Never Say Never (To Mobile Banking And Payments)

We’re going to survey like it’s 1999. According to an article published on CBS News‘ website:

“In a poll conducted for the ID security firm Intercede, 48% of U.S. consumers surveyed said they would never use bill payment apps, and 44% said they would never use mobile banking services. One in five said they did not feel safe shopping on their smartphone. And 63% said they worry about security on their mobile device.”

Substitute “PC” for “smartphone” and “online” for “mobile” and this survey could have been conducted in 1999.

And although online banking, bill payment, and shopping aren’t quite ubiquitous today, the fact is that a lot of people who once said they would “never” do those activities online (or using a PC) do those activities online (or using a PC) today.

But you wouldn’t expect a news organization to report that, would you? Because that would just deflate the newsworthiness of the findings.

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The article goes on to say:

“With so many recent security breaches in the news–from Target to the Heartbleed bug to Russian hackers stealing passwords–Intercede’s CEO said it’s not surprising that consumers just don’t trust mobile security.”

There’s no mention (of course), that few–if any–of the data breaches making the news today have anything to do with mobile devices. Mentioning that would deflate the newsworthiness of the findings.

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I don’t care what this survey found. I’m sticking by my prediction that 96 million Americans will use a smartphone or tablet to do their banking by 2016.

Is that everybody? Of course not. Is that everybody that matters? Well, that’s a good question, no?

My forecast could be significantly off, but regardless, the reality is that many people who, today, say that they will never do mobile banking, will do so at some point in the future.

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The rate of adoption of new technologies is always impacted by a confluence of factors that are nearly impossible to predict. Factors like personal influences, incentives/disincentives, and unforeseen circumstances:

  • Twenty-five years ago, I consulted to a very large company whose CEO didn’t quite get PCs. Didn’t want one in his office, and couldn’t understand why any of his direct reports needed one on their desks. The IT department wanted to compile statistics on PC adoption and develop models of productivity improvement to persuade the CEO to invest in PCs. My firm’s suggestion was less “scientific.” We said: Give the guy’s grandkids PCs. Which they did. And it worked. The CEOs grandkids pressured Grandpa to get a PC and communicate with them through email. Which became a gateway to him using the PC for other things.

 

  • Ask some of the large banks about what helped them drive up online bill pay use. Don’t be surprised if they say things like “we paid people to try it” or “we charged people to not use it.” Incentives/disincentives work. Funny thing is, when it comes to mobile banking, the rate of adoption seems to be pretty rapid, so I don’t see many banks or credit unions needing to incentivize/penalize anyone. Maybe Intercede’s survey found something I don’t know.

 

  • In a survey I conducted a while back, I asked consumers who paid bills online what got them started on that behavior. A fair number responded that they “needed to make a payment to avoid a late fee, and was able to do so online.” So…how many of those people who say they will never make a mobile payment will do so when they need to get on a train, don’t have cash, but could use that MBTA app to easily buy a ticket? Yeah, a bunch.

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The lesson here is to take what consumers say (especially in surveys) with a grain of salt. We’re not very good at predicting our own behavior (or explaining why we did what did, for that matter).

Am I damning my own profession? No (freaking) way. The value of what we researchers do is in the analysis of the data, not the data itself. Asking the right questions helps, too.

 

 

 

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