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What marketers can learn from mobile banking

By Chandrashekar Rao Kuthyar

Thanks to sweeping changes in consumer behavior and advancement in technology, mobile banking is tipped to become the primary channel of financial transaction in the future.

With smartphones growing fastest among handheld devices, new possibilities are opening up to further improve the mobile banking experience.

Current functions under mobile banking either cater to an information or service request, or enable a transaction such as fund transfer or bill payment. A couple of innovations in the latter area could transform the way bills are paid and also catalyze the adoption of mobile banking.

Take the case of a presentment bill, that is, an invoice presented for an exact payment.

Consumers might receive the bill either as a hard copy or electronic file and, similarly, pay using paper – cash or check – or through a variety of electronic channels including Internet and mobile banking.

Code language
A recent technology, the Quick Response (QR) code, is set to compress the entire bill payment process into a couple of clicks, leveraging the native capabilities of a smartphone.

Here is how it works.

The QR code is a two-dimensional code, appearing as a square bar code, capable of encrypting virtually any type of content.

If this code is printed on a bill – it does not matter whether it is on paper or electronic – a smartphone owner using a mobile banking service supporting QR codes can make the payment literally in a matter of two clicks.

All she needs to do is point the camera on her mobile phone towards the code, after which a screen will pop up on the device with all the information required to make the payment, and a button to authorize it. Job done.

The attractiveness of this innovation is in its simplicity and convenience of use, essential qualities for the success of mobile banking – in one stroke, or shall we say two clicks, it does away with the drudgery of tapping out multiple payment-related details on a tiny keypad.

But what about other kinds of payment, such as top-ups, which are not made against a bill?

Currently, payments such as the recharge of a prepaid mobile account are made at a physical location. But going forward, they could happen automatically over a smartphone.

A concept under exploration is the intelligent mobile banking application that is programmed with business rules to act in a certain way.

For example, it could be configured to automatically top up the prepaid account with a certain amount when the balance falls below a specified threshold.

Besides adding to customer convenience, this innovation could change the way prepaid mobile currency is bought, serviced and sold.

Smart tone
The higher capability of smartphones can also come into play in other ways.

For instance, some smartphones have an indicator light that glows when a new message comes in. This feature could easily be extended to mobile banking, to put out a visual alert of the occurrence of a specific event, such as a credit above a certain amount

Here is another example.

Today, several banks are engaging with customers, employees and other stakeholders through public and closed loop online communities.

Now, they can leverage the superior social capability of smartphones by linking their mobile medium to their official social networking site to provide their audience easy access to a forum in which they can connect with bank representatives to share feedback, resolve queries and air grievances.

The benefits are several and fairly obvious – convenience and better service for customers, and stronger credibility and customer relationships for banks.

The checkered history of mobile banking, which did not quite take off in its cumbersome text-based avatar, shows clearly that simplicity and usability will drive adoption.

Hence, innovations such as those described above, could go a long way in popularizing the usage of this medium, not only for routine banking but also for wider mobile commerce.

The onus of realizing this opportunity rests with industry participants including banks, technology vendors, utility providers and wireless carriers. They must come together to usher in these new technologies in order to provide their customers with a mobile banking experience that is easy, intuitive and reliable.

Chandrashekar Rao Kuthyar is senior product line manager of Finacle at Infosys Technologies, Bangalore, India. Reach him at [email protected].