Banking’s Progress Bar – The history of retail banking has always been rooted in the personal nature of the industry; for many of us, few matters are more sensitive than our own money. It helps us feel secure and safe, and, on a practical level, enables different kinds of comforts in life.
Like anything else, our relationship with money is one that has evolved over time; to fully understand it, we must first look at its roots. According to the history books, the various forms of modern banking date back to 14th century Italy, stemming from the Bank of Medici. The word ‘bank’ itself originates from the Middle French word banque, “bench, counter”; benches were used as desks or exchange counters during the Renaissance by Florentine bankers, who used to make their transactions atop desks covered by green tablecloths.
In the modern era, retail banking—the kind that lets us manage our personal wealth and cash-on-hand—has seen a significant increase in the frequency of touchpoints between the customer and bank, while the interpersonal relationship has significantly diminished. In our lifetime, banking has progressed from a relationship between people to a relationship between a person and a machine, whether that be an ATM, a computer, or a mobile device.
As a result, personalization has become possible without having a person from the bank involved in the experience. Banks today are searching for new ways to stay connected by increasing their utility for their customers. Long-standing financial institutions like Bank of America are forming partnerships with learning centers like Khan Academy to educate their customers, while all new banking institutions like Simple.com are emerging with a software-first, software-only and software-enabling storefront for their customers.
The rapid adoption of mobile banking has given us the ability for a here and now understanding of our budgets, but we generally lack awareness of how we’re doing budget-wise each month. We can check our budgets often with our smartphones, but how would a similar experience compare on a device like the Apple Watch?
Perfect for sharing bits of information and using subtle taps for reminders, the Apple Watch provides an opportunity to help recreate the personal touch that can solidify a customer’s relationship with their bank. With that in mind, we wanted to create an accountability buddy, without being as intrusive as the famously annoying Microsoft Office paperclip tip tool.
Managing Budgets with Relevancy
In less than a decade, PayPal, Mint, and Venmo have all enhanced the consumer banking and budgeting experience. Square and Apple Pay have helped advance the actual point of transaction experience. Now, the release of the Apple Watch brings us a new frontier to explore, full of accessible possibilities for seamless, real-time budget management.
Broadly, we based our work on the following assumptions of specific pain points customers face with budget management:
- Even with an app to manage a personal budget, knowing your real-time standing with a specific budget can still be cumbersome.
- Budget remaining is not as informative as it could be, and there are other ways to help someone understand how much they can spend, especially with habitual purchases of a similar dollar value.
We applied these assumptions and looked to the Apple Watch to see how it could deliver more valuable spending information to a consumer making a purchase decision. We created this concept with the idea of it being a standalone product or an option for a banking institution to white-label as part of their own customer experience.
To do this, we thought long and hard about what it’s like to save, spend and manage your money today. We looked at the variety of transaction types (bill payments, habitual spending, seasonal spending, and one-time purchases), opportunities for more automation, and ways to provide more useful information to the consumer.
The nature of a device like the Apple Watch is inherently personal, in that you wear it, but an Apple Watch wearer is limited by the screen’s size and streamlined functionality. Despite these constraints, this technology opens up the opportunity to provide the user with just the right kind of contextual information at the moment of purchase.
We wanted to push the limits of what’s currently possible and create a hyper-personalized experience for the habitual spender. Perhaps one of the most guilty habitual expenses today is coffee drinking. The boutique coffee shop has reemerged as a popular neighborhood hangout, and, as a result, has led to a regular expense accumulating to an average of $1,100 per year for coffee drinkers in America. We wanted to imagine what it would be like if, while you waited in line for your drink, your watch alerted you of upcoming limits for your personal budget.
Instead of creating a typical budget alert of “$24.12 remain in your coffee budget”, we wanted to quantify budget remaining in terms of the number of coffees left for the individual to purchase within budget.
We created three views for the Apple Watch: the Notification View, the Glance View and the Application View.
In the Notification – Long Look View
the remaining budget for a specific spending category, like Coffee, is enumerated based on the number of coffees remaining, rather than simply listing a budget in terms of dollars leftover. This is a key test are for us, as we saw this as a potential solution to helping educate consumers on the real-time standing of their individual budgets.
In the Glance View
A broader look at multiple spending categories is enabled. We imagined other categories that could be translated into a specific quantity of occurrences remaining, including Dining Out (top right icon), Gas (bottom left icon) and Entertainment (bottom right icon).
In the App View
Auser is able to scroll through recent purchases within a spending category. In this case, they are able to see historical spending within the Coffee category, and see line item expenses for the budget category.
By taking advantage of the ability to track location, we envisioned the scenario where a user could be notified prior to the time and location when money is typically spent for coffee.
We saw the coffee notification as a starting point to allow the user to dig deeper into their personal budget information in real-time. In other words, they would start at the notification view, dig deeper at a Glance and then can even get more detailed at the Application View.
We are intrigued by new ways to deliver relevant information via devices like the Apple Watch. We think the traditional uses of wearables like the Apple Watch are important (ie: track exercise, or see the current temperature), but unconventional uses today might become norms tomorrow.
The bite-sized information that the Watch can provide, and the various views of a Notification, Glance, and Application present unique opportunities to stay engaged with a user and challenges us to think about new ways to provide useful information in the context of their current environment.
With Apple Pay as a key area of new functionality, we expect there to be natural extensions for how you can monitor and manage your money from your wrist. We think banks can benefit from this kind of thinking and look forward to hearing from you if you have more thoughts on the topic.