How big banks use tech to attract savvy consumers

Large, established banks and financial institutions are moving away from physical branch locations and toward technologies such as mobile payments, wearables, social media and gamification to enable remote interactions.

mobile payments
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Today it's easy to transfer money, make payments, and buy goods and services in countless ways outside the walls of a bank or retailer. In fact, physical visits to banks are down 30 percent since last year, and the use of mobile banking apps is up 33 percent, according to a new survey from Chase. Banks are embracing new technologies and evolving consumer habits to engage the next generation of customers. 

[Related: How wearables will shape the future of mobile payments ]

Here are four ways banks have adapted their customer experiences to appeal to today's tech-savvy consumers.

Mobile payments and banking apps

Modern banks and financial institutions face more competition than ever before, thanks to mobile payment services, such as Venmo and PayPal; digital currencies, including Bitcoin; and even social media apps, such Snapchat and its Snapcash service. Many banks already offer their own mobile apps, and according to a new Bank of America survey mobile banking app users are dedicated; 62 percent of them use the apps at least a few times a week, and 20 percent use them once a day or more.

Another survey from ACI Worldwide suggests payment service companies feel pressure from these smaller, more nimble players; 76 percent of established finance companies believe they face growing competition. 

[Related: Are Americans Really Addicted to Mobile Banking?]

Some banks use mobile technologies as competitive differentiators. For example, Wells Fargo plans to roll out voice and face biometrics for authentication in 2016, and it is also testing eye verification, for its Commercial Electronic Office (CEO) mobile app, according to Computerworld. Banks such as Barclays have added text-to-pay and person-to-person payments for customers and non-customers, and Chase, American Express and Capital One let customers login to their mobile apps using Apple's Touch ID.

Wearable tech and mobile payments

More than a third of consumers have already used, or would consider using, a smartphone or wearable device to make a purchase at a retail store, according to a Bank of America report. Many banks, small and large, support Apple Pay, which is available on the Apple Watch. On the Android side of things, Nationwide released an Android Wear smartwatch app late last year. MasterCard and Royal Bank of Canada are testing Nymi, a wristband that verifies user identity using heartbeat measurements, for NFC payments. And Wells Fargo is experimenting with the Oculus Rift VR headset in its innovation lab. 

Banks go social

Big banks are also stepping up their presence on social media and launching related ad campaigns. Many banks have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and several have created Pinterest "boards" with money management tips. For example, Wells Fargo has a social media command center and answers customer inquiries on Twitter. Vantage Credit Union uses its TweetMyMoney platform to provide customer account information using Twitter direct messages.

Financial gamification and crowdsourcing

A number of financial institutions use gamification and crowdsourcing tactics to motivate customers to use their banking services. For example, BBVA, a Spanish bank, uses gamification in its BBVA Game platform, and customers can earn points and win prizes based on how often they use the bank's website. And Barclays is crowdsourcing ideas for its Barclayscard from customers, who post ideas and vote on improvements or new features on the company's website.

This story, "How big banks use tech to attract savvy consumers" was originally published by CIO.