Banks Appear To Have An Edge In The Mobile Market

Marketers of on-the-go banking services should focus their efforts on wireless customers in general, and more specifically on early-adopter, heavy mobile Web browsers and digital media enthusiasts.

A new report from Compete Inc. finds that some mobile telephone customers are ready to embrace mobile banking as major banks and cell phone carriers push to launch such services. Mobile banking is better positioned because more consumers have Web-enabled handsets. Citi rolled out its online banking service in southern California earlier this year and expects to have a nationwide capability by summer. Bank of America, which by far has the most online customers, has said it will launch mobile banking across its footprint also this summer. Cingular, Sprint and Verizon Wireless have announced mobile banking functions.

JupiterResearch, in a report issued just last month, says that just 8% of online consumers who own a cell phone are interested in using mobile browsing to check account balances. "The current buzz around mobile banking is fuelled by financial institutions' desire to expand their customer relationships to the mobile channel, rather than consumer demand," Jupiter analyst Asaf Buchner was quoted as saying.



Meanwhile, Compete's survey reports more robust acceptance. Nearly 30% of existing online banking customers expressed an interest in mobile banking yet the largest percentage--38%--said they would not use mobile banking, and 33% remain undecided. The difference between the two studies is that Compete asked two million people who said they had used online banking within the last 30 days. These consumers are predisposed to mobile banking because they already conduct some business online.

The Compete survey also found that online users are more likely to trust their financial institutions than their wireless carriers to provide them with access to their banking information: 78% said they would be more likely to use the service if it were offered by their bank compared to 22% who said they would be more likely to use the service if it were offered by their wireless provider.

Both surveys found that consumer interest in mobile banking services is limited to segments of the online population, such as early adopters and frequent Web browsers. Younger consumers are potential early adopters of mobile services, Jupiter reports, while other potentially interested consumers included those already using mobile browsing, as well as "under-banked" consumers who might not be banking online already.

What consumers want is to know their data is secure and that there is little to no cost to obtain that information. Compete director Paul Zeckser noted during a webcast of the survey results last week that "more time sensitive or time-saving applications can merit additional cost," but that consumers need to be trained on mobile banking applications and messaging needs to underscore that it is safe.

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