Mobility, Benefits and the Holiday Shopping Season

By Jack Hojnar

Can’t Touch This

In the 1970s, American inventor Dr. Samuel Hurst had a problem. He and his research partners were logging extraordinary hours while attempting to input data from experiments in atomic physics. Sam thought of a way to solve that problem. He and his team of researchers used electrically conductive paper to read a pair of x- and y- coordinates. Touch the screen and input data.

They wondered if this stumbled-upon invention could have application outside of the laboratory and, therefore, began to devote energy toward that discovery.

The group called its fledgling venture “Elographics,” and soon discovered that all the screen needed was a conductive cover sheet to make contact with the sheet that contained the X- and Y-axis. Pressure on the cover sheet allowed voltage to flow between the X wires and the Y wires, which could be measured to indicate coordinates.

Thus creating a resistive touch screen.

While similar technology preceded Hurst and advanced technology has surpassed his invention, his initiative spawned the growth of an industry.

It’s not likely that the good doctor imagined a connection to mobile shopping. It’s also unlikely that very few people projected such uses.

Yet here we are, in an era when a Google study suggests that more than 54% of consumers will touch their screens to spend “their spare time holiday shopping via their phones while walking to lunch, to the office or between meetings.”

Be sure you read that correctly. People can mobilize their shopping quickly and easily. Walking to meetings?

Amazing. From touching screens to shopping.

So then what does such a finding mean for banks, the benefits industry and this upcoming Holiday Shopping Season?

No doubt retailers understand – or should understand – the mobility connection to shopping events.

Searching for products is easier than ever via smart phones. Comparison shopping is a breeze. Payments are simply simple. (Thank you ApplePay and Google Pay, and others to come).

But banks? Or Benefits?

Does the consumer connect with their payment mechanism in as emotional a way as perhaps saving money when price shopping with their phone?

Does the Average Joe, Jane Doe or John Smith get excited about communicating with their bank during Cyber Monday?

Can marketers of bank benefits actually impress consumers with Benefit Products when those same consumers seem more occupied with finding that perfect gift?

Let’s face facts: search for news stories about 2015 Holiday Shopping expectations and little exists regarding the use of mobile and benefits during the shopping season, and even fewer financial institutions can be found authoring such narratives.

But that can and should change this year.

Recommendations for Financial Institutions to Thrive in a Mobile Shopping Season

Sure. Consumers probably aren’t thinking about their banks when they are mobile and shopping.

Yet, Marketers in the Financial Industry can shift that paradigm in the following ways:

Build Benefit Awareness
Price Protection, Purchase Security and Warranty Manager are products specifically designed to support the shopping experience for cardholders. However, less than 25% of cardholders are aware of such benefits. Given the obvious goal of encouraging card usage during the holidays, making cardholders aware of such shopping benefits should be front-and-center in marketing communication messages, call center scripts and online promotions.

Prepare Social Media Representatives
While cardholders may not think of their bank when they are shopping, rest assured they will think of their bank if something goes wrong with any payment process along the way.

And given that more than 55% of consumers use Social Media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, to either voice complaints or reach a customer service representative to resolve a problem, banks need to arm their call center with Social Media Alert tools such as Radian6 or Sysomos AND be prepared to respond immediately to customer needs – within less than 30 minutes.

Demonstrate Mobile Capabilities
Having a mobile application – even one that simply provides cardholders with Customer Service Contact information is better than nothing. Remember, Dr. Hurst created the touch screen so that cardholders could interact with banks instantly.

Ok – so maybe that’s not the real reason for the invention.

But if today’s financial institutions don’t have a mobile application to create a loyal, top-of-wallet environment, then perhaps those banks should be back in the 1970s when touch screens were only used for PhDs.

And remember, a mobile application is an excellent form of communication. It’s a media in constant touch (yep, that was an intended pun) with the cardholder for communication, alerts or other items of information.

Sleigh Bells Ring, Are Ya’ Listening?

This Holiday Shopping Season, consumers – and those consumers are also credit card holders – will turn to their phones more than ever.

And though Dr. Hurst may not have anticipated such specific events, he may have suggested that everyone take advantage of his invention regardless of how close to the shopping experience a company may be.

Financial institutions are part of the shopping experience. This shopping season, when the sleigh bells are ringing, be sure your company is listening.

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