Yahoo!: Online Banking Empowers Consumers

More than one out of three single consumers say they prefer to apply for credit cards online rather than by mail or in person, while more than one in four would rather apply for mortgages online, according to a new report released Thursday by Yahoo! and Ogilvy One Worldwide.

For the report, "Selling Money: The Impact of the Online Channel," Forrester Research conducted an online survey of 2,687 adult U.S. consumers, while Flamingo International conducted in-depth interviews with 18 households.

The study reveals that consumers, especially younger ones, increasingly conduct financial business online. One of the main reasons, the report concluded, is consumers' perceptions that they have greater control when they can obtain information and conduct business online. "Nearly three-quarters of consumers say that seeing their account balances online and transacting online makes them feel more in control of their finances," stated the report.

For marketers, a take-away from the report is that online ads for financial services should stress consumer control, said Forrester Research Principal Analyst Catherine Graeber, who presented the research Thursday in New York. "Control and empowerment marketing messages will resonate with younger online segments," stated one of the PowerPoint slides accompanying Graeber's presentation.

The report classified respondents into five demographic groups: singles, married without children, married with children at home, empty nesters, and retirees. (While the study doesn't give age ranges for the different categories, the report presumes that singles were among the youngest respondents, while empty nesters and retirees were the oldest.)

More than 60 percent of all respondents--excluding retirees--said that going online was their main method of monitoring bank account balances--as opposed to using the telephone, visiting a branch office, and the like. More than half of the respondents--again, not counting retirees--said they monitored credit card activity primarily via the Internet.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that fears of phishing and identity theft have spurred 28 percent of consumers who use online banking to curtail online financial activity, according to a Gartner survey of 5,000 U.S. online consumers.