Banking on your mobile phone. Hasn’t it been interesting to watch the various reports coming from all directions about the pending, almost-there, any-day-now launch of the new Citibank mobile banking service? There have been sneak previews, scoops based on early trials in the Philippines, and analysis of terms and conditions changes coming from the bank.
None of this has come from Citibank itself: it has all been frenzy from journalists and bloggers about the new service.
I think the service has actually launched now. At least it has in the US, according to Finextra.
It all seems rather a lot of coverage for a new channel which, apart from being mobile, is rather less functional than other self service channels available.
Which brings me to the point of this article. I’ve been talking with quite a few mobile banking vendors over the last year. I’ve been asking them to tell me why their offering is different to every other offer I’ve seen.
There is usually not a single point of difference (other than architectural artefacts, which, lets face it, deliver no business advantage whatsoever). Everyone is so focussed on delivering the standard stuff that no-one is dreaming up new and creative ways to deliver services.
Here’s the thing.
If we accept that channel substitution is a myth, or, at least, that customers who have current channel preferences don’t abandon them entirely, you simply can’t argue a business case based on reduced cost to serve. And I think the jury is out on whether you can actually sell new products on a tiny mobile phone screen, given that there are challenges getting them to buy on a big browser screen.
That leaves acquisition and retention. For the latter, having a service that is decent enough is all that is required. But for the former, it has to be a service that is attractive and differentiated enough to cause customers to switch.
Doing the standard stuff isn’t enough. What we need is a trialable, observable innovation on the phone that delivers a substantive new benefit, in addition to having the basic functionality that everyone else has.
In the meantime, I am certainly watching the rollout of mobile banking services with great interest. I’d love one for myself, but then, I am a quick adopter of new innovations.
I’m not certain, however, that everyone else shares my love for banking gadgetry