CommBank rates as top mobile banking app, as big four deliver inconsistent mobile offerings

For a third consecutive year, CommBank has been rated Australia's top mobile banking app, receiving unalloyed praise for both its user experience and functionality despite lacklustre advancements across the big fours' mobile offerings this year.

The CommBank offering, among five surveyed apps from Australia’s biggest banks, was deemed the only mobile app to “master” both usability and functionality features, according to Forrester's Banking Wave: Australian Mobile Apps, Q2 2019 report commissioned by global research giant.

“CommBank’s mobile banking app combines good functionality with best-in-class usability that centres on easy navigation, clear design, and high-quality content that shows customers how to achieve their goals,” the report said.  

CBA’s app was also singled out for its login and security alerts, as well as its intuitive money movement function. However, despite the mostly high praise across the board, it received below average ratings for error avoidance and recovery, whilst also trailing Westpac in its self-service feature set.

The Westpac app, which tied with NAB for overall second place on Forrester's rating scale (each scoring 67 out of possible 100), was commended for its “excellent mobile functionality” and “best-in-class self-service features”, but was deemed to deliver a sub-par user experience that was considered “hard to navigate… [with an] unclear and competing visual hierarchy, multiple colours, and varying font sizes [that] can be overwhelming for customers.”

Conversely, NAB, was praised for its “impressive UX”, with its search and navigation functions and content applauded, but falling short of the mark on functionality, with its app distinctly lacking in-app, self-service options.

While effuse in its praise for the CommBank app – scoring 80 out of 100, and 13 points clear of its nearest rivals – the report found that banking mobile banking experiences had mostly “missed the mark”, hinting that customers may ultimately struggle to effectively control their finances through the current generation of apps, despite the relative quality of digital offerings from Australia’s big banks.

“Our review showed that most Australian banks struggle to balance usability and functionality and fail to make customers feel safe and confident,” said Zhi Ying Barry, co-author of the report.

The latest generation of apps were overall criticised for their “poor” privacy and trust visuals – key metrics for rebuilding customer confidence post-Royal Commission – which were said to leave “customers a little in the dark when it comes to reassuring them that their movements on mobile banking are safe,” Forrester said in a statement.

ANZ and ING, Australia’s biggest digital-only bank, placed at the bottom of the app rankings, scoring 62 and 59 respectively; ING was, however, singled out for its unique partnership with the applet service If This Then That (IFTTT), which enables customers to set up personalised ‘rules’ that automatically trigger money transfers and help customers meet their savings goals.

Forrester stressed the importance of mobile apps as the front face of the business and a vehicle to help rebuild consumers’ trust and confidence in banking services after a bruising year for Australia’s financial services. The report advised banks to go above and beyond quality UX and a strong feature-set in their apps, encouraging developers to make customers “feel appreciated, valued, respected, and confident — the most important emotions that drive loyalty for banks”.

The report specified four key recommendations to improve banks' overall app design:

•  Build consistent experiences: maintain everything in-app and avoid sending customers “on a wild goose chase” to separate apps or webpages.

•  Create digital triggers of positive emotions that drive customer loyalty

•  Be a trusted data custodian, particularly in the age of open banking

•  Show customers that their data and dollars are safe: “[eliminate] jargon and superfluous detail, then go a step further and treat security not just as a compliance issue but as an opportunity to educate and build trust.”