Tablet usage is growing exponentially, with important implications for retail banking. According to eMarketer, the number of U.S. tablet users was expected to reach nearly 70 million by the end of 2012, up from 34 million in 2011. Adoption is now strong enough to provide an accurate assessment of this user segment and develop a strategy for engaging these consumers in financial services.
The first misconception that needs to be corrected is that tablet users are synonymous with smartphone users. This is not the case. For starters, tablet users are slightly older than smartphone users: Flurry Analytics reports a four-year age difference but the gap may be growing. The Online Publishers Association says that tablet users are trending older, with users aged 25 to 34 currently dominating the market, with 28% of total usage, but the aged 35-to-54 segment steadily increasing.
Tablet users also lean toward early adoption of new technologies. According to the November 2012 Mobile Banking Financial Institution Scorecard by Javelin Strategy and Research, approximately 50% of tablet bankers tend to self-describe themselves as early adopters, compared to 39% of smartphone bankers. They are also likely to have more education and higher incomes than the general population. According to Pew Research, 51% of tablet users have graduated from college, compared with 28% of all U.S. adults, while tablet users are nearly twice as likely as the population overall to possess a household income of at least $75,000 per year (53% versus 28%).
Consider those demographics – they likely parallel your institution’s current and future high net worth and most valuable customers.
The actions consumers perform with their tablets are just as important as their demographic profile. User engagement on tablets is higher than on the smartphone, according to Flurry Analytics, with the average time spent on a tablet around eight minutes compared to four on a smartphone. Larger screens, increased functionality and ease-of-use all add up to more time spent on apps and Websites via tablet than via smartphones.
This suggests that tablet banking customers need an interactive, informative experience. Mobile banking should be focused on speed: tell customers where the nearest branch is, their current balance and enable quick transfers, deposits and bill payments. Tablet banking, by contrast, lends itself to more contemplative activities, such as the use of personal financial management (PFM) tools, basically services that require a bit more time and engagement and provide data of interest in an engaging and uncomplicated way.
Regardless of whether they use it for work or entertainment, tablet users dig in deeper to access information than mobile phone users. And they usually do so when they have time to spend, such as after dinner during primetime entertainment hours. Consider your own use of a tablet: rather than checking for updates and status reports in between meetings, you are probably sitting back with your tablet, maybe on your sofa after work, reading articles, reviewing reports, scrolling through pictures or researching. Flurry Analytics’ report shows that tablet usage spikes between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., with the device often used as a second screen while watching TV.
The key to mobile access is offering an assortment of options that accommodate customers’ unique behaviors. Banks should offer customers a tailored tablet experience with options for both apps and tablet-optimized web browsing. This means that website strategies need to include portals that are optimized for tablet users specifically, offering the interactive and at-a-glance information that users can drill down and analyze, while avoiding overly complicated tasks. Javelin reports that of financial institutions with mobile offerings, 40% offered a downloadable app in 2012, up from 28% in 2011.
Keep in mind that while the tablet user is not necessarily your mobile or online banking user, there is overlap. Customers need a blend of consistency across all platforms and a tailored offering for each. Be sure to extend your consistency across all retail channels and into your business banking services. Consumers (and business owners) will not accept the burden and inconvenience of bolt-on technologies in the long run.
We are entering into a new era of banking, one where end-user facing platforms can no longer be siloed or bulky. Banks should be looking to build an in-house platform or to partner with a vendor with a vision to make tablet banking a unique approach that remains complementary to their online and mobile initiatives.
Mr. Tobey is vice president of product management at Austin, Tex.-based Q2ebanking, a provider of secure electronic banking solutions for banks and credit unions throughout the U.S. He can be reached at NTobey@q2ebanking.com.