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Relevance in a Time of Coronavirus: The Death of the "Mobile First" Strategy

Maybe you missed the news about the Coronavirus Stimulus package; but it contained an epoch-ending announcement for our industry – money just became a digital streaming phenomenon. The proposal of the “digital dollar” as part of the bailout package has the potential to turn the local FI into the equivalent of a Blockbuster (in the face of Netflix), or an AOL (in the face of open source browsers and modern broadband internet).

And come to think of it, nothing takes me back to the days of AOL install compact discs and dial up connections like logging into online banking/mobile banking applications to look at my balances at my financial institution, or any financial institution – they’re all dated and painful. Okay, mobile apps tend to be slightly better, but pale in comparison to the ease of use of true money movement apps like PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, Coinbase, etc. No doubt, this slight superiority of financial institution mobile apps is a consequence of the mobile first fixation of our industry and the consumers we serve.

It’s no secret that financial institutions everywhere expend immense amounts of revenue and capital (human, technological, and financial) to install and manage “best of breed” online and mobile banking solutions. Of course, there are prominent prevailing dogmas as to why this is an accepted norm. For instance, in the article Three Tips for Engaging Mobile-First Users Kelly Street explains that FIs need to have a mobile mindset, customized mobile offerings, and become trusted advisers. These are, of course, appropriate ideas and assertions given the consumers we’re serving. The problem isn’t the declarations; it’s the belief that these ideas result in relevance. Treating these as causes of relevance, believing focusing in these types of dogmas and ideas will mystically generate sustainability, only ensures FIs will waste millions of dollars trying (and failing) to keep up with the benchmark of your members’ expectations. Here’s why .,.

Megalithic organizations like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have a very simple business model: they amass and centralize data and deliver that data to any device the consumer prefer (mobile, laptop, kiosk, brick-and-mortar retail location, voice, TV, etc.) by simply focusing on the data that the consumer wants to ‘deposit’ or ‘withdraw’ through that channel. Focusing on data first, and consumer input and extraction of data – as opposed to features, functions, and flashy applications with widgets for online and mobile only – is the single sustainable and adaptable approach to developing and deploying digital experiences. It is these data first organizations that are setting the benchmark for your members’ expectations around efficiency of accessing, using and moving data – and money is just data. Trying to duplicate any of these experiences without controlling the data is impossible.

Confused by the claim that money is just data? Consider the following …

The announcement earlier this week that congress is considering distributing the coronavirus stimulus via digital coin brings this distinction between cause and effect brings this into focus with unwelcome clarity: if this digital (data) dollar is distributed next week how will your institution remain relevant in the new market of letting your members access, use, and move their digital (data) dollars?

The reality is, you probably won’t. Yesterday our COO Jon Ungerland wrote, “The consumer’s perspective on the purpose of a financial institution irreversibly shifted from essential institution to inconvenience, overnight.” Back in August of 2019 we were first to market with Coin-2-Core (a digital wallet that allows CUs to store and access digital/crypto currencies) which could allow your members to deposit and access stimulus funds or convert them to cash through their preferred digital channel (core connected mobile wallet, self-service kiosks, online, mobile, in-branch, etc.).

Fact is, data first credit unions and community businesses are positioned to remain relevant through these unprecedented times regardless of whether the stimulus is distributed digitally or not. The institutions and businesses growing in and through these crises are not the ones that depend on the flashiest online/mobile experiences; it’s the ones who were positioned to use data to digitally bridge brick-and-mortar operations and maintain contact and engagement with consumers through use of data – without concern or preferences for any legacy method of serving consumers. At DaLand CUSO, we enjoy partnering with clients who prioritize vigilantly pursuing the centralization, control, and extension of that data to self-service portals and as a result capitalizing on this opportunity won’t actually cost them anything.

The consumer of the 'new normal' will be a digital nomad in a world of necessarily flexible delivery channels.

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