Mobile wallet providers such as PayPal, Google and LevelUp already allow consumers to add funds by scanning a credit or debit card with a smartphone's camera. Banks can use similar technology to allow customers to open and fund new accounts from a mobile phone.

"Typing in credit card numbers in an online environment is merely a little bit irksome, but when we convert to a mobile environment it can become a true impediment to sales conversion," says Mary Monahan, executive vice president and research director for Javelin Strategy and Research.

Customers currently using a bank's mobile apps are attractive prospects for other mobile services, Monahan said during a Dec. 10 online presentation.

Banks have a growing target market for such services, with 116 million consumers owning smartphones and 80 million owning tablets, Monahan adds.

"In just four years, the smartphone has transformed our way of life," she says. "We are all walking around with little computers in our pockets, and all of those smartphones and tablets allow consumers to make advanced transactions."

Mobile banking users are attractive prospects for other services featuring mobile image scanning because they are generally younger and wealthier consumers. In many cases mobile consumers in the Gen Y age group of 18 to 34 also tend to be underbanked, Monahan says.

By 2025, Gen Y consumers will represent almost half of all personal income at an estimated $8.3 trillion, according to Javelin's research.

"These Gen Y consumers are particularly plugged-in [to new technology]," Monahan says.

Javelin has reported in the past that each Gen Y consumer costs about $50 less to support than other customers because they prefers self-service channels and prefer not to receive paper statements.

Still, 65% of bank customers prefer to open a new account in person at the bank or a branch, while about 19% prefer to do it online, Javelin reports.

Other channels of financial services are not going to fade away, so banks must establish programs that combine mobile with in-person services and convert customers to mobile over time, says Scott Carter, a speaker for the presentation and chief marketing officer at San Diego-based Mitek Systems Inc.

Mitek, which works with banks to establish mobile check deposit and other imaging services, sponsored the webinar.

Mitek's research indicates 51.9 million adults attempted to open credit card accounts last year, with 18% doing so online and only 3% through a mobile device.

Mobile scanning can eliminate the "cumbersome process" of data entry on a smartphone during an account application process because the phone's camera "acts as a keyboard" to facilitate the entry of data from driver's licenses and other forms, Carter says. The technology could then be used to scan another credit card to initiate a balance transfer, he says.

With such a process in place, banks can lure new customers but also attempt to bring back those who may have abandoned the application in the past, Carter says.

Imaging services help a bank "connect the dots" between the digital and physical worlds because a bank employee can come out from behind a desk or counter with a tablet or smartphone and show a potential customer a demo on how the mobile imaging process works, Monahan says.

"One in every five customers using mobile banking just started doing so in the last six months," Monahan says.

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