One key theme at Apps World last week was about how apps are increasingly focusing on supporting customers’ lives; as Ben Green from Santander said, we are now looking at a migration from apps meeting ‘Functional’ needs to meeting ‘Emotional’ needs. Most likely this is a very healthy reflection of the maturing smartphone market and the app ecosystem. Smartphone and tablet devices are very much mainstream, and many of the most important technology challenges have been solved.
Ashley George from GSK referred to consumer expectations doubling every 12 months, a little faster than Moore’s law. Of course, expectations are at a different status across geographies. Whilst European banks talk about developing mobile banking, Brian Pearce from Wells Fargo said they had ‘retired’ the ROI discussion about mobile banking, now it’s just part of their business. Pearce spoke about how Wells Fargo worries about customers who are only using one channel – because it’s an indicator for churn.
In numerous presentations, we heard that app success is all about the experience, even the tax-man says so. A presentation from HMRC referred to their belief in “Designing for People, not screens.” The concept of designing for people is all based around the idea of putting the user at the centre of what companies are trying to achieve.
Discussions on mobile payments provided a good example of designing for people. As was discussed in a number of presentations, mobile payments in retail stores is basically a simple use-case – so in order to succeed, an app must be ‘Better than Plastic’.
The point that “payments aren’t broken” was mentioned a few times. We heard that even in the US, the use of NFC isn’t popular, though through Apple Pay this appears to be changing. There was a belief that mobile wallets and mobile payments, that increase customer loyalty, may have potential. However, there needs to be a removal of a pain-point or a value-add for customers if mobile payments are really going to take off.
If we look at what’s happened in the US with Apple Pay and Current C over the past month, it’s become apparent that users will use mobile payments if it makes their life easier. In America, the need to have ID with any use of a card added to a pain point. By removing this need, and providing a highly secure platform that doesn’t put card details at risk, Apple has managed to remove issues.
At the same time, Current C, the merchant backed initiative that uses QR codes for payments has faced a large amount of backlash from consumers for restricting the use of Apple Pay or Google Wallet. By all appearances, Current C doesn’t actually help to solve any of the problems of payments – if anything it makes it slightly worse by needing to use a QR code.
The key message was; it’s all about understanding deep customer insights. For managing banking, a functional app would show the spending and particularly the bank balance; an emotionally focused app would influence spending habits. It would answer questions which really trouble the customer, such as ‘where’s the money gone?’ ‘How does my position today compare to this time last week?’ etc.
Santander has created SmartBank, a student mobile banking app focused around the emotional side of banking. The bank described how its customers take screenshots of the insights they find valuable and share these on social media – including their bank balance! The app is designed around helping people to understand what their spending habits are, the amount of regular monthly outgoings and a snapshot of activity.
“Payment isn’t broken”, so when companies think about creating a mobile payment strategy a clear message needs to be heard. By ensuring the user is at the centre of your strategy and truly understanding customer insight, only then, will businesses be able to create value in what they are trying to achieve.
By Richard Newhouse, Senior Mobile Strategy Consultant