Building a Strong Mobile Payments Strategy

By Shirra Frost

When it comes to mobile payments, there are a number of factors that have been considered self-evident. Many people assume, for example, that the brightest and shiniest features are the ones that matter, that all consumers are comfortable making payments with emerging providers and that winning over consumers requires banks to be on the cutting edge. In reality, these assumptions are myths and can lead to wasted time and unproductive investment that does not align to consumer needs.

In a rapidly evolving space such as mobile payments, it’s easy to become caught up in the hype of offering the latest features in a competitive race. When that happens, strategy and execution can suffer. Financial institutions can avoid the hype cycle with a strategy that hinges on customer usability and convenience, and that capitalizes on people’s propensity to turn to their financial institution first for financial transactions.

Thinking from the perspective of a customer is an essential component of mobile payments success.

This starts with taking what you have and making it better, more convenient and easier to use. Reduce friction for consumers in their everyday tasks—paying friends, buying a cup of coffee, withdrawing cash from an ATM—and they’ll reward you with loyalty.

To build a strategy around customer preferences, start by gaining an understanding of how consumers are engaging with mobile payments on a day-to-day basis.

A recent consumer payments survey by Fiserv found that people keep it simple, relying on four pillars of mobile payments:

  • Paying themselves (via mobile deposits and finds transfers)
  • Paying other people
  • Paying billers
  • Paying merchants

According to the survey, the top four mobile payments activities among those who were active mobile banking customers in the preceding month were: transferring money between accounts at their financial institution; paying bills through their institution’s bill-pay service; depositing a check using the camera on their phone; and sending money to other people.

Consumers, in their actions every day, are signaling their expectations for mobile payments. Focusing on enhancing their experience presents an opportunity to assume a leadership position in the mobile payments space.

Here are four key steps to building a strong mobile payments strategy:

1. Invest in the options consumers already use.

The mobile banking platform is a way to enhance the experience that consumers have come to expect. Look at the most common ways a mobile banking app is used—deposits, transfers, person-to-person payments—and, at a minimum, provide these abilities to the consumer. Take this a step further by exploring additional ways that mobile devices can better help consumers manage their finances, such as through actionable alerts, and invest in those services.

2. Focus on overall experience.

How will consumers use the mobile payments platform and app? Is it easy to navigate, for both the technically and non-technically inclined? Is it convenient and fast? Use these frequent questions as guidance to deliver a frictionless consumer mobile banking experience how, when and where they want to bank.

3. Emphasize security…and educate.

It may come as no surprise that a top consumer concern with mobile banking is the security of information. Financial institutions must serve as a trusted partner and provide a secure environment for worry-free banking. Providing it is step one. Step two is to educate consumers on the security of the platform and the benefits of authentication.

4. Contextualize the benefits and capabilities.

It’s one thing to give consumers what they want—equally important, though, is showing the value of the mobile channel. For example, a consumer may use a mobile payments app to pay bills without being aware the app provides alerts on when a bill is due. Those who have concerns about fraudulent charges being made to accounts—and many do—would benefit from knowing there’s an option to receive alerts if suspicious activity happens. Show them how these features adapt to their everyday life.

In a world that is more interconnected than ever before, mobile payments platforms and offerings will continue to evolve and revolutionize the way consumers interact with their financial institutions—and their finances. Regardless of what the latest and greatest aspect in mobile banking may be, the root of all successful strategy should be focused on the consumer experience. Consumers expect their providers to know them, understand them and anticipate ways to help them with experiences that are intuitive, immediate and inspired.

Shirra Frost is director of product marketing at Fiserv, a financial services technology firm based in Brookfield, Wisc. Email: [email protected].