07 June 2016

The mobile consumer

Improved mobile technologies have increased consumers’ expectations – with implications for businesses everywhere, says HSBC's Reginald Warlop.

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Reginald Warlop

Global Head of Wealth Digital Product Management, HSBC

Whether they are booking a holiday, downloading a film or tracking how far they've run, consumers expect the smartphone apps and websites they use in their spare time to be easy-to-use, accessible and interactive.

Travel, film, dating and gaming companies have led the way in developing simple and intuitive mobile sites and apps that help making buying and using goods and services online simpler. Now other businesses online are taking their cue from leisure and media companies.

How a company presents itself online matters. Getting online navigation right is essential: for example, people like to be able to swipe to the next screen rather than hunt around for a 'next' button. Social networking and sharing features are also increasingly important. And many of the most user-friendly mobile sites note a customer's buying preferences, make suggestions based on what others have bought and feature online forums or live chat services to provide more help.

Adopting these features can help consumer-facing companies to understand what motivates – and what prevents – customers buying online. Developing mobile sites and apps that not only look good but that minimise the number of taps that customers need to make to purchase goods, or that recognise users, can help a business stand out.

Mobile technology that until recently was used primarily for leisure purposes is also being used to improve other business services. Some banks, for example, are helping customers pay their utility bills more easily using their smartphone's camera. The customer takes a photograph of the bill and a mobile payment app extracts all the information required.

New applications are also being found for wearable devices. Passengers on London's Underground network can now pay for their Tube journey by tapping their smartwatch on a reader at the ticket gate. Some insurers invite customers to wear fitness trackers as a way for the company to monitor their health and potentially offer them lower life insurance premiums.

Consumers' behaviour online continues to evolve. In the future, internet-enabled virtual reality devices – which so far have largely been seen in the movie and gaming industry – could have a range of commercial applications. Virtual reality devices could, for example, help people go on a virtual tour of a house, attend a meeting in a virtual office or stroll along a virtual street to do some window-shopping.

The increasing use of mobile devices has led companies to adapt the technology they use to verify customer details and protect people against cyberattacks, fraud and data misuse. Advanced computer algorithms are now able to crunch large amounts of social and credit data, helping companies to speed up online services. Banks such as HSBC are rolling out smart keys, enhanced password protection, touch ID and voice recognition software to safeguard customer data and accounts. In the future verifying a customer's identity by analysing their face, their irises or even their pulse could become commonplace.

For businesses everywhere, keeping an eye on new mobile technology trends in the leisure and media industries is important. And for a growing number, it will be key to future growth.

New applications are also being found for wearable devices

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