences, you need to continually raise the stakes.

Empower Innovation.

man on mobile device in coffee shop

New innovations in mobile are giving retail banks fresh opportunities to offer unprecedented experiences and build enduring relationships. And forward-looking banks are tapping the following exciting trends to enrich customer experiences:

Mobile payments and mobile wallets. 

More retail banks are offering customers payment options, including Apple Pay®, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, Microsoft Wallet, and their own wallets. These also provide recommendations, allow contactless payments, and enable person-to-person payments.

Mobile apps for prospects. 

Your relationship with a prospect could kick off with a mobile app that helps them better manage their financial lives. If you can offer prospects guidance on buying a home, car, or boat, you’re one step closer to providing the financial services they’ll need.


Location is at the center of multi-channel interactions via mobile. And it gives you the chance to make valuable product and service offers. For example, if your customer just walked into a car dealership, you might message them with information on your low-interest auto loans.


Several banks, including Atom and Starling, announced they will enable customers to log in via facial and voice recognition. Authenticating users in this way means greater convenience and security than usernames and passwords that are easily forgotten or stolen, according to Waracle.

Internet of things devices. 

Wearables let financial services firms connect with customers through new touchpoints. CIBC lets customers quickly transfer money via the Apple Watch app, and Bank Millennium lets them find ATMs and make payments in stores, according to Forrester’s “2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark.”

Trends in innovation inspire unexpected experiences.

Financial service firms see opportunity in other trending areas.

Mobile Wallets & Mobile Payments

Mobile Apps for Prospects

Internet of Things (IoT)

Biometric Authentication

Mobile Geolocation







Priority 1

Priority 2

Percentage of respondents ranking innovations as top 1 or 2 (out of 5)

Grow from the top and bottom.

girl holding phone in urban environment

Most banks let customers pay bills, deposit checks, and transfer funds via mobile, which lowers costs, cuts expense, and contributes to bottom-line growth for the bank. But for experiences that inspire customers, look to the companies that were born mobile. They’ve moved beyond enabling transactions to removing friction from basic processes that make it easier for consumers to view, move, and manage their money. That increases account signups, deposits, cross-sales, and product penetration that all drive revenue, contributing to topline growth.

To be at the forefront of the mobile experience, banks need to get ahead of the customer — to comprehend their goal in every moment, immediately offer them the right product or service, and make it possible for them to add it instantly on the go.

“2017 Digital Trends in Financial Services and Insurance” Econsultancy and Adobe, 2017
“2017 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study (SM),” J.D. Power, April 27, 2017.
“7 Key Mobile Trends in Financial Services,” Waracle, September 6, 2016.
“ADI U.S. Finance Survey 2017,” Adobe, 2017.
“Adobe Mobile Maturity Study,” Adobe 2017.
Aurelie L’Hostis, Zhi Ying Ng, Peter Wannemacher, and Rachel Roizen, “2016 Global Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark,” Forrester, July 15, 2016.
“State of Digital Transformation in Financial Services” report, Econsultancy and Adobe 2017
“Mobile Banking Adoption: Where Is the Revenue for Financial Institutions?,” Fiserv, 2016.
“Transforming the Mobile Customer Experience,” V12Data, November 28, 2016.