How to achieve harmony in digital channels. “Mobile first” vs. “Mobile only”

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Denis Kalemberg

By Denis Kalemberg, CEO

In recent times, many banks, fintech and other companies digitising their services have faced a choice. Either focus on developing mobile apps while shrinking the number of projects for desktop users, or even dropping them altogether? Should they keep traditional online channels as an essential part of their remote services? Or strive for harmony between these two digital channel development directions? Experts call these options for remote service development the “Mobile first”, “Mobile-only”, and the “classic” strategies (simultaneous and balanced development of web and mobile services).

Which development strategy should you pick? The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems. Let’s consider each strategy and the reasons behind them to figure out which one will soon dominate the market.

“Mobile first” — any digital product/service will sooner or later become a mobile app.

The trend towards switching services to mobile apps is not a recent one. Why is this done? Who benefits from it? First of all, the customer. It becomes a lot easier for users to shop online, order a taxi or food delivery, check their banking accounts, perform transactions, open new accounts, place deposits, and invest.

As well service providers themselves enjoy their mobile apps. On one hand, when you give your customers convenient access to digital services from the comfort of their smartphones you can reach a broader audience. Or else, the less friction there is for the customer, the better their experience with your service. And the more they consume. All this helps increase the number of daily customer contacts for banks and service providers, boost customer loyalty for promoted brands, and provide extensive selling opportunities for a growing count of new services.

Where does this bring us? The number of mobile users in digital channels is growing. Mobile services are no longer trendy fancies, a tribute to the customer base’s most innovation-driven part. They are now a fundamental prerequisite for the existence of digital services. Today, mobile services are popular not only among retail customers but also among businesses. At the bare least, SMBs are the most active users of mobile devices.

A growing number of mobile users affected digital services development and encouraged many banks to go “Mobile first”, focusing their mobile banking efforts. Traditional online banking has been given less priority. Any new feature is now released for mobile apps first, and only later for web versions. Banks place a premium on mobile users and see them as their key customers.

“Mobile-only” — how far is the line between necessity and sufficiency?

A steady pursuit of “Mobile first”, some digital service providers, fintech, and banks have seen fit to drop non-mobile channels altogether. These are youth-oriented businesses, with their customers accustomed to solving all their issues via smartphone. No surprise that such companies doubt the necessity of the web versions of their services. A striking example of this is so‑called “neobanks” — financial institutions that often have no physical premises but still offer quite perfect mobile-user-oriented services. It only makes sense that these “neobanks” haven’t tried to compete in traditional digital channels. Instead, they started to set trends in the new and dynamic mobile segment. It was a conscious and well-thought-out choice that turned into the “Mobile-only” strategy.

Even though these strategies look auspicious, not all service providers and financial companies embarked on the mobile-only journey. At least not all their customers are ready to commit to a pure mobile experience. Thus, the “Mobile-only” strategy, limiting the ways you can remotely manage your account, has not yet dominated the market.

“Mobile first” or “Mobile-only”. What to choose under the current conditions?

To answer this question, banks need to imagine their customer sitting in front of the laptop with a smartphone lying next to them. What will they choose to make a simple payment? Which device will they use to analyse their spending over the last 12 months

Two significant factors are affecting the customer’s decision:

  1. Screen size. And here, laptop wins, since you can see all the transaction details and account analytics.
  2. How many steps does it take to access the system? Mobile apps usually do better, as they enable fingerprint or FaceID authentication. Thus, to perform a rare transaction, which requires entering or displaying a large amount of data on a screen, the customer will most likely use online banking.

Given the screen size limitation, smartphones won’t be replacing online banking any time soon. That’s why traditional banks shouldn’t abandon their desktop versions yet. Instead, it makes more sense to try and find the synergy between those two seemingly competing entities. What could you do in this situation?

  • Don’t forget the omnichannel approach. When the customer can create complex transactions or their templates in a browser, and then sign them using their smartphone whenever it’s convenient. That would end the difficulties associated with performing complex transactions “on the go”.
  • Smartphone solves inconvenient authentication in online banking. Users have to enter their login and password, then wait for an SMS code from their bank and, again, enter it. This procedure brings us to another problem: forgotten/stolen customer logins and passwords generate a heavy workload for call centres and increase fraud.

With a mobile banking app, you could tool a login process without need entering any data. The customer scans a QR code on the web page and confirms the authentication request with a single tap on their smartphone screen. This simple feature can boost customer transaction activity and reduce expenses on authentication tools and a call centre.

  • With a mobile app, you can use geolocation data and biometric technologies for customer onboarding, scoring, authorising high-risk transactions over any channel, and other purposes. And could also be used for the browser version to increase its convenience and safety.

Thus, instead choosing between two digital channels, banks should make the most of their advantages and let them reinforce one another. This strategy will boost both loyalties among all customer segments and their transaction activity and translate into increased financial organisation profits.