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The growth of mobile engagement in banking and financial services

Photo of David Gilbert, VP of Americas

David Gilbert

VP Americas

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1 Oct 2018
7 min read
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Key insights

  • The increasing adoption of mobile banking

  • The growing use of mobiles in improving customer satisfaction

  • Transactional vs promotional messages – balancing security, privacy, and growth priorities

  • Customer service as a source of business development

  • Best practice mobile engagement insights

  • Mobile engagement in action

Mobile devices have become a key focus for banking and financial sector businesses looking for better ways to engage their customers and improve general operations.

A major draw for finance leaders is the widespread adoption of mobile devices and the rapid acceptance of mobile banking as a viable alternative to the high cost of completing transactions in physical branches. Primarily, this is accomplished via SMS (short message service). A study by eMarketer(1) found that 46.9% of the United States adult population conducted banking activities on a feature phone, smartphone, or tablet in 2015, and this number has grown rapidly. eMarketer projected that by 2018, nine in 10 US digital banking users will be mobile bankers. This acceptance of mobile allows banks to proactively plan for 2-way, value-added SMS message conversations for both parties along this channel.

The finance sector, accordingly, has actively been embracing mobility in its customer engagement strategies. A global study of Fortune 2000 companies by IDC2 showed that 80% of all financial services companies currently use, or plan on using integrated mobility-channel solutions such as SMS text messaging, App push messaging, voice, email, and social to communicate or interact with their customers and employees. Further, planning for mobile messaging has moved beyond IT departments, and business leaders are closely involved in solution specification, selection, and deployment, due to the critical role they view mobile engagement playing in current and future competitiveness.

The impact of mobile messaging

83% of financial services organizations believe mobile messaging has a “considerable” or “major” brand impact. 88% of these businesses believe mobile messaging has a major impact on customer service however, at present only one-third utilize the technology to attract and retain new customers. This provides considerable opportunity for progressive institutions to gain a competitive advantage from the use of mobile phone communications.

Customer engagement

Mobile SMS marketing can be used in a number of ways that help improve customer satisfaction, including targeted customer promotions and product offers, bank appointment reminders, real-time alerts, bill reminders, and customer surveys. Security and privacy are paramount considerations when engaging customers through this channel, so innovative solutions need to be embraced to find a balance between trust and effectiveness.

Transactional vs promotional messages:

Transactional mobile messages are sent to customers to convey information necessary for account maintenance or service, such as services provided by a bank for an account holder to retrieve their available balances; or 2FA confirmation for high-value transactions. Promotional mobile messages are sent with the objective of promoting your product or service. This category includes any sales and marketing messages which may or may not be solicited by the recipient. These messages are governed by stringent security and privacy regulations in addition to anti-phishing strategies.

Mobile messaging security and privacy policy:

You'll always want to keep personal information safe and secure. Clearly accessible and easily understood privacy policies are essential to maintaining trust. Regulations governing the use of mobile contacts vary between jurisdictions and cellular carriers, but a number of key guidelines are usually applicable.

Customer service as a source of business development

Improving service quality offers a starting point in building relationships with customers using mobile communication channels. This can help deepen long-term relationships with existing customers and provide a basis for further valued added communications.

Customer support:

Mobile messaging allows rapid, multi-directional, easily accessed communication to user phone numbers, and is a viable initial channel for customer service, lowering costs, and keeping contact concise and focused.

Feedback surveys:

Feedback requests sent via SMS and MMS messages can be immediately captured by surveys post-contact, with forms that are easy to follow and optimized for mobile, for higher completion rates.


Training in products or services, such as a new credit card can also be readily facilitated through timely, SMS delivery, with interactive, contextual instructions included.

Enhanced security:

Trust in online and mobile banking facilities can be improved via the integration of messaging with other related online banking systems, to provide an automated multi-channel second-factor authentication service.

Promotional offers:

With these trusted mobile channels established, institutions may send rich, on-brand offers straight to cell phones, based on pre-established contact lists. These can be curated by customer preferences and financial history, refined by attributes like market segment, location, or social media interaction, offering increased loyalty, upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Effective marketing via mobile applications

Innovative financial service providers are progressing beyond serving existing customers with mobile banking tools, and are beginning to embrace the opportunity in using their mobile web and app properties to better support marketing functions like customer acquisition, cross-selling and upselling.

The eMarketer study shows that roughly 66% of US smartphone and tablet owners had encountered and clicked on banking and finance ads, due in large part to strong consumer trust in financial firms’ owned properties. When reaching out to mobile numbers, secure mobile messaging applications enable customers to embrace promotions and offers, and the challenge turns to encourage their use, through developing effective marketing strategies and appropriate customer interaction and adoption analytics. As part of the integrated mobile channel ecosystem, push notifications are a good example of a capability to send information ranging from service-based announcements, such as low balances, or appointment reminders - to promotional offers limited to users of the app.

Other innovative ways institutions are approaching mobile application marketing include:

High-value tools:

Providing vendor-neutral tools into the app encourages use by an existing and potential new customers. For example, the Chase Manhattan “My New Home” app provides useful mobile tools with the goal of driving customer acquisition. Rich data about the housing market and neighborhoods is synthesized into an easily accessible app, readily available to download when looking for a house, with the end goal of having a conversation with a mortgage banker at the bank.

While this is an example of a large corporation taking advantage of mobile marketing, SMS can be leveraged by small businesses looking to gain a competitive edge.


Australia’s Westpac Bank has built location-aware software triggers into their app, which are activated when customers enter international airports. A push notification prompts travelers to inform the bank through its app where they are going overseas and for how long. Then upon landing, another alert welcomes them to the new country and details where to find free ATMs. This helps with fraud detection and prevention and encourages the use of Westpac’s preferred partner ecosystem.


Barclays Bank is reviewing the results of their Beacon trial, which used Bluetooth to notify branch staff when a customer with an accessibility need enters the branch. This reduced the need for customers to have to explain their accessibility needs each time they enter the branch, allowing staff to provide better assistance. The trial focused on customer service but has the potential to be extended to customer engagement, as is more common in retail, sending contextually relevant offers on an opt-in basis directly to the app.

Graphic of two phone screens depicting features of an app

Financial services firms face steep hurdles in meeting different types of industry compliance requirements, and maintaining customer trust, so the adoption of any new technologies requires stringent evaluation. Vendors must have an auditable track record of security, data sovereignty, outstanding support, and managed services, and offer SLAs which guarantee the highest levels of reliability and availability.

Rapid communication:

When urgent communication is required, specific mobile channels such as SMS and app push messaging accelerate the speed of notification. Statistics indicate that whereas half of all emails aren’t opened for at least six hours, the average SMS text message is accessed within a few minutes and responded to within 30 minutes.

Automated and integrated messages:

Incorporating messaging systems through API Integration with other customer-facing and internal technologies such as CRM, workflow management tools, marketing automation platforms, and related databases reduces the need for manual intervention. These types of SMS notifications also provide a range of automated, high-value communications options.

Unified communications:

Combining all of these communications streams into a single platform, with multi-protocol APIs, intuitive UI and granular reporting improves cut-through in the delivery of messages and provides a mechanism for tracking all critical communications, giving recipients a way to respond appropriately. This allows informed, real-time decisions to be made from these conversations.

Mobile text engagement in action

Singapore-based NTUC Income needed a solution for managing rising costs associated with traditional communication, while still providing an engaging customer experience. Whispir’s unified messaging platform was chosen to streamline contact, by significantly reducing hardcopy marketing mailers in addition to routing notifications, policyholder updates, and offers.

Screenshot of Whispir software

Whispir’s HTML5 Rich Messaging can be sent securely and cost-effectively, containing information ranging from policy updates to billing reminders and personalized contextual promotional offers.

Existing policyholders and potential new customers have the ability to interact immediately, taking actions that can include immediate payment, rescheduling billing dates, completing surveys, and responding to offers.

A centralized dashboard provides detailed analytics on conversations with customers across all channels, building a growing profile of relevant information over time. Finally, API integration with existing CRM, billing, and related systems allows segmentation and automation of the contact process, ensuring information and offers are timely, relevant, and add value to both parties.

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