Friday, August 17, 2007

Finance 2.0 "Convenience" (part 4 of 4) - August 17, 2007

Consumers and businesses alike are embracing stress reducing and time saving products and services.

Convenience has been defined as anything that saves or simplifies work, adds to one's ease or comfort, etc., as an appliance, utensil, service, or the like.

Laundry Locker provides door-to-door laundry pick-up and delivery, Netflix brings DVDs directly to doorsteps, mobile applications send users information on weather, events, music, and even directions to their phones, 7-eleven is open 24 hours a day, Waiter on Wheels delivers food to hungry homes from any restaurant the consumer wants, and churches broadcast their sermons via TV.

What do these have in common?

Consumers are bombarded with products and services everyday that are intended to make their lives easier.

Look no further than the robot vacuum cleaner or the dog walking service in the neighborhood. Or maybe it’s something along the lines of Best Buy’s computer savvy Geek Squad, and Rachel Ray’s Thirty Minutes Meals on the Food Network. Consumers are becoming more and more lazy. Americans want the quick and easy treatment anytime, every time. This attitude can be seen through quantifiable results such as the fact that 50% of American’s money spent to go eating out is used at fast food restaurants.

The trend for convenient services is holding true for the financial sector as well, and has been related to the appearance of new technologies such as the Internet and smart phones.

Online banking has offered consumers the ability to manage their finances with ease, and not coincidentally, has the highest growth rate for any online service. 53 million Americans, or half of all internet users are banking online, managing their portfolio, or paying their bills. Washington Mutual has grown in their online banking division by 33% by offering free products and services, and 43% new Washington Mutual customers came because of the free checking program.

There are however, still many consumers who are skeptical about using online banking services. About 70 million people that have bank accounts don’t trust financial transactions that take place on the Internet. However, 23 % Americans said that they felt more secure about online banking this year than they did previously.

Although financial institutions are trying to counter the online banking fear by increasing the amount of branch representatives to speak with, the online channel is an easy, cheap, and reliable way to handle their client’s assets, not to mention that it generates the highest R.O.I. Online banking users are over 30% more profitable than offline users.
The services financial institutions could offer for businesses are more complicated than for individual clients, but would be just as lucrative. Small businesses consider banking online a fundamental aspect of keeping their finances in order, and they are always seeking out new and more convenient online services. For larger companies, services could focus on more minute details, such as the ability to cover themselves against foreign exchange risk, which is a crucial point in international trade.

The convenient services trend is thriving, and is providing consumers and businesses with time saving, stress reducing, and reliable services and products to make their lives easier.

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