Thin Mobile App or a Fat one – Digital banking toolkit

Mobile is the new frontier and banks know this well.

Amongst the various choices to make as part of the bank’s overall mobile initiative, is the decision around the structuring of mobile app(s).

Thin App Vs a Fat App.

These might sound strange terms especially in reference to mobile apps and no, we are not talking about the size of the app in MBs.

A Thin Mobile App is a niche solution available for select instances or customers, which allows a small subset of activities to be handled.

On the contrary, a Fat app is one where all the possible features and functionalities are available in the single app.

Banks have chosen to tread either of the paths. E.g. ICICI Bank has multiple apps in the playstore and HDFC Bank has just one main app.

Bank Mobile App - Fat or Thin

As one would expect, there are pros and cons of both, and I am listing a few here that come to my mind.

Attribute Thin App Fat App
 Clean UI  Easy to deliver  Needs design assistance
 User Engagement  Higher – as less distractions  Lower as many features irrelevant
 App Marketing  App adoption slows as marketing dollars split across multiple apps  Overall downloads look better as one single app
 App Development  Becomes complicated with multiple apps in market  Easier since tracking just one app
 Channel Migration  Depends on how the bank approaches it   Depends on how the bank approaches it

I personally feel, more than the final choice, it is the reasons that drive the choice which are important e.g.

  • It makes more sense to have a separate thin mobile app, if there is a unique customer segment that seems to have very different transaction or enquiry profile as compared to the others. E.g. Retail bank customers vs SME business owners
  • Building Traction. Many banks want to keep their mobile banking app for transactions only and do not see value in building any pre-login use-case. This makes the mobile adoption target so much tougher as there has to be a very precise value that the customer foresees in using the mobile platform for transacting. Plus its a two stage goal, get downloads and then get usage. It might be useful to break it down into easier goals, get downloads by providing a use-case even if its a pre-login e.g. offers on debit and credit cards. And then get the customer who already has your app to start using it for transactions.

What do you think?

Mobile Advertising & the Indian market

Advertising on the small screen aka the mobile handset has been a hot area for quite some time. We have seen multiple models come – some to stay & many more to just fizzle out after their two moments of glory.

The excitement is well founded, its a screen that probably gets the maximum impressions and has the highest reach.

Mobile AdvertisingWhat makes it even more interesting is the numerous models all of which seem to have found their individual niches. Some of the more prominent ones that I found are listed below:

1. Google’s forte- Advertising on mobile search. This model just replicates the adwords to a mobile context. To get the advertising $ the pitch is that the consumer is actively looking for that specific product/service (as highlighted by the searched keyword). Moreover the consumer can not only browse to the advertisers webpage, but could immediately call or SMS an advertised number

2. Banners on WAP sites- This is akin to the online adnetworks with a twist that the banners & the sites being referred to are now optimised for viewing on the mobile screen. AdMob was the largest player  in this segment & GOOG justified its acquisition of AdMob with a detailed note.

3. Ads within Applications: Here again AdMob is supposed to be a big player, but the biggest player of them all is the iPhone. iPhone not only has the biggest app library but has shown other handset manufacturers how to make this a dominant revenue line.

The above models currently have a low adoption in India due to low % of handsets with GPRS connectivity and low penetration of mobile apps. What has worked in the country is good ol SMS. Here again there are multiple models

4. SMS/MMS ads sent to users. This promises scale to the advertiser and pure pain to the consumer. Coz everytime the new ad reacher her, her phone would ring/buzz. Moreover most of the advertisers are not the bigger brands offering great deals.

5. Ads in half of the SMS text- This is typically clubbed with alerts (to cross subsidise) or with free online SMS offered(e.g. Way2SMS) to consumers. Advertisers have issues with both the options. In the first the consumer is more concerned with the alert content rather than the ad e.g. if I get an alert from HDFC Bank about the balance in my current account I am probably not too keen on the Life Insurance being pitched to me at that point of time. In the 2nd option, most advertisers will NOT want to spend money on getting consumers who are sending free SMS online (or so I am told !)

SMS Gupshup which is touted to be the biggest mobile ad network in India, provides multiple channels that a customer can subscribe to. Here the main lever to get the consumer is the content & they use the ads in a contextual fashion (since the content & advertising logic both sit on their servers, its easy to match).

Vodafone (in its previous avtar as Hutch) had experimented with an operator owned full screen broadcasting model. Their technology provider Celltick was capable of targeting consumers basis the cell tower & showing rich media ads through their proprietary broadcasting technology.

Which model will finally become a dominant one in the Indian market?

Will Indian market also get polarised in terms of handset, in which case the handset provider will control this segment?How can Nokia drive more of its clients to its Ovi Store?

Can the operator control the ad ecosystem? They seem to be in the most advantageous position as they control the maximum touchpoints with the consumer.

Will 3rd party operators control the market? Can they build a model which is neat, scaleable & engages the customer in an exciting way?

TRAI on overdrive ! Telecom business to see a complete overhaul…

The last 7-10 days have been filled with a lot of action in the Telecom sector, and the regulatory authority TRAI seems to be at the centre of it all.

TRAIConsider these:

– 3G policy is launched

– BSNL MTNL given a go-ahead for an early 3G launch

– Net Telephony proposed by TRAI supported by DoT

– Legal threats to GSM players for failing to provide interconnect to Reliance’s GSM

– Proposal to allow takeover of 2.5G players without the wait period

– Allow callers to choose their STD/ISD carriers

While the 3G announcements were much expected, a few others have indicated a growing discomfort of TRAI with the current players.Else why would all these suddenly be proposed in a matter of 3-4 days.

I personally feel the option to strongchoose the STD/ISD player /strongwill see the light of the day much earlier than other proposals. Here’s why:

– Existing players will not oppose it as much as other changes coz adoption of calling cards etc requires a lot of marketing muscle from stand alone players. I am unaware of the technical issues involved in ISD traffic where the current players will not be able to sell the purchased minutes of talk time. But am sure they will be able to adapt soon with some kind of a predictive tool.

– Customers will be happy with the announcement and TRAI would have scored a brownie point ot two.

– Primary impact would be the ISD calls as STD are not considered so costly that consumers would pull out a card punch the long series of numbers therein.Even if look closely at the ISD market, that itself is very segmented coz

a) Well off people who have relatives/friends/clients abroad will not bother too much unless the differential is high

b) most empeople with internet connection /emcalling family friends aborad are using Skype/Google talk for longer regular conversations. So they would rather wait for a Skype phone to be allowed in India

c) People without internet access typically calling Middle East SE Asia locations will be the first ones to adopt this. But typically here also, the Indian party more often than not recieves the call- not originates it.

d) Corporate- they should be the only ones to see significant cost reduction by choosing the service provider. And they would want some smart solutions, wherein the code is automatically punched in when the user calls from an enterprise connected device.

The most disruptive proposal of it all would be the Net Telephony– as that would not only take away the key revenue drivers for all existing players, it would suddenly reduce the entry barriers in a very significant way.As consumers we should welcome this, coz the rates would surely plummet, but if you have expsoure to telecom in your investment portfolio (through the current players)- it could hit you hard. Though the new players waiting to enter the market with their Net-Telephony-only services, highlight that this is as secure as the incumbent technology- I have my doubts that they would be able to convince the final decision makers. Given the strong lobbying from existing players the recent terror experiences – security issues could become the Achilles heel for Net Telephony.

The other proposal to do away with the waiting period for a new player strongto take over an existing player/strong- seems to send a very strong and positive signal for Foreign players- Indian Telecom sector is now ripe for M&As. With

– Vodafone already having its wide operations

– Virgin running an MVNO with TATA Tele

– MTN having courted dumped both Airtel Reliancebr /Indian Telecom market is already high up in the radar. With Chinese market still being unaccessible- many more foreign players will try come down to experience the Incredible India.

One might ask- what will tempt them to come here with falling ARPUs and an even worse scene predicted. Apart from the sheer numbers, I think Indian players have been able to sell the idea to the world that they know how to operate on a large scale with lower costs (playing on volumes rather than margins). This was what everyone felt when the MTN courtship was taking place in full media glare.

Phew! So much action is anticipated that most of us had forgotten about the iPhone launch for a while…. Over to some more exciting glamorous developments in the business of staying connected !