Mobile first in receivables finance

Editorial Board Member, Daniel Huszár, Head of Sales, Efcom, speaks about how mobile developments are changing receivable finance industry

The Internet has changed a lot within the last few years. According to a study by StatCounter, November 2016 became the turning point when mobile Internet usage exceeded desktops. We used to go online on a designated desktop computer, connecting manually. Today, things are very different: there is no distinction between being off- and online. Interaction with the Web has become a seamless experience, made possible by mobile devices, making it an integral part of our daily life.

These developments have serious effects on how applications or web-portals should be designed to stay user-friendly and by this, relevant:

  • Customer-facing technology needs to be simple and intuitive. Handheld devices offer communication, entertainment, shopping and financial applications all in one. It is the norm to be able to transact business online from the palm of your hand.
  • The screen of a smartphone or tablet is comparably small to desktop monitors, therefore the most important information needs to be visible with minimal interaction.
  • What does this mean for receivables finance?

    The following three main customer-facing cases can be used for receivable finance:

     1. Dashboards (factor, client etc.)   

     2. Reporting (e.g. detailing the dashboard totals)

     3. Communication (sending limit requests, uploading invoices, requiring finance etc.)

    Typical use cases on the mobile side have been dashboards includingdata visualisation. Desktop applications feature more complex tasks, like detailed reports and cherry-picking invoices for immediate financing.  Of course, corporate customers will use a portal differently than SMEs or customers from the micro segment. It is unlikely that, e.g. a corporate employee will start uploading invoices via smartphone, while a dashboard is probably used by any customer, irrespective of the business size. However, with the dominance of mobile applications, customers won’t be bothered whether a web-portal is accessed via tablet or desktop PC, rather the experience must be intuitive, seamless and consistent.   

    In conclusion, when creating such an application or web-portal, there is a problem of conflicting design philosophies: complexity (desktop) vs. simplicity (mobile).   

    The mobile experience – combining old and new

    Looking at various online banking portals it seems that simple and intuitive design wasn’t intended. There are many buttons to click and portfolios to manage, when really all one wants is to check their balance and perhaps wire money. Occasionally, the banking app is more streamlined than the portal, other times not.

    This is a sizable missed opportunity, because applications have become the main window for the customer to our services - the face of the company.

    The design principles to improve the user experience are nothing new. Some of them were around as early as in the DOS era of computing. In the past, the only input medium was the keyboard. Trained knowledge workers could perform tasks with these systems at blazing speed, because every window was hierarchically tailored to the goals the user wanted to accomplish.

    Please, don't understand me wrong for wanting to return to these old ways. In an interconnected world these interfaces would seem quite out of place. Instead, we should adopt some of these old design principles and create something new, combining the best of both worlds.


    Designing a dashboard – asking the right questions

    If we would design a dashboard for a factoring portal, there are a few important questions to ask:

     1. Who will use this?

     2. What is its purpose?

     3. What is the most important piece of information? What is the second, third, etc?

     4. How many clicks will it take to get there?

    First, the customer would probably look at how much money will be paid out. Therefore, this information needs to be accessible right from the start, without clicking or interacting with the portal at all. Less important pieces of information can be placed hierarchically lower (smaller, or literally more at the bottom of a website). This adds to the convenience because the (small smartphone) screen displays exactly the information that is most commonly queried.

    Of course, reduced complexity can be a big disadvantage as well, lacking options to interact, being fixed to passive consumption. This is why I advocate a hybrid model: a streamlined portal that looks similar regardless of the device used to access it, but has less options to interact on mobile than on a desktop. The easiest example of these “hidden interaction features” are the “read more” buttons on a blog article. If the headline provides enough information, it can be skimmed over. If I want to dive deeper, I can read the whole article by clicking.

    Using fundamental design principles for trade finance applications can bring a lot of added value to our customers. People have become more impatient than ever when interacting with an application and if the desired outcome takes too long to achieve, they will go elsewhere – and rightfully so. With margins getting smaller and smaller, we need to find the right strategies - the most effective ones - other than reducing the price of our services.