‘Touch and Tablet’ Revolution Well Underway

Tablet and smartphone users have unique characteristics and significant differences.

October 25, 2013

When Apple founder Steve Jobs introduced the iPad tablet, the world scratched its head: “Who needs—or wants—this device?"


“When we saw tablets gaining momentum, we realized that if credit unions were serious about the mobile channel, they had to take tablets seriously,” says Fiserv Vice President Bradley Scott. “We did research in five U.S. regions to see how people use digital devices for mobile banking.”

Ned Tobey Tools of the Trade Oct 13The research found that tablet and smartphone users have unique characteristics and differences:

  • Phones are personal but tablets are shared. They’re more of a family device that gets passed around and used for shared games or reading.
  • Inputting on phones involves thumbs or a single hand, while tablets have big, tactile screens.
  • People have different mindsets when using each device. Phones are out-of-the-pocket, on-the-go devices.

And while desktops are primarily “lean-forward” work devices, tablet users assume a “lean-back” position that puts them in a different, receptive mental mode.

Tablet users are more likely to consume content in a relaxed, information-gathering, research mode. This causes tablet users to have a different mindset about what problems they’re trying to solve.

Will Furrer, Q2eBanking’s senior vice president, product and marketing, says differences in mobile device use depend on time of day and purpose. “Mornings equal quick checks on the smart phone for appointments or balances. Then consumers shift to work-based devices like PCs. Later in the day, smartphone use picks up again.

“Use trends toward tablets as multi-device consumers engage in casual browsing with their kids and family,” he continues. “Users go home to their families, relax, play with the kids, and want an easy, shared browsing experience so they pick up their tablets. There’s no difference in people but in intent and time spent.”

In fact, says Ned Tobey, vice president, product management and mobility at Q2eBanking, most mobile users prefer to use tablets over other devices.

“Tablets present richer images and bigger layouts, which means users are more willing and likely to explore content,” he says. “Smartphones are mostly used on the run, in a car, or at the store where users are looking for quick information. Tablet users spend twice as much time on their devices, which allows them to do more complex actions like set up bill pay or apply for loans.”

Another factor to consider, says Randy Thompson, senior product manager at CO-OP Financial Services, is that tablet users are proving to be older and more affluent than smartphone users. “It makes sense— tablet screens are larger and easier to read. Users spend more time on their devices—their sessions are longer and they take more time to scroll through information.

“We saw these habits emerge pretty quickly once the market took off,” he adds. “I’ve even seen people on vacation taking photos with their tablets—a use I don’t think anybody had in mind.”

Presentation is critical

Thompson says the tablet experience clearly is different from the smartphone experience. “A tablet app needs to be more informative than a smartphone app—there’s more real estate. We’re developing tablet ‘app extensions’ that allow credit unions to add more links and graphics so tablet users can access account information, new loan or account applications, and social media.”

Scott agrees tablets are evolving differently than other mobile devices. “Taking advantage of users’ receptiveness, we’re seeing value-added features likeSmartphone vs. Tablet calendars, calculators, task lists, and ways of imparting financial literacy or retirement planning knowledge. Tablet users are more curious in those areas than desktop, laptop, or smartphone users.”

What this means, says Scott, is that credit unions have to present tablet users with a tailored experience. “Even though you want to present a consistent look across all devices, you have to provide the ‘right experience’ for tablet users by taking into account that they swipe, pinch, and zoom in a more exaggerated manner than smartphone users. You can’t just take what you now have online and stick it on a tablet.”

He says data visualizations, for which tablets provide a great space, help members better understand their financial data.

“They are far more than just pretty graphs,” Scott says. “Rather than presenting members with complex graphs that take a lot of time to decipher or put to use, it’s better to focus on key bits of information, such as a member’s account balance at this time of month and a predicted balance by the end of the month based on that member’s past spending behavior. This is an ‘actionable insight.’

“Credit unions can take a default approach where they offer members certain data or offer an opt-in where members determine what data is important to them,” Scott continues. “A lot of times users go through a process called ‘progressive discovery,’ where they’ll touch on ‘coffee’ just to see how much they’re spending, and their curiosity pushes them to explore other data and features.”

Tablets’ greater “real estate” means more room for cross- or up-selling, says Scott. In view of this, he says credit unions should have two concerns:

  1. Providing relevant information to members according to their stage of life; and
  2. Replacing face-to-face contact as the number of actual physical encounters lessens, typically via instant messaging or video chat.

Reinforcing the brand

Acute brand awareness should figure into service via tablets, says Furrer. “Credit unions are intensely consumer-focused and understand the value of their brand, which often takes years and a lot of money to build. So they have to be careful not to look for a quick fix; to look beyond whether an app has any single feature. All of their apps have to share a look and feel, and function the same, or members will reject them.”

Why consumers don't use mobile: graphHe says a new vocabulary has sprung up around tablets, with concepts like “thumb-touch zones,” “gesture fonts,” and “clean design.”

“What’s happening right now is a touch-and-tablet revolution,” Furrer says. “New rules apply. You have 20% less real estate with the smaller touch screen. But 80% must be focused on the primary objective of the page. There’s no wasted space. Designers are forced to be intentional with every decision. And it must be optimized for high resolution devices. If it’s designed for the lower-resolution PC monitors, it will never translate over to the touch devices.”

Most of all, Furrer says, end users should be able to set their preferences, like language and priority accounts, and see them flow across all of their devices: tablet, smartphone, and PC.

Tobey advises paying attention to younger users. “Users under age 35 are less loyal to financial institutions. They’ll pick a credit union based on a mobile experience that unifies all of their devices for a single, unified brand experience. So offering them a quick-fix mobile solution jammed with features could work.

“Younger users, however, are savvy consumers who expect continuity and intuitive design from the brands they align with. Credit unions understand this and are helping savvy members create a virtual branch strategy around tablets.”

Thompson advises credit unions to deploy mobile capability as soon as possible. “Start with a smartphone app—iPhone- and Android supported devices, for the time being, are still dominant in mobile banking. Follow your smartphone app with a tablet app to provide a richer user experience.

“Also, get a presence in the app store,” he continues. “Your members are already looking for you in iTunes and Google Play, so make sure they can find your app. Once you deploy it, promote it and advertise it extensively on your website and with email promotions and statement inserts. The key is to have apps available for your members where they’re looking for them. In our experience, as credit unions move from text/mobile web to apps, members jump quickly to them.”

Partner wisely

Scott says credit unions have to be careful when they choose partners. “Tablets call for more than just a pretty user interface. They affect the whole enterprise because you have to deal with different platforms that use different operating systems.

“Your call centers have to know how to ‘see’ and deal with problems or queries from tablet users,” he continues. “Tablet data has to flow smoothly through all your other digital devices. Your partner has to know how to address all these issues.”

Thompson thinks the mobile banking die is cast. “Credit unions get it. We’re going to see a lot of credit unions moving in the direction of tablet-oriented mobile banking during the next 12 to 18 months.”

“It’s not just what you deliver but how,” adds Furrer. “Tablet banking that extends the credit union brand and unifies all the customer data and preferences while delighting members will increase engagement, cross-sales opportunities, and browsing time.

“With their ability to swipe, swizzle, and twist,” he says, “tablets are fun, and tablet banking can become fun—almost as much fun as playing games.”