Banking Application Notifications have Only Tipped the Peak of a Delightful User Experience- This…
App notifications, industry design and debate
Bank notifications have generally failed to contribute to meaningful experiences for users in the banking industry. Banks have largely focused on security and account activity as the primary focus of their alerts, thereby failing to pursue areas that have the potential to yield higher user satisfaction. These notification types can be categorized as useful experiences. In order to go beyond that, banks must challenge themselves to create delightful notification experiences where users feel that they are being aided in reaching their personal financial goals. Notifications have the opportunity to become an active piece of the mobile app experience that is both an extension of the app itself and a greater asset to the user.
Push notifications are necessary to remind users to go back and use apps. (Evans, 2017) They alert the user to an event, inform them of something useful, or call the user to action. When done properly, they anticipate the user’s needs instead of just demanding attention. Notifications come in many forms including meatball icons, badges, or pop-ups-even a combination of all three, and have the goal of bringing users back to the app. They work because a process called the orienting reflex, wherein the senses pick up on an animation, shifts its focus from the current activity to the new activity in sight, and demands that attention be given there. (Evans, 2017) For notifications originating from banking mobile apps, the orienting process happens on mobile devices. Because push notifications are not part of the space being occupied at the time of their arrival, they easily capture attention once they come, whether the user is in a task negative or task positive state.
For banking apps, notification are usually passive. They warn that a balance is low. They alert the user of suspicious activity or of a timed-out app session. Typically, these notifications do not come in form of an in-app notification, rather they appear in the mobile device’s banners, notification center, and/or lock screen. They are more informational than anything. In order to move from a useful experience to a delightful experience, banking apps must require action, even if that action doesn’t take place within the app. Banks must create a notification system that aligns to the users personal financial goals.
Creating a notification system that aligns with user goals begins with personalization. When downloading a banking app, users are only required to verify their identity and set up security authentication, which makes sense because users are in a task-positive state of mind meaning that they are only there to complete a specific task. However, after a couple of initial uses, banks must create an opportunity to learn about their users and personalize the experience to each customer. In today’s market, users have certain expectation of mobile bank apps. They expect security. They expect account information. They expect ease of use. However, banks can take it a step further, by offering customers the opportunity to share their financial goals. Young adults are twice as likely as Gen Xers to have a budgeting app. (Wylie, 2018) and 17% of Americans have an investment app. (Barba, 2018) This shows that people are interested in having a financial app that caters to their financial goals. If banks allowed customers to set up goals whether it be for a 20-year old who wants to learn to better manage their money or a 32-year old who wants to save for a house, they would instantly learn how to send better notification alerts that were personalized to the user. The notifications would go from dismissive, passive information to actionable notifications focused on helping the user reach their financial goals.
Notification preferences must also be taken under consideration when thinking about creating meaningful experiences and minimizing habituation. Banks need to adjust to the desires of the user and not just automatically error on the side of thinking that every user will opt for the same settings. These are options that should also be made available to the user early on and tell the user exactly what they are opting in to receive. These options would specify frequency, notification type, and categories of notification. By giving the user the option to make these choices, banks are empowering users to choose what is important to them and create their own experience of the app.
Lastly, a necessary feature of notifications needs to come in the form of distinction. Notifications for this app type can fall into three categories: Security Alerts, Account Activity Alerts, and the new, active, action-oriented category of Goal Alerts. Security and Account Activity alerts would come with a red banner to signify a warning, whereas the Goal alert would come with a green banner to signify an exciting opportunity to work toward something personally meaningful. The header names are also important to signal to the user the type of notification to expect before giving attention to the actual message. These are small changes that would go a long way in minimizing noise for the user because they would have opted for the notifications themselves and personalized them to their needs at this point.
This approach works because as Evans writes, “Only when your business goals satisfy our life goals will success be assured and mutual.” By taking the user’s personal life needs into account, banks are assuring that their attempts at orienting stay relevant to the user. So what does this look like exactly? Circle back for a minute to the 20-year old working on budgeting for the first time and the 32-year old saving for a house. Upon downloading their mobile banking app, both indicate their current financial goals: to spend x amount of money on groceries, x amount on eating out, etc. and to save x amount of dollars for down payment for a house in x amount of years, respectively. With the new notification system, the 20-year old would receive a notification about their entertainment spending when close to reaching that limit for the month thereby forcing them to act on their budget goal. The 32-year old would receive a notification after each direct deposit from their job asking if they would like to move x amount of money into their down payment savings account thereby acting on their savings goal. Both would receive the notification under the green Goal Alert banner signaling the personal connection to the notification.
Because banks are likely to see success with this model, they need to be careful to minimize the amount of notifications that they send overall. Banks should shy away from using push notifications to advertise new app features, new business opportunities, and advertisements in general. Doing so, would fatigue the user and ultimately lead to dissatisfaction and a constricted attentional willingness from the user. Even when orienting within the parameters of the set goal, banks need to be careful to not overwhelm the user with notifications pertaining to said goal. As Evans notes, “…good designers know to notify only when we will be reinforced for it,” (Evans, 2017) and that means only when absolutely necessary.
In 2018, Citi conducted a mobile banking study which found that banking apps are the third most widely used applications for Americans, behind only social media and weather apps. (Citibank, 2018) Given this popularity, banks are in no danger of losing app users, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t become progressive app builders. It’s an opportunity for them to offer more than they currently do in-person, online, and in the app itself. This new notification system puts users in an empowering and actionable space from which they can to reach their financial goals. By providing an experience that is personalized through their goals and reinforced via the notification system, banks can create delightful experiences that will honor their users and their most personal needs.
Barba, R. (2018, April 04). 63% Of Smartphone Users Have At Least One Financial App. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/smart-money/americans-and-financial-apps-survey-0218/
Citibank. (2018, April 26). Mobile Banking One of Top Three Most Used Apps by Americans, 2018 Citi Mobile Banking Study Reveals [Press release]. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://www.citigroup.com/citi/news/2018/180426a.htm
Evans, D. C. (2017). Bottlenecks: Aligning UX Design with User Psychology. New York, NY: Apress.
Wylie, M. (2018, February 15). Financial apps gaining popularity. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2018/02/financial-apps-gaining-popularity.html?page=all