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Citi exec: Intersection of mobile and engagement happens on tablets

May 4, 2012

The Citibank iPad app

NEW YORK – A Citi executive at Mobile Commerce Daily’s Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2012 conference yesterday said that tablets are driving a much deeper level of engagement with customers than smartphones.

During the “Citi: Beyond Mobile Banking: The New Role of Tablets” session, the executive said tablet users have longer session lengths than smartphone users. The exec also reported that Citi has seen thousands of customers sign up for online banking for the first time via the financial institution’s iPad application.

“Our CEO has challenged us to be the premier digital bank so we are very focused on mobile and very focused on tablets,” said Andres Wolberg-Stok, senior vice president and director of strategy for mobile and emerging technologies at Citibank NA, New York.

“We are looking for deeper engagement with customers and prospects,” he said. “The intersection of mobile and engagement is in tablets, we think.”

Mobile a priority
Deeper customer engagement is a top pursuit for marketers, and tablets offer a sweet spot for engagement because tablet owners are young, wealthy and use many bank products, per Mr. Wolberg-Stok.

Mobile is quickly growing, having reached 50 percent penetration faster than the radio, VCR, Internet and many other technologies that are nearly ubiquitous today.

This growth is mirrored in the financial services space where mobile penetration and usage is soaring, with 18.3 million mobile banking users were using mobile apps by Dec. 2011, a 110 percent increase over the previous year.

Mobile’s growth is also reflected in banks’ IT priorities, with mobile second only to online in terms of the priority given to it by financial services firms.

“When you see 100 percent-plus increases year on year, you are no longer talking about the early years – this is something that has become completely mainstream,” Mr. Wolberg-Stok said.

“Clearly mobile is the priority now, even in the banking industry,” he said.

Citi’s Mr. Wolberg-Stok 

Transforming digital banking
Citi was a pioneer among financial services companies in the mobile space, having launched its first smartphone app in 2007.

The company also recognized early on the potential in tablets. Citi’s own research shows that the tablet market could be 80 percent the size of the U.S. consumer laptop market in 2012.

Citi set about creating an iPad app last year with the goal of transforming the digital banking experience by using the tablet’s technological capabilities in a way that would add value to the customer.

This was all done while keeping an eye on being quick to market with the solution. The Citibank for iPad app launched in late July 2011, taking five months from the whiteboard stage to going live.

The goal was to move away from the old style of presenting banking data as lines of information – similar to how this data has been recorded in banking ledgers for years – and come up with a more visual way to present the information.

The company was also careful to not create too many new layers of data but to use the data that was already available via online banking and present it in a different way that would provide users with greater insights.

The result was an iPad app designed to delight customers, drive customer engagement as well as help users analyze and plan finances. The app was also designed to make full use of tablets’ touch and graphics capabilities and emphasize strong graphics, such as scatter charts, pie charts, bar graphs and other graphical displays to help users understand what is going on in their accounts.

The data is taken from a user’s online account and automatically configured into graphic displays by the app.

The app has been successful, with Citi reporting that the app was downloaded at a significantly higher rate in its first few weeks compared with the iPhone app.

Additionally, in 77 percent of sessions, the depth of engagement is greater than in average sessions on a smartphone.

Citi also reports that thousands of customers are signing up for the iPad app who have not been online banking customers previously.

Adding value
Citibank followed up the iPad app launch with the first banking app designed exclusively for the Amazon Kindle Fire.

The key factors that marketers need to keep in mind when crafting a tablet strategy is how to add value for users, how to capitalize on the tablet users’ frame of mind and how to leverage tablets’ special capabilities and real estate, per Mr. Wolberg-Stok.

When considering tablets, it is important to remember that they are used differently than mobile phones. According to Citi’s research, tablets are used for social networking, digital media consumption and video games more than owners originally expected.

Additionally, tablets are sit-back devices that are used on a deeper, more reflective wavelength and in a less action-oriented manner.

“The mood when engaging with tablets is very different than the quick, transactional frame of mind on smartphones,” Mr. Wolberg-Stok said.

“You are managing to add this level of pure enjoyment where customers are deriving pleasure from using the app,” he said.

Final Take
Andres Wolberg-Stok is senior vice president and director of strategy for mobile at Citibank NA, New York

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