Hidden among the headlines about virtual reality and digital assistants from Google's 2016 developers' conference was the tech giant's announcement of a feature with significant implications for mobile banking: Instant Apps.
Instant Apps, which Google will roll out to Android users later this year, allows developers to divide the features of an app into distinct modules so consumers can quickly utilize the portions they need without installing the whole thing. Google's demo showed someone clicking on a link to a video on BuzzFeed. Then, the Google Play Store only served up the parts of the BuzzFeed video app that were needed to watch the video. After that, the consumer had the option to quickly install the full app onto his or her Android mobile device.
Now imagine what such technology could do for banking. This feature could help solve one of banks' biggest digital challenges: mobile account opening.
In my recent Mercator Advisory Group research report, I noted that the vast majority of financial institutions' mobile account opening solutions are implemented as mobile-optimized websites rather than native mobile apps.
While native mobile apps generally provide consumers with a smoother and more robust experience than mobile websites, most institutions choose mobile Web as the foundation for their mobile application processes, including for both credit card and checking accounts. 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. Then, if approved, the person is likely to want to install the mobile banking app to utilize its rich native functionality.
Having a smoother process for mobile account opening would be a boon for financial institutions. Instant Apps would allow a financial institution to build an efficient and robust account opening module into its native mobile banking app. The user would instantly be presented with the account opening app module after clicking the "apply now" button on the bank's website. After applying for the account and hopefully being approved, the person could simply select the option to install the remainder of the financial institution's mobile banking app.
Transitioning customers from a quick and easy mobile account opening experience to a robust mobile banking experience, with as little friction as possible, has long been a challenge. Android Instant Apps has the potential to make this challenge a little easier to overcome.
Alex Johnson is the director of the credit advisory service at Mercator Advisory Group.
Corrected May 27, 2016 at 11:01AM: A version of this piece first appeared on Mercator Advisory Group's Payments Journal.