Mercator Blog

Did Google Just Make Mobile Account Opening a Bit Easier?
Date: May 20, 2016
Research Team
Hidden among the many recent headlines about virtual reality and digital assistants from Google’s 2016 developers conference was an announcement that caught my eye. It was about a new feature in Google’s Android mobile operating system called Instant Apps.

Android Instant Apps allows developers to modularize their mobile apps so that a consumer can quickly utilize portions of an app without installing the whole thing. The demo by Google shows someone clicking on a link to a video on BuzzFeed and having the Google Play Store serve up only the parts of the BuzzFeed video app that are needed to watch the video. After completing the transaction that led into the app, the consumer has the option of quickly installing the full app onto the Android mobile device.

The Instant Apps functionality will be rolled out to users later this year. It will be compatible with the last several versions of Android. To ensure that Instant Apps really do appear instantly, each app module cannot exceed 4 MB in size. Google claims that the process for updating existing Android Apps to support Instant App functionality is fairly straightforward. Some early developers were able to complete the updates in a single day.

The significance of this new feature for financial institutions (FIs) lies in one of the big technology challenges that many FIs face in supporting mobile account opening.

Did Google Just Make Mobile Account Opening a Bit Easier?

In my recent Mercator Advisory Group research report on mobile account opening, I noted that the vast majority of FIs’ mobile account opening solutions today are implemented as mobile-optimized websites rather than native mobile apps. Despite the fact that native mobile apps generally provide consumers with a smoother and more robust experience, most FIs choose mobile Web as the foundation for their mobile account opening solutions. The logic behind this decision is simple—most consumers are unlikely to download a separate app just for the privilege of applying for a credit card or checking account. Consumers would rather click the “Apply now” button and get through the account opening process as quickly as possible.

The irony, of course, is that if a consumer is approved for an account after applying on a mobile device, the first thing the person is likely to do is install the FI’s mobile banking app in order to utilize the app’s rich native functionality.

So the challenge that financial institutions have is transitioning customers from a quick and easy mobile account opening experience to a robust mobile banking experience, with as little friction as possible.

Android Instant Apps has the potential to make this challenge a little easier to overcome.

With Android Instant Apps, a financial institution could build a smooth and robust account opening module into its native Android mobile banking app. Upon clicking the “Apply now” button on the FI’s website, the user would instantly be presented with the account opening app module. After applying for the account and (hopefully) being approved, the person could simply select the option to install the remainder of the FI’s mobile banking app.