Forrester: Australian bank apps struggling to balance functionality and usability

CBA’s app named Australia’s best for third year in a row

A review of the apps offered by Australia’s biggest banks has found Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s to be the best, for the third year in a row.

Forrester scrutinised and scored the functionality and user experience of the mobile apps of five Australian banks – ANZ, CBA, ING, National Australia Bank (NAB), and Westpac – but deemed CBA’s to be the only one that balanced usability and functionality.

Westpac and ING (reviewed for the first time this year) offered a good range of functionality according to the report, but the features were “sometimes hard to use”.

NAB and ANZ were found to offer better user experiences but had more limited functionality, Forrester said.

The apps were scored on 36 functionality and 26 user experience criteria, including: search and navigation; content; error avoidance and recovery; privacy and security cues; login and security alerts; money management; and self-service features.

CBA scored highest, followed by Westpac and NAB level in second place, ANZ and the lowest scoring ING.

Across the board, Forrester said the banks needed to better use mobile banking as a means of building trust with customers, “given the battering their reputations have taken in the past year”.

“Digital teams at many banks are hitting cultural, process, budget, technology, and even strategy roadblocks that smart people and good ideas alone can’t overcome. Customers expect consistently great experiences, in near real time, regardless of the touchpoint they interact with,” said Forrester senior analyst Zhi Ying Barry.

“Bolting a shiny new user interface onto a patchwork of legacy systems won’t cut it anymore,” she added.

All banks could also do better at showing customers their app use is safe and secure, Barry added.

“Simplify privacy policies by eliminating jargon and superfluous detail. Then go a step further and treat security not just a compliance issue, but as an opportunity to educate and build trust,” she advised.

Banks with poorly performing apps are under increasing threat from new digital banks like Up, Volt Bank and Xinja, whose apps are their primary and in some cases only customer touch point, the report The Forrester Banking Wav: Australian Mobile Apps says.

Best bank app “about to get better”

In May, CBA chief executive officer, Matt Comyn said the app was about to undergo a redesign to deliver users a more personalised experience. The refreshed design was in trials earlier this year but will be rolled out to all app users within the next few months.

“It will be an app that is for every one of our customers. We want it to really to feel like it's your app,” Comyn said.

“When you log into the app it will be personalised… and it will show on the home screen the most relevant thing for you,” he said.

CBA’s 5.3 million app users will get what the bank claims is the “first completely personalised and smart digital banking experience in Australia”.

“We’re using a combination of cutting edge machine learning technology, data analytics and behavioural science to develop smart banking features to create a highly personalised digital banking experience,” said CBA chief digital officer Pete Steel.

“This year, the app will send over three billion personalised messages to customers by using 157 billion data points and 200 advanced machine learning models," he said.

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