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5 pitfalls that banks must avoid as they offer mobile service

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, by switching just one customer?s in-branch deposit per month to the mobile channel, the average bank stands to save almost $50 per year per customer, adding up to $1.5 billion in cost savings for the industry. 

Concurrently, consumers are using mobile devices and native mobile applications at record levels daily to help them manage work and personal activities, including banking. This means financial institutions need to view their mobile strategies as a lynchpin in their approach to meeting two primary objectives ? improving efficiency and reducing costs and gaining and retaining customers. 

The desire for convenience, coupled with a younger, more affluent demographic and skyrocketing smartphone ownership, is leading to rapid mobile banking adoption. 

According to data from Compuware, 30 percent of U.S. online adults are active mobile bankers ? defined as those who view account balances, conduct transfers and/or pay bills on their mobile devices, via short message service (SMS) technology, mobile Web sites and/or native or hybrid mobile apps. In fact, many believe mobile banking adoption among consumers is occurring at a much faster clip than it did for online banking more than a decade ago.

As the number of mobile banking users increases, so do expectations for performance and speed. This is especially true as many consumers move from simply viewing information such as account balances on their mobile devices to actually conducting transactions on native mobile apps. 

High performance is transforming from a ?should have? to a ?must have? across all customer touch points, especially since performance expectations for transactions on native apps are just as high as those done on desktop sites. 

Meeting customers? mobile app performance demands will help banks capitalize on their mobile investments, including both new apps and functionality as well as supporting infrastructure. 

With performance top of mind, here are five pitfalls that banks must avoid as they offer mobile capabilities to consumers, along with a corresponding series of suggested best practices.

Pitfall #1: Underestimating the effect of errors
Some banks have made the mistake of optimizing for just one mobile dimension ? i.e. tablets. But research shows that up to 67 percent of consumers transact with multiple devices ? starting a transaction on a smartphone, and then picking up that transaction (transferring funds) on another device. 

When a bank?s mobile strategy is one-dimensional, the best results that companies ended up with were bad ratings at app stores. In worst-case scenarios, they lost reputation and customers because their mobile apps crashed during critical payment transactions.

While banks should avoid optimizing with just one mobile user segment in mind, it can also be a mistake to spread oneself to thin and try to optimize for all devices. 

According to estimates, mobile banking consumers worldwide use more than 150 different browser/device combinations. The key is for banks to identify their most prominent mobile consumer segments and optimize with these segments in mind, hitting the broadest possible section of critical user groups. 

Pitfall #2: Making the mobile user wait 
The old saying, ?You only have one chance to make a first impression,? is especially true in the world of mobile apps. 

A consumer?s initial experience has a huge effect on behavior moving forward, in terms of whether the consumer continues to engage with the banking organization, or the medium. 

Research shows that consumers have similar, if not higher, performance expectations on some mobile devices ? namely tablets ? as they do for desktop PCs. 

Specifically, 89 percent of tablet users and 83 percent of desktop users expect sites to download in three seconds or less. 

Currently, 59 percent of smartphone users expect a site to download in three seconds or less, but as with tablets, that number is slowly creeping up.

So how can a bank determine if it is making mobile consumers wait too long? 

The only way to know for sure is to adopt the best practice of measuring performance of mobile sites, and native and hybrid mobile apps from the true end-user perspective. 

Banks must put themselves in the consumer?s shoes and measure actual performance at the point of consumption ? the end-user mobile device.

Pitfall #3: Losing context of the user?s journey 
Many banks make the mistake of only measuring the performance of certain single-step processes, versus the entire customer journey. 

For example, a bank may measure the speed of login or money transfer interactions, and think it is OK. 

But remember, site visits and interactions on mobile banking apps are rarely that simple, and more often involve a series of end-user steps or actions. 

What happens if the user is kept waiting to get his current account balance information? Will the customer wait endlessly or simply decide not to proceed, or even worse, switch to a bank that makes it clear in terms of end-user experience that it prioritizes mobile banking? 

Bearing in mind that consumers typically use mobile devices on the go, speed is of the essence. 

Banks need to measure performance for complete transactions and the most common customer paths such as paying a bill. So, one slow step is all it takes to damage the cumulative experience.

Pitfall #4: Not leveraging third-party value 
Like traditional Web sites, many mobile sites and mobile apps leverage external third-party services to get to ahead of competition for cutting-edge online functionality, while retaining focus on their core business. 

As the market moves to offering rich contextual experiences based on user attributes such as location and other personalization strategies, adoption of third-party services will increase. 

The irony is that poorly-performing third-party services can degrade an entire user experience. So they may not be worth using once you analyze the big picture of end-user experience that includes all players. 

The very same features that were incorporated with the goal of increasing consumer engagement and retention can have the adverse effect of slowing mobile sites down and alienating visitors.

The key to getting the most value from third-party services is to measure and understand their performance ? both individually, and within the context of bigger end-to-end mobile transactions. 

Since these services originate beyond the firewall, the key is to again understand the performance effect from the true mobile user?s vantage point. 

Understanding that mobile consumers value speed and convenience above all, banks need to gauge the potential effect of third-party services on the overall quality of mobile site visits before the services are enlisted.

Pitfall #5: Standing still
In today?s ultra-competitive marketplace, one of the biggest mistakes that a bank can make is playing it too safe ? defaulting to keeping things the way they are and avoiding innovation. 

The mobile opportunities for forward-thinking banks are endless. 

After all, who would have thought a few years ago that a camera on a smartphone would be used to enable check depositing apps? 

In their haste to beat competitors to market, banks may neglect performance considerations until it is too late. There is no use in getting an app to market first if the performance is poor and consumers aren?t going to adopt it.

For these reasons, a ?DevOps? approach ? which emphasizes collaboration, automation and performance across development, QA and IT operations teams ? is critical to success in mobile. 

Performance measurements should begin as early in the software development process as possible to identify potential performance issues and prevent them from reaching production. 

Where mobile is concerned, a DevOps culture can be the key to driving innovation and increasing competitive edge while reaping maximum ROI from mobile investments.

FINANCIAL SERVICES CUSTOMERS are increasingly choosing mobile sites and native apps as their primary interface to engage with their institution of choice, and this trend will only accelerate in the upcoming years. 

The mobile medium can play a huge role in driving down transaction costs while fostering customer acquisition, retention and sales, thus benefitting both the bottom- and top-line for banks. 

Building and fostering a performance-focused culture around mobile is the key to fully leveraging this medium and delivering market-leading innovation. 

As consumer expectations for mobile rise, app performance and speed will be a key competitive differentiator. 

Klaus Enzenhofer is technical strategist at Compuware?s application performance management business unit in Detroit. Reach him at