THE BLOG
01/27/2016 01:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Non-Existent Generational Gap in Mobile Banking

2016-01-21-1453391930-5579406-RobiGanguly.pngRobi Ganguly is the CEO of Apptentive, the easiest way for every company with an app to talk with their customers. The Google Ventures-backed company works with major app publishers and enables millions of customer conversations. Prior to Apptentive Robi worked at Yahoo! and built WebEx's pricing strategy. When he's not building Apptentive you can find Robi running, reading and on Twitter @rganguly.

Generational gaps present themselves in a number of places in our society, including preferred communication methods that differ by age; ranging from letters, phone calls, text messages and social media. The workplace is also a goldmine for manifestations of generational gaps: Baby Boomers are known to stay loyal to a company until retirement, while Millennials are normalizing "job-hopping"--staying at one job for less than three years. The differences in generations that cause gaps are very clear.

Yet there is one place where this gap is strangely absent: consumer use of mobile banking apps. Many people assume Millennials are the ones using mobile apps most frequently, and in some cases that may be true. A recent consumer survey commissioned by my company, Apptentive, discovered Baby Boomers actively use mobile banking apps almost as much as Millennials: 60 percent of Baby Boomers surveyed use banking apps, compared to 64 percent of Millennials. For comparison, 67 percent of Generation X uses mobile banking apps. This negligible difference in the generational use of mobile banking apps demonstrates the importance of re-evaluating long-held assumptions about the demographics of businesses in all industries.

Breaking down stereotypes about generational use of technology will help companies serve all of their customers better by creating an inclusive product that suits all ages. Many companies in the hospitality industry, for instance, have realized the generational gap that once existed in their customers' service preferences has now dissolved. These companies are accommodating their guests as if they're Millennials -- no matter their age -- and it's boosting customer satisfaction.

What Does The Lack of Generational Gap Mean For All Companies?

Baby Boomers have a ton of spending  power; they have, after all, had the longest amount of time to accumulate wealth. And while Millennials will someday become the most powerful generation financially (they outnumber Baby Boomers by 7.7 million), they aren't quite there yet. The real takeaway from the lack of difference in how generations use mobile banking apps is that companies shouldn't gear their mobile strategies toward any generation in particular. The proof is in the numbers: the majority of consumers are using mobile apps, regardless of their age.

For companies that have yet to implement a strong mobile strategy, consider this: 20 percent of Baby Boomers reported that mobile banking apps are very important in their decision when choosing a bank. This indicates that a large portion of this generation places a high value on the availability of mobile apps -- and this group is likely to grow as smartphone ownership continues to increase (it's estimated 2 billion consumers will own smartphones by 2016). Offering mobile apps to these customers gives companies the opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and build loyalty through a superior customer experience.

In an era where personalization and engagement are so important to creating customer loyalty, utilizing mobile as a source for meaningful customer touchpoints is powerful. Brands can increase customer satisfaction and retention, and build loyalty by proactively engaging customers on their mobile devices. Our study concluded that people are four times more likely to continue using the app after three months when a brand communicates with them in-app. 

As a best practice, we've found the best way to engage customers is to communicate with them (via prompts, messages, surveys, etc.) at key "mobile moments" throughout the customer journey. These moments are typically tied to the completion of an in-app task, such as after a customer has made a purchase or watched a video. By proactively engaging customers and building personal relationships with them, companies will understand consumers on a deeper level, thus allowing them to provide their customers with a superior experience that will foster unbridled loyalty.

Judging by the non-existent generational gap in mobile app use, companies without a mobile strategy are at risk of losing their customers to the competition, no matter what age their clientele is. The moral of the story is this: businesses can create mobile products for an ageless demographic to target new customers and increase loyalty among existing customers. To target new customers, companies should ignore traditional generational stereotypes surrounding technology adoption, and go where their customers are: on mobile.