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How Credit Unions Can Optimize & Secure the Mobile App Experience

A small army of digital natives are about to become the largest generation globally. Gen Z, those born after 1996, will account for 32% of the world's population (7.7 billion) in 2019 and outnumber millennials for the first time, according to World Economic Forum. This year, it will be critical for businesses across all industries to modernize operations and enhance their digital performance in order to meet the needs of this mobile-first demographic.

Banks and credit unions in particular have much to gain by adopting next-generation technologies to meet the needs and expectations of their growing tech-savvy customer and member bases - and more to lose if they don't. The rise of fintech, digital wallets, e-transfer apps and social banking platforms increasingly threaten traditional financial institutions by offering younger generations the financial solutions they need via the digital tools with which they are already familiar. This year, it is imperative that credit unions digitize their services - starting with mobile apps - in order to stay relevant and competitive in 2019 and beyond.

Here are three critical steps for credit unions to optimize in-app performance to provide the best mobile app user experience for digital natives:

Create an All-Inclusive, One-Stop Shop

Over the last few years, mobile has emerged as the platform of preference for digital natives - used not just for a few transfers or an account balance check, but as the exclusive platform for all their financial transactions and needs.

For credit unions, this means pushing beyond the basics. The fact is, consumers today (including those born long before the advent of smartphones and mobile apps) expect to have access to the same services they would if they walked into a brick-and-mortar credit union - just faster, better and from the comfort of their homes or while on the go.

Enhancing your mobile app with live chat capabilities or voice-enabled digital assistants will help create the accelerated, all-inclusive experience members are looking for, allowing mobile users to get real-time and personalized assistance with just a few texts or spoken commands. In fact, 28% of consumers have already used a voice assistant to make a payment or send money, Capgemini reported. Enriching the in-app experience with digitized user interactions could pay off in huge dividends when it comes to acquiring and retaining younger members.

Credit unions should also focus on app profile reduction to streamline the user experience and make the interface more aesthetic overall. For example, creating dedicated icons for different actions (like "make a transfer" or "chat with a digital representative") smaller and more recognizable, eliminating white space, and creating clear and bold headlines make for a user-friendly app navigation experience.

Drive Performance With App Optimizations

Mobile apps are an essential part of the mobile experience - in fact, app usage accounts for more than 87% of total device time, a Comscore report stated. Despite innovation and improvements to mobile networks, as traditional credit unions and mobile-only newcomers alike look to introduce the next big app to keep pace, they often struggle to provide a good in-app user experience. But today's users are connected 24/7, which means that mobile experience needs to be designed and optimized with higher expectations in mind.

Credit unions seeking to improve the user experience of both mobile websites (for audience reach) and apps (for audience engagement) can do so by strategically responding to the unique situation of each individual user - e.g., by delivering faster web, app and API responses that are specific to the end user's environment, such as browser, device, carrier, real-time network conditions and characteristics of the content being requested.

Optimizing mobile app performance is key to maintaining a competitive advantage, delivering great mobile experiences that attract and retain members. Network optimization and acceleration are critical to ensuring these app features are delivered smoothly. Working with content delivery providers is a good option for credit unions looking to provide consistent network acceleration across their website, applications and other platforms, and credit unions should consider adopting DevOps as a means to deliver application releases more rapidly than ever before.

Secure the Experience

Automation and personalization may be key to winning and retaining digital-first members, but those features are nothing without ensuring a secure experience - especially when you consider that, as automation is made easier, threat actors like botnets offer increased risk. For credit unions, security needs to work effectively both on the front end and back end of the app.

Member-facing security measures need to go beyond the standard username and password, and must begin the moment a user opens the app on their phone. Options for enhancing their security features might include a two-step authentication (such as a one-time code sent via SMS) or biometrics authentication (such as a fingerprint swipe or retina scan).

On the back end, it is paramount that credit unions have visibility into their network and application environments to understand what normal traffic looks like across all platforms - and on the flip side, signals of unusual traffic. Botnets responsible for credential stuffing - a cyberattack whereby hackers use stolen username/password combinations to gain access to user accounts - are on the rise across all industries including financial services. A botnet attack could be irreparably damaging to credit unions' members, employees and overall reputation if they don't have threat intelligence systems in place to quickly identify malicious activity and shut them down. Botnet blacklists are one easy way to keep "repeat offenders" at bay, but credit unions should consider working with third-party security experts to help safeguard themselves and their members' business for the long haul.

While advanced technologies and demands from digital natives continue to yield new opportunities for credit unions, it is critical that they strategize their digital offerings with an eye toward optimizing user experience, personalization and security. As younger generations enter adulthood and begin their independent financial journeys, credit unions have a responsibility to simultaneously modernize and safeguard their experiences beyond the duration of the member relationship.

Article originally appeared on Credit Union Times on April 19, 2019.

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