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Posts Tagged ‘mobile app’

Banks and Social Media: Where Is It Going?

August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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A year ago, I blogged about how banks and financial institutions like Amex were starting to experiment with social media (see “Banking on Social Media”), following consumers there, promoting their products and services and generally testing the waters. Now, banks have gone a step beyond: social payments.

In February of this year, Philippine telecommunications giant Globe Telecom offered its well-established GCASH mobile commerce service as an iPhone app that enables customers to send money not only to people in their phonebook but also to their email and Facebook contacts. In June, Poland’s Alior Bank announced Alior Sync, a separate business and all-digital financial services firm, which offers (among other things, see below) Facebook-based payments. Social media and banking is now very real.

In the case of Alior customers, they can transfer money directly to friends on Facebook through the surprising channel of photos. Both senders and recipients must use the Alior Sync application. The payments are authorized with single-use codes sent via SMS and protected with captcha. Recipients can transfer the funds they collect to any bank account in Poland. Targeted at young, tech-savvy consumers, Alior Sync, unlike Globe Telecom, is actually relying on technology for all of its customer interactions. The digital bank has no physical branches; only a web-based, virtual branch with live “tellers” available for video, audio, or text chat to help customers do whatever they need to do, and mobile apps (Android and iOS) that provide basic services including balance and budget tracking, funds transfer, and invoice payment. Customers can also make PayPal payments through email.

ASB Bank in New Zealand originally broke Facebook ground in the fall of 2010 with its virtual branch, available from the bank’s Facebook page. A number of agents are available via chat to answer questions from anyone who asks, ASB customer or not. Incidentally, ASB also recently launched a Facebook-friends payment service coming soon to its mobile app, which customers already use to send payments to anyone with an email or mobile number (similar to Commonwealth Bank Australia with its Kaching app.)

It’s clear that banks are connecting to the Facebook Platform API and moving forward. What’s not clear at this point is how consumers are going to respond. ASB’s virtual branch has been popular, garnering thousands of “likes” and serving enough customers that the bank has kept it alive for going on two years. But, ASB is just answering questions, not handling financial transactions.

Currently banks look to be best positioned to be successful when it comes to payments. In a survey Sybase 365 conducted late last year, banks scored highest when it came to who consumers would prefer to provide a mobile payments service. (See “Mobile Consumers Trust in Banks.”)

For that reason, it’s interesting to me that banks are looking to use Facebook as their channel network. I like to see the innovation, and my wife and I are giving the Kaching app a try. I’m very curious to see how this will evolve over the coming year.

Retailers Winning with Mobile Payments

April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Two recent announcements prove that retailers are very much in the mobile payments game. First, The Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart and Target were among two dozen retailers collaborating on a mobile commerce project. Then, Starbucks shared the impressive numbers from its Starbucks Mobile app, which launched in the U.S. in January 2011, and the UK and Canada a year later. 42 million: that’s how many transactions the company has processed in the 15 months since it launched, and 16 million of those happened between December and April.

Retailers aren’t waiting for NFC, or for banks or Google Wallet—or permission. They’re getting ahead and launching their own systems. And why not? They’re seizing the opportunity to take control of the customer relationship, which they already own, in a new channel.

The Starbucks Mobile app is a great example of what it takes to succeed with mobile commerce and mobile CRM. It’s not fancy or complicated. It’s simply a digital version of the coffee giant’s existing loyalty card, already popular with millions of customers. Load funds to the mobile app starting with a prepaid card and then a credit card, bring your phone to any Starbucks in the U.S., UK or Canada (it works across countries), and scan the barcode at the register after selecting your coffee. Simple, and here’s the key: more convenient and rewarding than cash or credit. (Though the loyalty aspect, which only applies to U.S. customers, requires a hefty 45 purchases to receive your first free drink, it only takes 15 to earn them thereafter.)

Once a company has a successful mobile payment method, it’s a short road to mobile loyalty and engagement programs. Not only do retailers have a direct marketing channel for sending offers, coupons, alerts and reminders, they also receive detailed information about each customers’ purchasing behavior.

The two-way communication that’s possible with mobile means retailers and brands can truly know their customers, and deliver the right message at the right time to the right person. “Haven’t seen you in a while, Mr. Talbot. Come back in for 15 percent off this month’s signature drink.”

Retailers understand that making the most of mobile means tying it into what they already do, enhancing every stage of the customer lifecycle.