Small Biz Mobile Weakness Is PF Strength

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Forget online banking, from old-fashioned desktops and tablets. New stats show that transactions and financial interactions from mobile-only banking alone last year surpassed those done in physical branches, according to figures published Tuesday (Jan. 12) by Javelin Strategy and Research.

But as much as this reaffirms conventional wisdom that mobile is taking over almost all forms of payments, it’s far from universal. This banking mobile embrace is distinctly not happening with smaller community banks as they mirror the same mobile problems that are plaguing small businesses in just about every other vertical. And therein lies the PF opportunity.

“Smaller institutions are lacking when it comes to mobile banking services and that trend will cost them in the long term,” said report author and Javelin mobile analyst Daniel Van Dyke.

The lack of mobile deployment among small businesses—including community banks—is certainly not because of a lack of mobile awareness. And the fact that small businesses don’t have to overcome the huge IT legacy obstacles that their larger counterparts do is a plus, rather than a negative. “The potential to act nimbly isn’t always acted on,” Van Dyke said.

The reasons for the lack of mobile rollouts is a matter of a shortage of appropriate talent on the small company’s payroll along with a lack of mobile comfort.

As for mobile capabilities, the typical small business dry cleaner, coffee shop and apparel store rarely have any salaried IT team at all. For mobile rollouts, they need specialized designers and programmers and most small businesses “can’t attract that kind of talent,” Van Dyke said.

Why wouldn’t small businesses simply outsource mobile to any one of many mobile shops? Although some small businesses do just that, it’s not something that many small business entrepreneurs would even think to do. They are overwhelmingly—and appropriately—focused on their core businesses.

Many of these small businesses—including community banks—have been “slow to innovate for decades. How do they now create a culture of innovation?” Van Dyke said.

This problem—one that speaks of both talent and mindset—perfectly meshes with the payments acumen of the typical payment facilitator.

But unlike the local mobile app shop that materializes at the end of a Google search, the PF understands mobile as well as the core of payments. That means that the counsel will speak to the kinds of payments that the small business’s customers most need and the best way to implement it. The mobile app shop will know design and programming, but not payments.

Critically, mobile is no longer a feature that is nice to have. “Mobile is now table stakes,” Van Dyke said, adding that consumers are willing to switch financial institutions if one supports and another doesn’t. “And Gen Y consumers are much more likely to switch banks because of mobile support” or the lack of mobile support.

That is because mobile is now a critical part of the daily life of consumers, especially younger shoppers. The same issues that are behind these community bank mobile problems hits all small businesses.

Mobile isn’t a necessity for PFs. It’s a huge opportunity.

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