Mobile apps for smartphones and tablets only came into existence a decade ago, but they have fast become an essential component for managing modern life. Users prefer apps as they’re an easy-to-use version of a full website, or because they represent a simplified version of a longer process. They offer the intuitive delivery and instant gratification that consumers demand.
Companies love them too as they can be developed quickly and increase user engagement. Websites accessed by browsers are less present in people’s daily lives so are less likely to be used habitually.
No wonder then that app development and usage has shot up and they are dominating some areas of consumption. The total number of mobile app downloads in 2017 has been estimated at 197 billion globally. It seems there is an app to replace the website for anything and everything with many successful companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Just Eat built with the app being the standard means of access.
In financial services development is catching up with other sectors. Initially, many incumbent firms didn’t see an app as an important customer acquisition or retention tool. The advent of open banking, where you can share your information with other banks and third-party providers, is one reason why the UK’s largest financial institutions have been forced to reconsider. The development of apps to enhance and personalise user experiences is now a priority, and consumers will increasingly expect this from their financial providers large and small.
Another driver of change has been biometrics. As well as offering excellent security, finger-print or face identification on the latest smartphones is putting customers closer to their money than ever before. Fiddly passwords and clunky websites look positively medieval in comparison.
How far does this trend go? In ten years’ time, will websites be a thing of the past as the world goes mobile? It seems unlikely. App-only banks like Atom, Starling and Monzo have found reticence amongst consumers for the app-only approach. What’s more, web apps, apps available on demand via the internet rather than being downloaded onto a device, are likely to ensure the web browser remains alive and well. However, traditional desktop access to the internet could well dwindle to a small percentage of overall traffic.
This is borne out by trends we are seeing at Charles Stanley Direct, an investment platform for fund and share dealing. There has been explosive growth in the use of our recently relaunched app with usage rising by 542% in February alone. It’s clear that do-it-yourself investors using the service value the ease of monitoring their portfolios on the go. We are now seeing anything up to 80% of total traffic to our service coming via the app during standard business hours, the vast majority through phone rather than tablet.
With fund trading available via the app from April we are expecting usage to rocket again. In the summer, new customers will be able to open accounts without ever visiting the website and we will also add the ability to pay money in. Within a year, all web services will be re-created on the app such is the demand from customers of all age groups.