At InSites Consulting we believe in the power of change, and the need to keep up with new market evolutions. So of course I jumped at the opportunity to attend a Vlerick Alumni workshop on the future of mobile banking & mobile payments in Belgium. The speakers of the evening were Stijn Van Der Plaetse (CEO Mplus-group), Quinten Fraai (General Manager Direct Channels at ING) , Thomas De Vos (The Reference) and Jan De Meester (Chief Innovation Officer at Mobile Vikings). All four speakers were very interesting, but Fraai and De Meester stood out for me. Both ING and Mobile Vikings have well-earned reputations for innovation when it comes to mobile activities, and both speakers lived up to this reputation.
ING’s impressive mobile growth numbers are interesting, but what I liked most about Mr Fraai’s speech was his explanation of how ING deals with the challenges of working in this new environment. Through a host of large and small innovations, ING has managed to turn its mobile app into a real draw for new and existing customers. And how have they done this? By truly understanding their customers and how they use the mobile app. Back when mobile first started to become a buzzword it was enough to have a scaled-down version of your regular website. But nowadays, customers want a service that offers them something more than just a smaller, less efficient version of the desktop website. For example, ING noticed that while using the mobile app their customers were only interested in a smaller number of services. No one will use their mobile phone to look for a life insurance. But what people do want to do on-the-go is quickly check how much they have left on their checking account. So if you want to give your customers an app that they will actually –want – to use, you have to adapt to their needs. Instead of just repackaging what you have been doing online for the past couple of years. This is the kind of forward thinking that brings you from 10% of log-ons through mobile in January to 14% in May.
What amazed me about Mr De Meester’s presentation were their high growth rates (even though they do not invest in marketing) and their redefinition of the relationship between customer and company. By transforming their existing customers into literal brand ambassadors, who earn ‘Viking Points’ for every new customer they refer, Mobile Vikings has managed to grow to 150,000 customers without investing in a large sales & marketing department. And they apply this crowdsourcing principle to more than sales & marketing: customer service is handled for a large part by other customers as well, who get Viking Points in return for answering questions on the official forum. And for their move into location-based services, Mobile Vikings didn’t go directly to companies: instead, they asked their customers to suggest the businesses where they would like to be able to check in, and only then did Mobile Vikings approach these business to offer VikingSpots. By seeing customers as more than just a source of revenue, Mobile Vikings is shaking up the Belgian mobile market.