As consumer preferences shift, billers must have the resources to deal with the growing demand to pay bills on a mobile device, according to a recent study by the technology vendor Fiserv.

More than one in four visits to biller sites from mobile devices come from customers who are trying to make payments, "making it the top mobile activity" in the financial payments market, Fiserv says in its Second Annual Biller Mobile Bill Pay Benchmark Study.

"Our research indicates explosive growth of mobile bill payments," says Robert Craig, Fiserv's senior vice president of biller solutions, in a March 4 press release. "Billers have an opportunity to take advantage of this change by offering a consistent, simple and innovative user experience, which can improve customer satisfaction and lower service costs."

Fiserv found mobile bill payment usage doubled in the past year, reaching 16 million households in 2013. At 57%, more than half of online households owned a smartphone, showing this "mobile mind shift" is set to spark higher demand from payments providers.

Billers and customers are both going through a learning curve. Up to 77% of billers struggle to meet consumer demand for mobile payments and face mobile channel technology challenges. However, only 12% of billers have deployed a mobile bill presentment and payment (MBPP) strategy; and only 24% have surveyed their customers about their preferred mobile services and are in the deployment stage.

Up to 69% of billers have a better understanding of the overall value of deploying MBPP and expect it will lead to cost savings from adoption of e-bills and e-statements, a 92% increase compared to the respondents in 2012.

The percentage of "billers that see the development of a mobile channel as adding complexity, cost and challenges," decreased from 50% in 2012 to 34% in 2014, the Brookfield, Wis.-based vendor says.

Today 90% see the development of their mobile channel as a means to improving and increasing customer service, up 36% compared to sentiment expressed in 2012.

This year 65% more billers say "mobile bill payment adoption will lead to significant increases in electronic bill presentment and payment," according to the study. Billing organizations rank mobile service options "as the highest priority followed by service alerts and customer self-service," the study says.

But understanding consumers still is one of the biggest challenges for billers. The survey found 64% of billers do not track or do not know if their company tracks whether homepage visits are coming from a mobile device or traditional laptops and PCs. Plus, nearly one third of billers surveyed do not know "what customers are doing when visiting their site from a mobile device," Fiserv says.

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