Mobile Payments Bring Challenges – and Opportunities – to Communicators

I love mobile banking. Absolutely LOVE it. Checking balances, moving funds around, paying bills…all while waiting for the bus. It makes me absolutely gleeful to take care of these mildly annoying tasks when I’d otherwise be staring at the façade of the building across the street, quietly cursing the MTA and its service cuts.

So you can imagine that recent announcements from US Bancorp and Bank of America on partnerships with Visa to pilot programs where customers will be able to pay for purchases with their smart phone have left me giddy.  I can’t wait to walk out the door, smart phone in hand, leaving my 3-pound wallet (stuffed with old receipts and hundreds of pennies) behind.

But the rise of mobile payments presents significant challenges, and opportunities, for marketing and communications professionals as they look to build brand loyalty and awareness among bank customers of today and tomorrow. Smaller screens mean fewer opportunities to market on website homepages when consumers go to check balances and pay bills. Fewer customers receiving paper statements may limit opportunities to include new product and service announcements. Simply leaving the card at home means fewer opportunities for your customers to “touch” your brand. So what’s a bank or card issuer marketer to do?

Exploit existing communications channels

The first step is to evaluate your current communications program. As a financial services product marketer, how are you using Facebook and Foursquare to engage with your customers? Are you thanking them for “checking in” at your brick and mortar banking outposts, like the folks at North Shore Bank are? Are you acknowledging their “likes” on Facebook with loyalty points? Does your Twitter feed have a customer service component to it, and are you being proactive by acknowledging tweets that mention your brand? All of these considerations will become increasingly important as consumers move away from checking balances on their desktop and laptop to connecting via their smart phone. Reaching consumers wherever they are (both physically and in the digital universe) will be critically important to marketers in the coming months.

Find new communications channels

The fact that Generation Z (born after 1991and before 2001) and a significant number of Generation Y don’t know what the world was like before mobile communications should lead to a significant number of early adapters to mobile payments (once they’re old enough to have a bank account, of course). But how you’ll communicate with them and build brand loyalty is another issue entirely. Email is for old people. Twitter hasn’t taken off. Facebook is becoming lame because everyone’s mom is on it. So what’s next? How will today’s financial services institutions reach tomorrow’s consumers?

Our clients have grown increasingly interested in video, and we expect banks and card issuers to incorporate more video communications as consumers go mobile (see how Wells Fargo directs its customers to download mobile banking apps on YouTube). And while Tumblr is a relatively untapped channel among financial services companies today, the blogging site offers another way for banks and card issuers to reach current and potential consumers.

What do you think? Will the emergence of mobile payments have an impact on the way marketers target consumers? If so, how?

To reach Meghan:

Phone:   212.840.1661
Twitter: @meghanlantier
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