By Hal Tilbury

Published June 19, 2015 in Credit Union Times

How critical are mobile services to your overall growth strategy? The answer is both ‘extremely important’ and ‘there's more to it than that.’

Branch foot traffic continues to decline, most members use mobile banking, and according to Celent's latest data, 50% of retail deposits will be mobile by next year. Even more telling is that more than 25% of all consumers say they would switch banks to obtain the mobile services they want, according to Accenture. There is a good chance you’ll never meet your members in person, especially if they are tech-savvy millennials.

Yes, you need to offer the most comprehensive mobile services you can: Account opening, fund transfers, balance inquiries, check deposit, bill pay, loan applications and more. That's why IT spending will hit a record high by the end of 2015 – $131 billion, according to Ovum. Most of this investment is in mobile and digital channels. Your own strategy needs to be nimble enough to step up to the next mobile application, because your members will push the limits of what types of documents and transactions can be managed end-to-end from their mobile devices.

But widespread adoption, even with continuous innovation, means that mobile technology is no longer the marketplace differentiator it has been. At Bluepoint, what we’ve learned working with hundreds of credit unions is that the user's overall experience with their financial institution is still what provides the competitive edge. Fortunately, this is what credit unions can already do better than their larger competitors – engage with their members on deeper levels. In today's world this translates into community service involvement, paired with a comprehensive social media strategy that wraps around their latest mobile technologies.

For example, the Cheyenne, Wyo.-based, $537 million Warren Federal Credit Union recently offered a large donation to a local project if 200 new members joined. They leveraged social media and reached millennials where they spend the most time to reach this goal. Overall, Warren's mobile deposit capture rates are 49% percent of members ages 18-34, 39% of members ages 35-54, and 10% of members ages 55 and over. Marketing Communications Manager Mindy Peep shared this insight: “Mobile banking is still lagging in terms of global millennial use, mainly because of security concerns. Warren has overcome that challenge by gaining their trust and showing them they are just as important as their older counterparts.”

The Burbank, Calif.-based, $170 million UMe Federal Credit Union has achieved similar mobile deposit results – 36% of members ages 18-34, 21% of members ages 35-54, and 8% of members ages 55 and over. Marketing Vice President Anita Hutchinson told Bluepoint how important social media channels, from Facebook to Yelp, are in building their brand recognition. “It's about being and staying true to who we are and creating a message that's authentic and resonates,” she said.

A good technology partner, one with a broad perspective and a consultant's eye on the industry, is crucial to shaping your infrastructure toward future member demands. But simply offering the convenience of mobile, while it may attract members, is not enough to hold their loyalty. Savvy consumers want to know their financial institution is listening to them, and changing to meet their expectations, even if they never visit a branch.

Relationship building may seem like a slow strategy in a world of dynamic technology and fickle consumers. But when you reach out to your members and understand what they want, and then expand your mobile technology investments and offerings to match, you are not only responding to demand, you are engaging in a two-way dialog. You will be the unique financial partner your members won't want to leave. In the end, that is the biggest differentiator of all.