Study of the evolution of the use of mobile banking applications in 16 major retail banks in France, Italy, Spain and the UK, during the first weeks of the Covid-19 crisis. For these 16 players, analysis of the weekly evolution of adoption rates, frequency of use, download volume and expressed satisfaction.
In the current context of the Covid-19 crisis and containment constraints, digital access to banking services becomes all the more essential. It is still possible to visit some bank branches as part of the service continuity plans communicated by banks. For standard operations, however, the use of digital banking is strongly recommended.
We could therefore expect – once the first moments of awareness and focus on immediate needs (filling the fridge and withdrawing cash, for example) have passed – an increase in digital banking usage. However, this depends on the performance of the digital channels developed by each bank and the adoption of these digital channels by customers.
As part of its research activities, D-Rating studied the evolution of the use of mobile banking applications for 16 major retail banking brands in four European countries (see Figure 1): Spain, France, Italy and the UK.
This study was conducted over a period of 8 weeks, from February 2 2020 to March 28 2020, during which the Covid-19 crisis took hold in the 4 countries with the start of containment in Italy (9th March), then in Spain (15th March), France (17th March) and the United Kingdom (23th March).
For each studied brand, 4 KPIs were analyzed week by week (see Figure 3): the number of active users, the number of sessions per user, the number of downloads and the average new ratings for the week. The main source of information is App Annie, the mobile data and analytics company.
This analysis of mobile application usage took into account a total of 8 performance indicators out of the 700+ analyzed each year by D-Rating to rate the digital performance of retail banks. This is a targeted analysis providing an indicative intermediate measurement point for the usage of mobile applications at the end of March 2020 and its evolution compared to the same periods in 2019.
Based on the results of this study, we share four key observations in this article:
- Overall, over the 8-week period, the trend is downward in terms of traffic and engagement, and slightly upward in terms of expressed satisfaction.
- Before confinement, the number of active users and the number of sessions per user peaked in the 4 countries – with a delay of one week in France.
- The banks that obtain the best level of traffic and engagement are also those that obtain the best satisfaction scores. Three of the four UK banks are in this group.
- The Spanish banks benefit on average from the best trends compared to the same period in 2019.
1. Overall, over the 8-week period, the trend is downward in terms of traffic and engagement, and slightly upward in terms of expressed satisfaction.
Three key data are taken into account to qualify the level of traffic and engagement on the mobile apps:
- The adoption rate,
- The frequency of use,
- The volume of downloads.
As for expressed satisfaction, evaluation is based on the average of new ratings on application stores (iOS & Android).
1. 1. Adoption rate
The ratio of the number of active users over the total number of customers (cf. figure 4) reflects the rate of adoption of mobile applications by bank customers.
Regardless of the current health crisis, the adoption rate is not at the same level in the 4 countries. In week 13, it varies from 7.6% in Italy to 11.9% in Spain, with intermediate performances for France (9.6%) and the UK (9.3%).
Between week 6 and 13, this ratio is decreasing for the four countries with a stronger drop in France and Spain.
Compared to the same period in 2019 (see Figure 3), we also note that the number of active users in the four countries seems to respond to cycles according to weeks.
1. 2. Frequency of use
The number of sessions per user (cf. Figure 5) reflects the frequency of use of the mobile applications.
This frequency of use is declining in all four countries, and this decline is particularly significant in Spain and France.
In week 13, Spain, France and Italy reached a comparable level of about 7 sessions per user (i.e. an average of 1 session per day per user). For the UK, the frequency of use changed little over the period, with a significantly higher level of 8.3 sessions per user in week 13.
Compared to the same period in 2019 (see Figure 3), here again we see that the frequency of use seems to respond in all four countries to cycles as a function of weeks.
1. 3. Volume of downloads
The volume of downloads (see Figure 6) can be linked to downloads of new versions of the mobile application by customers who were already users, to first downloads by existing customers who were not yet users, or to first downloads by new customers.
At the stage of this study, we have not undertaken any further investigation to identify the precise origin of the observed variations in the number of downloads. However, we can consider that this number indicates a volume of commitment or re-engagement to use the mobile application that should impact the evolution of the number of active users over the coming periods.
In this regard, the UK was the exception with an increasing volume of downloads contrasting with the decline in the other three countries, which was particularly marked in France.
Compared to the same weeks in 2019, we see a resurgence in the number of downloads in Italy from week 11; Spain and the UK from week 12 – as opposed to France, which continues to plummet.
1. 4. Expressed satisfaction
The average grades on the application stores (iOS and Android – cf. figure 10) slightly increased over the period for the 4 countries.
Leaving aside the current health crisis, the satisfaction expressed is not at the same level in the 4 countries. Thus, in week 13, it varies from 3.7 in France to 4.3 in the UK, with intermediate performances for Italy (3.9) and Spain (4.1).
Compared to the same weeks in 2019, France stands out from the other 3 countries with a significant increase from week 11 and thus the beginning of confinement in France.
2. Before confinement, the number of active users and the number of sessions per user peaked in the 4 countries - with a delay of one week in France
Graphs related to the rates of change compared to same period in 2019 (see Figure 8) allow to visualize the evolution of gaps as the pandemic develops, independently of cyclical phenomena.
In terms of the number of active users, before the crisis sets in, we see significant progress compared to 2019 in Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom – in contrast to France, which remains aligned on 2019 performance.
We also note on both graphs the presence of peaks of variation preceding the confinement period:
- As regards the number of active users: in week 10 for Spain, Italy and the UK, and in week 11 for France.
As regards the number of sessions per user: in week 09 for Italy, in week 10 in Spain and the UK, and in week 11 in France, which is then distinguished by the absence of a « plateau period » and an immediate and steep fall in weeks 12 and 13; the fall is also sharp for the other 3 countries in week 13.
In both cases, there is a one-week time lag in France, indicating a possible delay in the French people’s consciousness of the criticality of the health crisis.
3. The banks that obtain the best level of traffic and engagement are also those that obtain the best satisfaction scores. Three of the four UK banks are in this group
The matrix below (see Figure 9) presents the comparative positioning of the 16 brands according to their ‘Traffic and Engagement’ and ‘Satisfaction’ scores over the 8-week period from 2/02/2020 to 28/03/2020.
We can see on this graph that the majority of banks are either below average on both scores or above average on both scores. Thus, the banks with the highest levels of traffic and commitment are also those with the highest satisfaction scores.
We also see a much greater dispersion of performance in Italy compared to other countries.
- 3 banks in the UK: NatWest, Barclays and Lloyds Bank
- 2 banks in Spain: BBVA and CaixaBank
- 1 bank in Italy: Intesa Sanpaolo
- 1 bank in France: BPCE
4. The Spanish banks benefit on average from the best trends compared to 2019
Compared to the same period in 2019 (cf. Figure 10), some trends stood out:
- 62,5% of brands see their adoption rate increase (the number of active users per customer),
- 75% of brands are experiencing a decrease or stagnation in the frequency of use (the number of sessions per active user),
- 44% of brands are experiencing a decline in user satisfaction (the average of new ratings on application stores).
Finally, the 4 Spanish brands benefit from the best evolution trends compared to the same period in 2019. This contributes to reinforce the good positioning of BBVA and CaixaBank among the most successful brands in terms of mobile application use.