Mobile Monday: Communicating Critical App Updates via Email

 

usbank_mobile_upgrade_email_border

       Email from US Bank to mobile banking customers (12 Nov 2015)

Last week I wrote about how much I liked US Bank’s new native app. So I understand why the bank is anxious to get users ported over to the new version. Customers are going to like it. Guaranteed.

Yet I was a little surprised, just a week into the new version, to receive an email warning that the previous app was about to stop working (see message above). This urgency makes customers question whether there is something seriously wrong with the previous version. The message is also annoying in that it doesn’t really give the customer any clue as to whether their version is the current one or not. It provides only the version number (2.1.76) which is the cut-off between good and bad apps.

This message has so many weak points opportunities to improve, I put together a top-10 list (plus 2 bonus nitpicks). Here are my gripes more or less in priority order:

  1. I had already updated to the new version, so this message was completely unnecessary. And if the bank doesn’t know which version I’m using, it should say so.
  2. There is no explanation of why all of sudden it was so urgent to upgrade. Skeptical users were left to use their imaginations…not something you want in these days of widely publicized security breaches.
  3. usbank_appversionnumberInstead of talking about version numbers, why not just describe the new app? It looks completely different and a quick description and screenshot would have been understood by 90% of the readers allowing the to move on with their day rather than proceeding through a tedious “find the version number hunt.”
  4. If you must use a version number, then at least explain how to find it. The email didn’t address that key point in the body, fine print, or any of links provided within the message. It’s not that simple to find the version number. You must login, find the hidden primary navigation, choose “About the App” and notice the version number in the lower right corner (see inset). 
  5. If you are going to make such a big change, use a whole number for the new version. In this case, it would be easier to say, “use v3.0 or later.” 
  6. The links provided to update the app did not go to the iTunes update page, but instead went to a marketing page at USBank.com. And the marketing pages, while well done, also did NOT link to the app store update pages. In fact, to confuse things further, the marketing page said the new version “was coming soon.”
  7. The only way to get help was by making a phone call to the general 800 number. No FAQ, email address, chat, or digital way to get help. It wasn’t even a direct line to tech support.
  8. The email message was not optimized for mobile. It was hard to read on my iPhone 6.
  9. It does not specifically address what happens if you don’t update within the next few days; “discontinuing support” has a number of meanings from simply not getting tech support to completely not working.
  10. The bank ended by thanking me for being a mobile banking customer….good. But they could have also thanked me for taking time out of my day to deal with this “upgrade emergency.”
  11. <Nitpick #1> The first sentence of the second paragraph uses “new” three times.
  12. <Nitpick #2> The closing sentence repeats the “enhanced convenience” copy point. This is a generic benefit at best and shouldn’t be invoked twice in a 150-word message.

Bottom line: Customer communications are not easy, especially with newer technology. So make sure to test them with some less-savvy users before hitting publish.

UI: US Bank Tackles New Mobile Navigation Conventions

usbank_mobile_screens

As I was taking a tour of US Bank’s gorgeous new mobile app (above), I was reminded of an ongoing problem in mobile UI, lack of navigational consistency. For anyone over 30, you’ve seen this play out before. It took nearly a decade (1995 to early 2000’s) for websites, especially in financial services, to conform to pretty straightforward navigation conventions (tabs on top, login in upper right, etc).

usbank_previousWhile responsive design (one website for desktop and mobile) has made things a little less standardized, desktop browser navigation is still pretty easy to figure out. And there’s always the back button to get you out of a jam.

Not so on smartphones. First-generation mobile banking UIs generally used the bottom of the screen to showcase 3 or 4 navigational choices, often with a More button to expand the choices. This worked OK since early apps usually had limited functions.

But as banks redesign their apps to a more modern esthetic, the bottom nav bar is disappearing. That looks great, but how do users find key functions?

That brings me back to US Bank’s new app. When I finished admiring its new, sleek design, I was momentarily thrown for a loop on how to get out of the main page. The familiar buttons at the bottom were gone (see older screenshot right). And initially I didn’t see the “hamburger menu” in the upper corner, which has recently become a fairly common design convention.

usbank_nav_closeupusbank_mobile_nav_optionsIt turns out that US Bank has located navigation options in two spots, neither particularly easy to see on a phone.

(1) The hamburger menu is there in the upper left, but it’s small and looks like it’s part of the logo (see screenshot at left and closeup at right)
(2) Even smaller context-sensitive menus directly to the right of each account. Deposit accounts have three navigation choices (Pay/Send, Transfer Money, Deposit)

Bottom line: U.S. Bank has delivered what may well be the best looking big-bank mobile app yet, at least in the United States.  It is also packed with new features such as no-login balance inquiry and customizations. So kudos to the team at US Bank, which also led the pack on desktop UI more than a decade ago!

That said, the almost-hidden primary navigation is a case of the design getting slightly ahead of its users. While users will soon get used to the new nav links, in the meantime I recommend a few adjustments:

  1. Add navigation instructions to the “feature tour” when users open the app for the first time.
  2. Make the hamburger menu stand on its own by increasing its size and placing it away from the US Bank logo (below the logo, or in the upper right which is wide open).
  3. Consider adding the word “menu” below it for a few months, at least until users get the hang of it.

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Update 16 Nov 2015: Digital design guru Jakob Nielsen just published an overview of mobile navigation echoing our concerns with the hamburger menus. 

Feature Friday: “Combine Usernames” from Capital One

Capital One just updated its Wallet iPhone app to include gift cards. That seemed like a good candidate for this week’s Feature Friday.

capital_one_combine_usernamesBut on the way to checking out the gift card feature, I ran into another new Capital One feature I love. It’s called Combine Usernames and it does just that. The option appeared automatically the on the first screen when I first logged into the latest issuer’s standard mobile banking app (not the newer Wallet app) (see inset). The card giant noticed I had two usernames registered and offered to automatically combine them. It’s not something I’ve run into before, and it’s super convenient for those of us who can’t keep their digital life in sync. After selecting Combine Usernames near the bottom of the main screen, you are directed to a new screen with instructions to swipe to combine. I swiped and it worked immediately, although the page warned it could take up to 72 hours. I wasn’t sure what was lurking under my other username, but it turns out it was my old ING Direct (now Capital One 360) account. Now, everything’s visible on the app, and I’m in sync at Capital One. ———– I’ll cover the gift card function after I test it at Starbucks. Enjoy your weekend.

Features: Capital One to Add Receipt Capture to Mobile App

capitalone_reciept_capture

Capital One sent an email (see below) to customers two days ago promoting a new version of its Wallet mobile app. Although it’s not mentioned in the email copy, when you click “Get Started” the resulting webpage (see above) reveals that the bank is about to add receipt capture to its app.

Normally, I’d save this news for a Feature Friday post. But I’m so excited to finally have integrated receipt capture on one of my cards, I just had hit publish. Of course, it’s “coming soon” so I can’t give you any insight into how it works, or if there is an OCR component. But the website copy does mention some level of integration, just not whether its automatic (OCR) or manual:

Simply snap a photo to connect a receipt with a charge in the app.  

American Express offers this capability, Chase on its Ink small biz app, as well as Expensify and a few other fintech startups. But Capital One is the first big Visa/MasterCard consumer issuer (that I know of) with the feature. I’ll let you know how it works.

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Capital One email announcing remodeled native Wallet app (31 Aug 2015):

capone_email_redesigned_app

 

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Update (3 Sep 2015): I omitted the Chase Ink card in the original post.

Mobile Monday: Engaging Prospective New Customers

mobile_phone_lineupHow important are mobile users to your sales efforts? 76% of Facebook’s ad revenue is from mobile (and it was considered by many to be a mobile laggard a few years ago).

Prospective customers are already visiting your website from their smartphones in massive numbers. Are you making a good first impression? Does the UI work across key devices? And more importantly, is there an easy-to-find path to mobile purchase?

This afternoon I visited 20 leading banking and personal finance sites (as a proxy for popularity, I used the 20 most downloaded free finance apps in the US Apple App Store, see list in footnote). And it was like a trip back in time before (desktop) websites had adopted browser design standards. By the numbers:

  • Excellent: 19 of the 20 had mobile optimized sites (Laggard = Navy Federal Credit Union)
  • Satisfactory: 14 of 18 had visible link for login (2 required a native app to login)
  • Needs work: 11 of 20 had a visible link to download the native app (including the 3 below)
  • Needs work: Only 3 of 20 used an initial “popup” screen that prompted to download the app, then the user needed to find a link to the non-app site
  • Needs work: 12 of 20 made a visible attempt to sell something
  • Fail: 6 of the 20 made a pretty marginal first impression including several of the biggest financial institutions in USA/World (American Express, Chase, Citibank, Mint, PNC, Wells Fargo)

My favorites (from this sample of 20, see footnote):

Bank: US Bank
Nice, engaging layout with clear path to more info; but missing link to download app

usbank_msite

Runner-up: TD Bank
Easy to find customer service, login, location; but missing link to app

tdbank_msite

Favorite non-bank: Credit Karma
Good branding, clear get started button; but no link to native app

credit_karma_msite

Least favorite FI: American Express (lots of competition for this one)
Too much emphasis on logging in, easy to miss card finder at bottom

amex_msite

Least favorite non-FI: Mint
Straightforward app link, but needs to better engage new user before offering the two choices; not very graphically interesting

mint_msite

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Top 20 apps (in order at US App Store, 5PM Pacific 31 Aug 2015): Chase, BofA, Wells Fargo, PayPal, Capital One, Venmo, Credit Karma, Square, Mint, Acorns, GEICO, Citibank, Discover, American Express, USAA, Progressive, US Bank, Navy Federal, TD Bank, PNC Bank

#RockChalk (for Karl, Joe & Mary)

Mobile Monday: Fintech Through the Ages

social_media_by_age
There’s a big, missing piece with today’s money management (aka PFM) offerings:

Age appropriateness

What I mean is that most FIs offer a one-size-fits-all mobile app and that just won’t cut it going forward. As capone360_teen_checkingdevelopment costs drop (see Building it Out, below), it will be easier to cost-justify tightly segmented apps. One of the better examples (from the desktop), is CapitalOne 360’s Teen Money a program it inherited from ING Direct (which launched it exactly four years ago with a $10 million ad campaign).

How will this multi-app trend manifest itself? One of the more likely initial phases will be segmenting by life stage. For example, here’s a common example of 10 stages, along with key money management issues along the way:

  • Pre-teen: learning, saving, chore management, light spending
  • Teen: learning, saving, college planning, spending
  • College: learning, spending, expense sharing with roommates/parents, automobile
  • Singles: spending, renting, insurance, expense sharing with roommates, investing/401k, saving, credit
  • Young marrieds: mortgage, insurance, expense sharing with spouse, investing, saving for home
  • Family with little ones: insurance, spending controls/budgeting, investing, tuition, home equity
  • Family with teens: spending/budgeting, investing, saving for college, sharing expenses with kids, retirement planning
  • Empty nest: retirement planning, asset management, investing
  • Active retirees: asset management, estate planning
  • Homebound seniors: sharing control with kids, health insurance management, estate planning

All of those segments will likely have their own app or at least a way to easily customize a general app in a way that syncs with their needs without the clutter typical of many banking websites (though they are getting much better as building for mobile (responsive design), demands prioritizing features/content.

Building it Out

Given the 6, 7 and even 8-figure costs of major mobile initiatives, building 10 apps may seem ridiculously expensive. And it would be if it weren’t for cost savings enabled by third-party and SaaS services fed through APIs, a subject we touched on this recently in a post about the coming Golden Age of Fintech APIs.

If you are willing to forgo branding, you could provide age-appropriate apps for virtually no cost. For example, some smaller banks gladly refer their customers to Mint for budgeting/money management help or Credit Karma for credit management. It’s not a bad strategy. Sure, they’ll see targeted financial advertising, but that’s not going to matter if you provide a valuable service.

But we expect most banks and credit unions will eschew custom development and choose a full white-label solution such as MX, Backbase or dozens of others. Or alternatively, go with a hybrid co-brand, such as BancVue’s Kasasa or FamZoo for the teen/pre-teen crowd.

——FinDEVrwithDate

We’ll be looking at these issues and more at our second annual financial services developers event,FinDEVr, in October.

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Graphic source: Linkedin

Mobile: Citibank Remains Committed to No Login with Newest “Lite” iPhone App

citibank_lite_app_frontFlipping through the top-100 iPhone apps in the Finance category, I noticed Citibank’s new Lite version at #90. It has been ranked as high as #31 in the past month (see chart below). In comparison, the core Citi Mobile app is ranked #14.

The app was released March 29 to support the Apple Watch app. But it’s more than just a watch app. It can be used by anyone who wants a simple, always-logged-in way to track banking and credit card transactions (see inset).

The app includes current balance and last 15 transactions (5 on Apple Watch) for checking, savings and credit cards. Users log in once, then the app stays logged in indefinitely. There is no transactional functions in the app, so the security risk is almost non-existent. This may appeal to certain security conscious customers still wary of mobile transactions. Customers can logoff at any time to protect their privacy.

The bank provides the same benefit with the Snapshot feature in its full-featured mobile app. So, Citi Mobile Lite may be a temporary workaround until the bank integrates Apple Watch support into its main app. But the bank may find there is a strong core audience for a non-transactional app and keep it around for many years.

The Lite app is not currently listed in the bank’s mobile banking section. The only way to find out about it is through the bank’s site search or through Apple’s App Store. Here’s the landing page found via a search for “Apple Watch” (see screenshot below).

Citibank now offers a suite seven separate apps to U.S. customers: Citi Mobile, Citi Mobile Lite, Cit Private Bank in View, Citi News, Citi Velocity, CitiFX Pulse, Citi on Campus. Additionally, there are local Citi Mobile versions across at least 18 other countries.

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Citi Mobile Lite ranking in Finance category of Apple App Store (U.S.)

citi_lite_app_ranking

Source: AppShopper, 27 May 2015

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Citibank desktop landing page

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Tuesday Tactic: Communicating via Mobile Updates

Here’s an unintended consequence of mobile banking.

I learn more about my bank by reading the description of the changes in its latest mobile (iOS) update than all other channels combined. And since I’ve downloaded about 100 banking & financial apps (and manually update them all), I read a LOT of mobile updates.

Very few financial services apps use that space to communicate creatively. Often, it will just be something terse like, “fixing bugs.” Now, I like succinct copy as much as the next person, but at the time of a mobile update, you have the undivided attention of your customer, if only for a few seconds. Use it! (though don’t abuse it).

billguard_update1While a number of web companies do a good job (Yelp, Redfin come to mind), the best financial services communicator on my phone is BillGuard (see inset). Not only do they spell out the changes being made now, they recap prior major improvements, and reinforce their brand with a friendly sentence or two of often unrelated information. They also sign-off each update with a real person and Twitter handle. Credit Karma and USAA have also recently posted interesting update information (see below); Citibank, not so much (last screenshot)

Bottom line: I know it takes extra time to get approvals for the “marketing copy” on an app update, but this is a great chance to improve user perceptions. And you can recycle that approved copy into other media as well (blog posts, email newsletters, employee training, etc).

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Mobile update examples:

billguard_update2  usaa_update2

credit_karma_citi_update

The Evolution of Mobile Weather Apps (and what it means for banking)

weather_buttons_iphoneIn 2007, I’d never used an Apple product. But I was one of the first to get an iPhone that year. I wanted to see for myself what the much-touted device meant for the future of financial services. While there was no banking in v1.0, I found myself enthralled with the weather button, my first taste of the elegance of a native app experience.

Fast forward (almost) 8 years, and the weather button(s) is still my most-used app (as you can see on my home screen at right with four weather choices). But in the face of fierce competition, even weather apps have evolved from being completely static to having a useful alerting functions. The Dark Sky app (screenshot below, note 1) hits me with a popup notification and jingle 10 minutes before it’s about to rain, which comes in very handy in Seattle.

Look at the schematic of the Dark Sky weather app below. Five years ago weather apps gave us the a simple probability of rain some time during the whole day. Now it predicts precisely the exact minute rain will start in my neighborhood. That’s a massive functional improvement.

dark_sky

Relevance to bankers
The evolution in mobile weather demonstrates the importance of transitioning from static information retrieval to active alerting. A good passive experience was fine for the first wave of mobile information (2008 to 2013/2014), but the best apps now go way beyond that now.

Let’s switch gears to money management. Your preferred banking/PFM app knows how much you’ve spent compared to previous periods, it knows how much you make and what bills are due before the next paycheck. So your money app can alert you, in real time, when you are bumping up to the last of your discretionary spending each pay period.

And while that’s a pragmatic use case, it’s also a negative one since the app keeps reminding users how strapped they are. A more entertaining use revolves around purchase recommendations. My money manager (Mint in this case, but it could be my bank/card issuer), knows I’m a coffee shop addict. The app could give me a heads-up when I was in the vicinity of a high-rated coffee shop. Of course, the recommendations would have to be highly relevant and focused, or I would just ignore (or turn off) the alerts.

Bottom line: It’s time for banking/PFM apps to be as smart about your money as Dark Sky is about the rain. I forecast a bright future for FIs that get it right.

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Note:
1. Dark Sky is so good, they actually can charge $4 for it in face of dozens of free apps (including the one that comes bundled on all iPhones).

Apple Touches Off First Wave of Mobile Banking Biometrics

image We’ve known this day was coming ever since Apple acquired AuthenTec two years ago for $350 million. That was real money back in the pre-Beats/Nest/Oculus days.

Monday, Apple made it official at its annual developers’ conference: The fingerprint authentication system built into the iPhone 5S (Touch ID) will open to outside developers in the next iOS update (v8.0 expected in mid-September). That means that app publishers, including banks, credit unions & wallet providers, will be able to use it to provide initial authorization into a secure app. 

image The new feature was demonstrated on stage by logging in to Mint (see inset, screen cap tweeted by Bradley Leimer Monday). In the demo, Mint users are prompted to use the touchpad to open the app (the small type says, “Please authenticate in order to proceed”). Users are also given a password option.

Most likely, banks will use Touch ID, as well as other handset-resident biometric systems (note 1) to deliver “read-only” access to data. It’s an approach that’s been catching on around the world even before Apple’s biometric wizardry. Citibank is the most recent to provide a no-login glimpse in its mobile app (called SnapShot), rolling it out nationwide two weeks ago (press release). It’s also used at Westpac (NZ), Commonwealth (AU), Bank of the West, City Bank of Texas and many more (note 2).

For anything transactional, such as a wire transfer, banks will likely require additional authentication (see our Nine Circles of Security).

And of course, these security changes will generally need to be optional for customers until they become commonly accepted practices. Most users are still extremely wary of security on mobile phones, even though it is a marked improvement over the desktop (note 3).

While it’s too early to know if any financial institutions will have it enabled by September, one fintech payment provider, CardFlight, wasted no time, announcing support for Touch ID just a few hours after the Apple keynote (note 4).

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Notes:
1. Celent’s Jacob Jegher showed me his facial recognition login on his Android phone (Samsung?) at last month’s FinovateSpring. Very cool, though he doesn’t have it enabled since it slows up the login process just slightly.
2. Malauzai Software powers more than 90 credit unions and banks alone (post).
3. See our latest report on Mobile Security (March 2014, subscription) for more info.
4. Cardflight will be showing off its latest tools at our first developer event, FinDEVr, 30 Sep 2014, in San Francisco.