The fact that smartphone and tablet adoption has revolutionised business is old news. These days, mobile banking is the default option for most consumers; it is better for the environment, resulting in less paperwork around the home or office, and it’s immediate, enabling quicker decision-making and transactions. But mobile banking isn’t nearly enough for today’s consumers.

Banking must seamlessly fit into life on the move, so much so that the device a customer chooses to do it doesn’t even register. Customers increasingly expect this; an omni-channel experience; to be able to pick up a half-finished banking task on a tablet, or back on their home desktop that they started on their phone. But for most retail banks this is easier said than done.

The fact is, customer expectations usually exceed business capabilities, in part because customers are already accustomed to high quality omni-channel experiences in their lives outside banking. In addition, retail banks are struggling to maintain loyalty from consumers in a market helping them to be ever more fickle with their business. The global financial crisis and its aftermath has resulted in widespread distrust of the sector, as well as  easier and quicker current account switching and greater competition, both on the high street and on the web, including the emergence of new, digital banking brands with no reputational baggage or legacy systems.


This, combined with the technological revolution of the last decade or so, has resulted in a frenzied reaction from many retail banks to what they think their customer wants. Tackling new platforms as and when they pop up is leading banks into a permanent state of catch-up, which could lead to wasted investment in apps for customers outside the relevant demographic for use of the device in question.

It’s not that retail banks don’t realise how essential it is to create these seamless quality mobile experiences. It’s evident many are trying, but in many cases, timely regulatory processes and internal systems, often inherited from brands long swallowed up by decades of banking change, are convoluted to say the least, resulting in what could be seen from the outside as a fragmented approach to addressing the issue. Many are also too quick to abandon branches in favour of technology, rather than embracing the branch as part of a truly omni-channel strategy. As Matthew Key wrote in Banking Technology: “Far from seeing their demise, we are likely to witness the evolution of their role. We see bank branches embracing technology that is ever more service-oriented and visually appealing, with high tech gadgets for self-service working side by side with much valued on-site human support. Investment in this technology could pay dividends in growing customer loyalty, deepening relationships and growing profits.”

We believe there is a different way of looking at the problem. In fact, we believe it’s time for banks to put a permanent stop to their relentless technology chase. For too long, retail banks have tried too hard to deliver every feature on every new mobile device and platform, without taking a step back to consider the user experience as a whole and develop a strategy based on this. We believe that banks can go further than omni-channel, and deliver an experience which is so tailored to the customer’s context that technology becomes irrelevant.


Instead of channels calling the shots, we recommend an approach driven by contexts: the tasks users want to carry out, which channel they want to use, where they physically are, and the situations they’re in. The only way to tackle ‘platform explosion’ is to move away from considering each platform in isolation, and away from the mindset that all your banking systems must be available on every device. As with television, not every channel is for everyone at all times. Contexts provide a clear framework to identify which channels are available to the user, what functionality should be available, and what form that functionality should take.

Contexts can reveal that what might, superficially, be considered the same task may involve significantly different workflows when performed in different contexts. For example, “I want to check my bank statement” might mean:

  • a student checking their balance before a night out with friends
  • an employee looking to fill out an expenses claim while at work
  • parents exploring their current spending as part of longer-term financial planning for the family

Similarly, a grandmother may wish to send some money to her granddaughter who is away travelling, or a teenager may wish to pay a friend back for a cinema ticket. In both examples, although the task is similar, there are differences in context, which impact the channel selected. Once contexts have been established, you can move onto considering potential omni-channel solutions.

It’s also important to remember that each platform has its own unique capabilities and features, that should be exploited and used symbiotically.

While the desktop is suited to longer and more immersive tasks, like the creation and audit of business payment instructions, smartphones are better suited to shorter and more frequent interactions. But the two can work together when context is applied. The user creating a simple ad-hoc business payment on their smartphone should be able to pick up a half-established payment on their desktop, should they realise the instruction is a little more involved than originally anticipated, for example where proof of ID is required that may not be to hand. Not only that, but additional information relevant to the payment instruction should be displayed alongside it, such as exchange rates, payment history and account balances. A different  example would be to take advantage of the relative strengths of a tablet and a desktop. When analysing finances, the same tabulated account information displayed on the desktop for the business banking customer, could be simultaneously visualised on the tablet – marrying the structure and productivity focus afforded by the screen size of the former, with the organic tactility afforded by pinching, swiping and zooming on the latter.

Understanding context and tailoring a user’s experience to it can help banks design a unified customer experience across multiple channels, and outline a technical strategy that supports an omni-channel experience, adapts rapidly to technological changes and business requirements, and reduces development costs - all in all a more cost-effective solution for retail banks that provides their customers with a more pleasurable and practical mobile banking experience.

To find out more about how our consultants can help you assess the tasks users want to carry out, which channel they want to use, where they physically are, and the situations they’re in, to ultimately deliver a seamless, omni-channel service, drop us a line at