The Digital World

Fueled in part by the adoption of smartphones, 3G devices and unlimited data plans, more Americans are turning to the convenience of mobile devices to access their bank, credit-card and brokerage accounts, according to comScore Inc., a Reston, Va., firm that provides digital market intelligence to clients worldwide.

The growing number of Americans using such devices for their financial services needs puts pressure on institutions as they compete for customer loyalty, says comScore vice president Sarah Lenart. ?Marketers will need to focus on continually improving the mobile customer experience and adjusting to the changing landscape and consumer needs as they access their financial information,? she says.

In Latin America, meanwhile, more consumers are turning to the Internet for communication, social connection, information, commerce and other activities as access expands, comScore reports. In January, 112.7 million people aged 15 and older accessed the Internet from a home or work location in Latin America, a 15 percent increase in users from the previous year, comScore?s Media Metrix survey found. Brazil, the largest online market in Latin America, grew 20 percent in the past year to 40.5 million users, while Mexico?s online population surged 21 percent to 18.1 million. Venezuela, which represents a relatively small online market at 2.9 million, achieved the highest rate of growth in the past year at 27 percent.

According to comScore?s most current ?Mobile Financial Advisor? report on the state of the U.S. mobile financial services market, in the fourth quarter of 2010, 29.8 million Americans accessed their accounts via their mobile device, an increase of 54 percent from the same quarter in 2009. Of the 29.8 million, 18.6 million used a mobile browser to access their accounts, up 58 percent from the previous year; and 10.8 million accessed their accounts via applications, up 120 percent. SMS (text message) represented the smallest access point for financial service audiences with 8.1 million users, up 35 percent, comScore says. Published quarterly, the report combines data from comScore?s MobiLens survey service; its Mobile Metrix, which measures the behavior of smartphone owners who opted to install the firm?s measurement software on their devices for research purposes; and from a recontact survey focused on mobile financial service activities. The most current ?Mobile Financial Advisor? was released on March 23.

Analyzing the reasons why other smartphone and feature phone users did not access their accounts via those devices, preference for using a fixed online device topped the list for both smartphone and non-smartphone users at 53 percent and 45 percent, respectively. Security concerns were also rated highly as a concern among both smartphone users (33 percent) and non-smartphone users (30 percent). Among other findings, 29 percent of non-smartphone users stated cost as a reason for not accessing these accounts, while only 10 percent of smartphone users said the same thing (as unlimited data plans void this concern for many smartphone users); 26 percent of smartphone users indicated that slow connection speeds hindered their mobile financial service usage; and only 6 percent of smartphone users and 5 percent of non-smartphone users cited not knowing about these services as a reason why they did not access these accounts.

Among mobile banking and credit-card users, nearly half prefer going online via a fixed device as the primary way to access their accounts, with 47 percent of mobile banking customers and 44 percent of mobile credit-card users doing so. Mobile has become an increasingly important access channel with 36 percent of mobile credit-card users and 26 percent of mobile banking customers indicating it is their primary method of accessing their accounts. Only a small segment of these users listed speaking with a representative in person or on the phone as their primary access method.