In the days when there was only branch banking, people used to describe the opening hours in the UK as follows: when can’t you make it?
Well, that’s ancient history now.
Of course, this is all thanks to a digital transformation that began with phone banking, then migrated to desktop and finally to mobile.
Today, real-time banking information is available to customers by the second. People can check their accounts and make payments in bed, in the bath, or on the bus.
They can, and they do. According to UK bank Santander, five percent of UK customers logged into online banking on Christmas Day 2017, while 13 people actually applied for a mortgage between Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Anything to avoid talking to the relatives, perhaps.
Clearly, the impact of mobile on banking in the UK can’t be overstated.
According to a 2017 British Bankers Association report, the use of banking apps soared by 356 percent between 2012 and 2017. It revealed nearly 40 percent of UK adults now use them. That’s 19.6 million people.
And they are not just checking their balances. The study showed nearly two thirds now use apps to transfer money, with six in 10 paying other individuals and just under a quarter arranging standing orders.
Keith Moor, who leads Santander UK’s marketing campaigns, is keenly aware of the impact mobile is having on the bank’s customers. He says it’s the channel of choice for 30 percent of them. However, he is also careful to point out that every customer also wants the right to switch to other channels – branch, landline, desktop – when the occasion demands it.
“People expect seamless interaction between different platforms in real time, and that’s what we try to deliver. Everything we do has to work on every platform,” he says.
This applies not just to the core services themselves, but also the way Santander communicates them. Indeed, Moor chooses to make most marketing campaigns channels agnostic. “We rarely do single channel specific campaigns,” he says. Instead, the focus is on a concept that can be adapted for the different media. “When we see an agency partner, they will present a concept and not a linear one-version-only adaptation,” he says.
That said, mobile does have its idiosyncrasies, which must be taken into account. “We can’t take a TV ad and stick it on mobile. It just doesn’t work. We try to deliver our message in the first five seconds,” says Moor.
He adds that overt branding works less well in mobile marketing campaigns too. “How heavily you brand something is less relevant on mobile where people have chosen to be in a certain space. So you can be more particular about the proposition and not worry so much about branding cues,” he says.
Ultimately, however, all these lessons are up for constant review. Why? Because of mobile’s other great benefit: you can track it. “Everything’s test and learn. See what works. Change it. Move on. We’re doing that with thousands of bits of copy every day,” says Moor. “We’ve introduced dynamic live testing of creative… to understand how people consume information on mobile.
“And we develop specific measures to understand what works and what doesn’t. This could be an engagement rate or tracking where somebody goes after the initial interaction. Having one single metric to measure the success of marketing campaigns is dangerous.”
Of course, this spirit of constant experimentation doesn’t only extend to marketing campaigns but also to mobile products themselves. Santander likes to be at the forefront of new ideas on mobile. Two examples bear this out.
In 2016, Santander launched a service called Spendlytics. The app shows customers how much they have spent at individual retailers. The data is broken down into 12 categories, such as electronics, department stores, and petrol stations. The idea is to show give users meaningful insights into their spending.
Shortly after, the bank became the first in the UK to enable voice queries for its app. In other words, customers can ask spoken questions rather than type them in. They can enquire about spending at specific shops or over specific time periods. They can also do more transactional actions: make payments, report lost cards, set up account alerts and so on.
In a sense, voice banking was an early example of bot technology. Bots use machine learning and AI to provide answers to questions asked by voice or text. With banking customers mostly want routine answers such as: what’s my balance? Have I received a payment? How much did I spend? Bots are good at this.
“They lend themselves well to lots of applications where people want basic standardized information,” says Moor. “We’ve done some work with the social media platforms on this concept. It will very much form a part of our future.”