The Customer Effect

What’s next for Citi’s mobile app

  • Citi reported the largest growth of mobile users for 2017, showing a 25 percent increase to 10 million from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018
  • Citi is working on its first foray into voice with a Siri-enabled voice search feature in its mobile banking app
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What’s next for Citi’s mobile app

Banking apps are now among the most widely and frequently used apps, along with weather and social media, according to Citi’s second annual mobile banking study, released Thursday.

If that’s true — the study examines the behavior of some 2,000 U.S. adult consumers — that would mean people are checking their bank accounts more frequently than they use music, news and dating apps. Although, 20 percent of millennials actually use their mobile banking app while on a date, Alice Milligan, the chief digital client experience officer for Citi’s U.S. consumer bank, pointed out in a presentation of the results.

Milligan is looking forward to even more growth with the eventual rollout of things like smart statements and voice-enabled search using Siri as well as educating users on how to take better control of their finances and the never-ending process of removing pain points.

“Right now [pain points] are less about functionality” — viewing account balances, paying bills, remote check deposit — “because from the beginning of 2016 to the end of 2017 we pretty much went from having 27 percent of our servicing functionality in the app in North America to 110 percent,” Milligan said.

In Citi’s study, 95 percent of mobile banking users indicated they were more confident they know the exact balance of their bank account right now, compared to 85 percent of analog banking customers; and 91 percent indicated they experienced additional positive outcomes from mobile banking — including greater awareness of their financial situation (62 percent), fewer concerns about managing their finances (41 percent) and a better understanding of the services offered by their bank (38 percent).

“The biggest friction point today is connections — going from and to different things… For example, how do you integrate from the Citi mobile app into e-commerce experiences, whether that’s Apple Pay or through a merchant?”

The fourth-largest bank by assets reported the largest growth of total active mobile users among its national bank peers for 2017, showing a 25 percent increase to 10 million from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018. Chase reported a 13 percent increase, Bank of America 12 percent and Wells Fargo 8 percent for the same period.

Over the course of the last year the bank has built personal finance features like spend summaries and categorization of what accounts customers use and how they spend, Milligan said. In the next update of the iOS app, Citi will make an early version of its voice search for reading balances available to U.S. customers. Currently the features is built to use with Apple’s Siri but Citi is “in conversation with others,” though Milligan can’t yet reveal who.

But as the relationship between consumer banking and e-commerce becomes more closely intertwined, Citi and its partners run the risk of fatiguing their customers with information overload which is why the bank is dedicated to educating and communicating with customers in the simplest way possible.

“We all talk about digital wallets, e-commerce, mobile payments, Zelle and all these other things but from a consumer standpoint, there’s still la lot of confusion on what these things are, which ones they should be using and where they’re available,” Milligan said. “Merchant acceptance is a critical component for adoption and engagement and so trying to educate while providing a lot of this functionality is something we’re focused on.”

Part of the bank’s strategy is around “trigger-based or event-based communications,” Milligan said. For example, if Citi reads that a customer swipes a card at a merchant it can send a push notification reminding them that they have Citi Price Rewind (the feature that lets cardholders compare purchase prices even after they’ve bought the item) and can use it in the mobile app. Similarly it can use push notifications to remind users of other card benefits — like the charge dispute feature or that the user won’t be charged FX fees if traveling internationally.

“When you’re going to remember something is if it comes to you and you need it so you use it,” Milligan said. “That’s how adults learn… If we can time the communication of that with when the need is, people will remember… A lot of usage is driven by awareness and understanding of whats available to you.”

Soon Citi will unveil its mobile banking app revamp, which will be available to everyone, even if they don’t have Citi bank accounts, and that education and communication strategy could become part of a customer acquisition strategy as well.

It’s also reevaluating its branch strategy. After an experiment with compact, tech-heavy branches with ATMs and self-service kiosks but only a couple of employees, the bank determined that people walking into a branch want to talk to humans after all.

“We were not satisfied with the customer utilization trends we saw there,” Dena Roten, head of the U.S. branch channel at Citi, recently told American Banker. “So we’re regrouping.”

But Milligan said Citi is working on bringing the physical and digital channels even closer; for example, it’s currently planning a phased rollout of an in-app messaging feature with a live representative that would let customers instant message with branch staff. It’s already deployed this feature for credit card holders.

“If you have a question or you’re struggling you can just message someone, leave it and we’ll route it to the same representative and they’ll get back to you later,” Milligan said. “We’re looking at doing that with branch staff as well.”

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