Adjustments to Your Bank’s UX Strategy

Adjustments to Your Bank’s UX Strategy

Among the sea of social media apps, news apps, and photo book-making apps I use – I have three kids! –  is my mobile banking app. I bank at a “traditional” or “retail” bank, meaning it has branches, versus an online-only bank. That being said, I never go to a branch. Anything I need to do I can do using my mobile banking app: check my transactions, transfer money between accounts, or deposit a check. Believe it or not, these things that users have come to expect out of their mobile banking experience, I have had to figure out rather the hard way with my current mobile banking app. The user experience of my bank’s app has never been truly intuitive, though it has gone through multiple iterations. Banking apps should not make it difficult for customers to complete basic tasks. By continuously putting user experience first and applying the following adjustments to your UX Strategy, your bank is guaranteed to drive revenue through customer loyalty. 


The first time I used Venmo, an app designed solely for people to be able to electronically send money, I immediately noticed the intuitiveness of the app. A few months after I started using Venmo, my bank came out with an identical feature. I could send money to friends or family no matter who they banked with. That’s as much as I know about it because the idea of using my bank’s clunky app for a task I found myself doing frequently seemed overwhelming, so I stuck with Venmo.


As more FinTech companies continue to disrupt, develop and innovate mobile banking applications, it will occur at the expense of lost market share for traditional banking institutions.The rising FinTech sector is making it easier making it easier for their customers to do more with their money.


At Shockoe we have advised our financial industry partners to consider two adjustments to their UX strategy as a result of this changing environment:


Implementing machine learning.


I, like many others, have predictable spending habits. I shop at the same places, I pay my mortgage, and I head to the grocery store at the same time. To keep an eye on my spending, I log into my banking app quite regularly.


The reason I point out these things is that this is all data that the banks can use to help make me a “stickier” client. I get random ads sometimes when I log into my account, but they don’t happen as I take an action, nor are they personalized to me.


Banks are leaving a great opportunity to interact with their customers on the table. They could ask questions about unusual spending to improve security and more importantly learn about shifting habits. e.g. “It looks like you made a purchase at Wegman’s last weekend, was that you?”, the app learns that this is now part of my purchase history and the algorithm changes. Similarly, new products could be touted as client data captures what looks like a night out: “Looks like you left the kids at home and recently went to the movies! Did you pay your babysitter with our easy system to send money electronically to people?”


There should always be a way to turn these kinds of alerts off, but banks know so much about their users, and using machine learning capabilities is one way they can use that data to try to engage more with their clients.


Making banking apps more social. 


A big part of Venmo’s popularity comes down to the fact that they’ve tapped into the special sauce of why social media is so popular/addictive. You can interact with people, keep up with their latest transactions and see why they’re sending or receiving money for. Obviously, security is n essential consideration in banking, but for people that are willing to share, this is another outlet for banks to engage their audience, encourage product use, and compete in an increasingly competitive FinTech industry.


Do people want to be able to brag about their savings account interest rate? What else are people comfortable with being able to show off in regards to their banking relationship? We work with our clients to run user group feedback sessions to find the answers to things like this. User feedback should be an essential consideration in designing an engaging user experience that extends beyond logging in and checking on account statements.


Banking apps should no longer think of themselves as a one dimension account statement viewing portal. FinTech will eventually edge them out of services such as peer to peer payments (venmo), machine learning (mint), and potentially edge them out of being a provider at all in lucrative services. I am a project manager at Shockoe and I’ve worked with two large banking clients as part of my tenure here, and these thoughts are coming from meetings with them and our approach helping them stay engaged with their user base and attract more users through their mobile app solutions. What’s cool is our clients know we work together to create mobile applications that people use, love, and remember, and that sometimes the problems are even solved by the project management team.

Rule Your Space!

Let me answer the first question first. Yes, your business does need a mobile strategy.

Does this mean developing an “app”?

Not necessarily.

App development can be expensive ~ $10K and up per app is not unusual. “Native” apps (apps that run directly on a mobile device and can run without a live network connection) typically cost cost more than a so called “web” app, which is often just a web-site designed to look good on a smaller screen. While native apps are much loved by users for their excellent performance and polished “look and feel,” sometimes the less expensive web app might be a better choice. As with any good business decision, making the right decision requires a thoughtful analysis of your target user group, your business goals, your budget, and the extent to which mobile technologies compliment your existing legacy systems and the data they contain. In the finally analysis, the decision to invest in mobile technology is a business decision and not a technology one, and all the rigors of good business apply.

Uh oh.

Business rigor sounds, um, corporate. Bureaucratic. Stifling. What if I am an entrepreneur with a great idea for an app? Do I still need to get mixed up in all that blah, blah, blah?

Yes. You do.

Your app is not your business ~ your app is a business enabler. It is just one componant in a business ecosystem that you must rule. Just getting the app developed is only one part, albeit a key one, of your overall go-to-market business strategy. Creating the value people are willing to pay for is the superior goal, and that means being everywhere in your app’s “space” ~ blogging, podcasting, network marketing, affiliate marketing and all the rest.

Rule your space! If you don’t, your app will join the crowd of millions bobbing in a sea of app flotsam, waiting to be found. Good luck with that. You will have invested, but the returns will be meager.

So where do you start? I am old school in a new world order ~ I still believe in taking the time to develop a business plan, starting with your financial model. Model several different mobile monetization strategies ~ there are at least five that I know of. If your model, however tweaked, does not “Show You the Money,” then move on.

Need help with a business plan? All kinds of help exists, often for free. I steer folks to their local Chamber of Commerce or government Small Business Development Center. It is common for those organizations to offer business planning classes and even free business planning software. The written results don’t have to be an 800 lb tome, but the “back of the napkin” biz plan is a romantic myth. You get out what you put in, and you should at least have a one page executive summary of your business plan written out so that developers like us can “get it” with a five minute read.

OK ~ enough preaching for one day. We at Shockoe stand ready to help you, however you may need it, with services ranging from business planning to mobile development to backend integration. Whatever your mobile strategy is, get out there and rule!

Kiosk Bloodshed: What Mobile Can Learn From the Cyclops of the 1990's

If you were around then, you remember seeing them. Lonely kiosks, gathering dust, cast aside in the corner of a hotel lobby or government office, their one dead eye staring out dark and lifeless. The once mighty cyclops of the computing world, what IBM believed would be THE way the public gained access to electronic goods and services — rendered a corpse — and a grim reminder of what fate will befall your mobile app should you fail to heed the lessons of the lonely kiosk debacle of the 90’s .

What kills technology based initiatives? Two things: A failure to deliver value, and failures in usability. Kiosks that have survived into the present day deliver superb value and are superbly easy to use, and we use them all them time. The airline ticketing kiosk. Redbox. The ATM. But what about those goofy “info only” kiosks that gave us a map to a restaurant that closed six months ago? Or those whose UI made us want to smash them with a baseball bat like in the famous fax machine scene from “Office Space”? Cue “Still” by Geto Boys. Those kiosks died a just death, and rightly so.

History repeats itself, as they say, and so today we see mobile apps that make all the same mistakes of the 90’s. But this too shall pass, and those apps will too. In 20 years we will will look back and it will all make sense. Apps that survive, nay, thrive, will be those that deliver value consistently, reliably, and easily, and that are compelling and “insanely” easy to pick up and use. Thriving apps will enable those line of business services that are in the critical path of a company’s strategy, essential to its customers, designed for ease-of-use, and built to last.

The question is:: Will your mobile app be one of them?