A huge number of people in the UK use mobile banking apps for their everyday banking needs. In fact, for some people, a mobile phone is their first and only point of contact they have with their bank. As mobile banking becomes increasingly popular, the apps offered by the UK’s banks are slowly adding more features and providing a better user experience. However, as a recent study from Adaptive Lab discovered, the banks still have a lot of work to do in order to improve the apps’ usability.
Study shows banking app user experience needs to evolve
Almost half (43%) of UK consumers use a smartphone banking app, and more than a third (34%) of these people use the apps once a week. However, limitations in functionality and usability affects the value of these mobile banking app experiences, according to digital innovation agency Adaptive Lab, who recently announced key findings from a research report into the smartphone banking apps of five leading UK banks: Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Santander.
In 2014, Adaptive Lab identified a gap in current understandings of both the functionality and the user experience of smartphone banking apps. Utilising their expertise in the sector, the company undertook extensive research in order to provide a compelling detailed assessment of the quality of the smartphone banking apps.
An additional aim of the research was to benchmark the current smartphone app offering of each bank, identify areas for improvement, and suggest future opportunities to offer customers extra value. The research looks at both the functionality and the user experience to explore how well consumers are currently served by their banks, and in which ways they utilise the tools that are available to them. The result is a set of robust conclusions and essential guidance for capitalising on the mobile banking revolution.
James Haycock, managing director at Adaptive Lab, commented, “Extensive research and work has been undertaken at Adaptive Lab to achieve this study. It is a combination of primary and secondary research; with that of qualitative and quantitative research from a survey of over 400 nationally representative UK consumers, an expert heuristic review, user interviews and observations, and analysis of thousands of app store reviews from the iOS app store and Google Play.”
- Usage of banking apps has surged: the research showed that more than 4 in 10 (43%) UK consumers use banking apps, and 34% use them at least once per week
- 19% of consumers would like to utilise their smartphones as their only banking touchpoint. These figure increases to 30% among 14-16 year olds
- Of the consumers using mobile banking apps, 39% check them daily, compared to daily usage for banking websites that was only 27%
Mobile banking app functionality and usability
None of the banking apps scored more than 75% on either functionality (how many banking tasks people can do with the apps) or usability (how fast, easy and pleasant the app is to use and to understand). These scores were calculated based on the results of the user research and expert heuristic analysis.
The lowest scoring app rated just 32% overall, breaking down into 43% for functionality and 25% usability.
The qualitative research enabled Adaptive Lab to gain insights into the fact that 25% of the consumers who don’t use banking apps are put off by the lack of functionality, whereas only 18% are concerned about security, and the lack of functionality highly influences consumers’ choice in deciding to utilise banking apps.
The survey also found that nearly two thirds (64%) of consumers would like to be able to see pending/upcoming payments. Over half (52%) would like to add new payees via their banking app, however currently only 1 of the 5 apps reviewed in the study allows users to add new payees and pay them through their account number and sort code. All apps reviewed offer the ability to pay someone via their mobile phone number, except Barclays, which offers this in a separate app. However, this payment process requires both parties to register before payments, unlike traditional payments to an account number and sort code.
Kat Matfield, service design and product manager, Adaptive Lab, who was leading the research commented, “2014 was a turning point in consumer behaviour, with smartphones overtaking laptops and desktops as the UK’s preferred tool for going online. Our research showed that 34% of UK consumers use a smartphone banking app at least once a week, and 17% at least once a day. Many industries have been impacted by this shift and consumer banking has been no exception: people are increasingly using smartphones as a key or, sometimes, only banking touchpoint.”
Matfield added, “Overall, the generation of mobile apps currently available from these five leading UK banks leaves considerable room for improvement. If consumers are going to be able to manage and monitor their finances entirely from their smartphones, banks will have to make more functionality available on their apps and focus on improving the user experience.
At the moment, many banks treat their apps as a supplement to online banking, and offer only a subset of the functionality offered by their website. Although there are aspects of the apps that were reviewed that are visually attractive and user-friendly, most of these banking apps are to a certain extent limited in feature-sets and in providing a positive user experience.”
Matfield concluded, “Banks are already aware of the pivotal role apps can play in migrating customers to more cost-effective service channels, increasing retention and customer acquisition – but to fully realise these benefits banks will have to offer the stand-out user experience their customers have come to expect from apps.”
The UK’s banks have come a long way in terms of embracing mobile banking, but as Adaptive Labs’ research found, there’s still a lot more to be done in terms of the user experience.
Mobile Industry Review would like to thank Adaptive Labs for providing the information contained within this article. You can download a summary of the report for free here.