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The Digital Frontier: Have we left seniors behind?


While Millennials and Generation X may be incorporating the latest banking technology into daily life without a hitch, this has not been the case for many seniors. In a recent Federal Reserve study, only 18 percent of seniors currently choose to use mobile banking services, versus a reported 67 percent of millennials.  While every other age segment is online in large numbers, seniors are the last adopters in internet banking. Why might this be? Pew Research suggests that one in three users don’t see a worthwhile benefit to using the technology. The research also finds that digital adoption is too overwhelming, the challenge akin to learning a new language after a lifetime of speaking only English.

While some statistics may convey that seniors lag behind in accepting the latest technology, some responsibility lies with the industry, who seem to have overlooked engaging seniors in their mobile push of the last few years. When it comes to creating digital banking products, banks can often equate digital products with millennials, leaving the preferences of an older population behind.

There certainly are challenges to servicing a senior population. For starters, it can be a challenge to reach them digitally, because if they have never signed up for digital banking, it’s unlikely the bank has an email address for them.  But the age-group represent a large, under-serviced demographic that could add up to a major opportunity for many banks. To close the gap in this digital divide, banks need to consider the ways to make digital banking more inviting for seniors.

Design with seniors in mind

Seniors find websites 43% harder to navigate than younger or middle-aged typical customers, according to a study by Nielsen Norman. Designing interfaces that accommodate impaired vision with a larger font size and text style would encourage seniors to use online services.

Provide easy-to-use Communication

Banks can make mobile banking more senior-friendly by embedding easy-to-use communication features in their websites and mobile banking applications, such as click-to-call buttons. As more users migrate from branch visits to mobile banking services, they will need a familiar and easy way to reach customer service. A click-to-call service is an easy-to-use and senior-friendly feature that could help older users feel more connected to their virtual banking services.

Training: Give them a nudge in the right direction

There’s a lot to take in on many mobile banking apps and online banking sites. If you aren’t a regular user, it can be hard to find what you’re looking for, regardless of your age. Industry observers say older people want digital services but are fearful of using them. Teaching them how to use tools could help quell a lot of fears.

Capital One Bank offers digital tutorials. The financial institution teamed up with Older Adults Technology, a non-profit that supports older adults in using technology, to produce a video educational series that shows seniors how to deposit cheques on mobile devices, set up automatic bill payment, and other routine tasks.

Banks can consider using in-branch visits to provide one-on-one tutorials for seniors. Once they are familiar with the basics of digital banking, advisors could encourage them to use features like video-conferencing and co-browsing to reach them for specific questions.

Create Age-Sensitive Products

Older Americans own 67% of U.S. bank deposits and are losing at least $3 billion per year to financial exploitation. Banks could play a role in protecting seniors from fraud by using technology that tracks the investing behavior and the unique habits of an account holder. The software would flag sudden insufficient funds, overdraft fees or activity in previously inactive accounts. Such an initiative could give seniors a sense of control and ownership of their finances, as well as the confidence that they can look out for themselves financially.

In the end, many of the things that improve the digital banking customer experience for seniors will also improve the experience for millennials and Generation Z. Making your site intuitive, easy to use, with a straightforward visual interface is about making things simple – something everyone wants.