Banks Barely Scratching the Surface of Digital Usage Models

Most leading banks are struggling to build decent mobile banking apps and mobile websites. But this post is about the other overlooked usage models.

Typical Quick Actions

Non digital channels such as print, television, radio, ATM, call centers, and branches have been largely single dimensional in the way people consume them. Mobile is a different beast. Making it to a user’s home screen and having a mobile web site that kind of works on phone is like having a branch that only distributes product brochures, tells balances, and has forms available for payments.

Its the beginning of the end of cross platform apps. Mobile operating systems are constantly evolving in the way they bundle and unbundle products. This evolution is not necessarily in the same direction. Android and iOS are adding more and more layers of interaction to make their devices more relevant to the users.

Here are some opportunities for banks to consider investing in…

Messaging (Chat) as an Interface

This has been a hot topic recently among product designers and app entrepreneurs. We know now that most users, for various reasons, use multiple messaging apps. Banking services may be plugged to an existing messaging platform such as WeChat, or a proprietary one from a bank. They may be provided by a human, a bot, or some combination thereof.

“A great messaging app could be to the web browser what the browser was to the internet before it.” — Wired senior writer David Pierce in this a16z podcast.

I wrote a post in 2015 on what it means for banks.

We will see more apps and websites using conversational interfaces. Some websites (such as, but you may have to log in) use messaging to infuse content that’s usually on a web page in the chat stream as needed. Websites are losing relevance and are ripe for disruption. That 1000+ page website can be structured and indexed to suit a natural conversation between the user and business.

Push Notifications with IFTTT Layer

At the heart of push notifications is relevance and automation. With interactive notifications, user can now take immediate action,
make decisions, and express preferences. It’s a powerful way to deliver delightful experiences and trigger acquisitions.

It’s also under utilised by banks. Surprising but I still don’t get notifications of basic transactions such as money in! One of the challenges I hear is to get people to opt in to notifications.

Zulily’s approach to push notifications opt in works better.

To make the mix more potent, create an IFTTT (If This Then That) style rules engine to automate their lives. E.g. “Deliver statements to My Statements Dropbox folder”. Password protected PDFs are universally hated and Dropbox already takes care of authorisation.

3D Touch

3D Touch interfaces are the future of not only mobile interfaces but also of interfaces to “things” (as in Internet of Things). It’s not a glorified right click and goes beyond Quick Actions, Peeks and Pops. Having an accurate pressure sensitive screen is a whole new way to make multi touch screens feel much more natural.

For example, you can now play the keys of the Magic Piano not only longer but also louder.

You can even use it as a kitchen scale!

Start with the obvious Quick Actions, Peeks and Pops for instant balances, repeat last payment, view recent transaction etc. Your app never had a good reason to have into 100s of pages each loading with a spinner. With 3D Touch, it has become a bigger crime.

“These new interactions can reduce friction, and bring to the surface features that were previously inaccessible for consumers — or simply difficult to understand and use.” — Cherian Abraham, Mobile commerce and payments lead at Experian Global Consulting.

If it all goes well for 3D Touch, some banking apps may entirely disappear from the face of the phone leaving unbundled content/functions to be accessed via 3D Touch on the home screen. Apply varying levels of pressure to fill an amount and tap again to send that amount to someone.

Google Now on tap

An answer to 3D touch in some ways, but focussed entirely on using machine learning to answer the questions we may have in a particular context, Google Now on tap is one of the new features of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

When you hold down the home button, it scans the content of your screen and then offers links to apps, services, and websites that pertain to what you’re looking at. The feature is in its early days but when it works it’s quite magical.

It’s the thread that can bind together the entire suite of apps a bank may have. Imagine receiving a notification or email about your credit card bill, then tap and hold to view top spends that contributed to the bill. Or imagine mentioning Indian food in a text chat with your spouse, then tap and hold to view some good Indian restaurants around.

App Indexing, Deep Linking

App search on App Store and Google Play has been terrible so far. One could only search by the exact name of the app. That’s changing to such an extent that now a user can search for “best miles credit card” and the app with only the best one will show top.

You see how that changes app discovery, download, acquisition, and engagement?

This single and universal search box might well become a window to all your app’s content and even accompanying websites.

The Good Old Email

2015 pushed the boundaries of what we thought emails could d0 — customise and order a smoothie, live twitter feed in email, even a shopping cart and checkout in email.

Closing Thoughts

It’s not about what kinds of menus slide onto your screen from where. It’s about how people keep track/improve/maintain their fiscal health and how they how they pay someone. Tracking installs and time in app won’t cut it.

Its not about making banking relevant for mobile, it’s about making mobile relevant for banking.

To meet these needs, digital experiences must have robust pull/push and discovery as a fundamental part of the architecture.

To sleeping less and drinking more in 2016, because it’s not going to be easy.