AT&T customers who bank with SunTrust no longer need to worry about using their data while accessing mobile banking. Starting in October, the bank now covers most data usage charges associated with client app use, making it the first of 18 firms in the Bank Monitor coverage group to sponsor its customers’ data when they use its mobile app. Yet the firm has barely notified its customers of the innovative feature, aside from announcing it in a press release.
AT&T’s Sponsored Data program allows content providers to pay for specific types of data usage in their apps, such as embedded videos or downloadable forms. In particular, the program was designed with promotional content in mind since users might be reluctant to waste data to play a video advertisement. While the telecommunications provider does not disclose which companies participate in the program, expecting them to notify users of sponsored content, SunTrust is likely one of the few to sponsor all data from its mobile app as a service to its customers.
Offering a unique mobile app is one way banks can set themselves apart, particularly when it comes to attracting Millennials, who are more likely to use mobile banking than desktop platforms. Many banks do so by offering innovative features that go beyond standard capabilities, such as debit card controls or pre-login balance information. Additionally, some banks target mobile-first customers by emulating the design of mobile apps on desktop platforms.
Despite employing a straightforward and easily navigable design, SunTrust’s mobile app is neither feature-rich nor all that innovative; it fails to offer P2P and external transfer capabilities provided by most banks covered in our July 2017 Bank Monitor Report on mobile app experiences and lacks most of the debit card controls that set some of the best apps apart. By providing these convenient features to their customers on the go, other firms save them time and—theoretically—money.
Recognizing the need for a unique feature to improve its mobile app, SunTrust added one that saves its customers’ money, one byte at a time. While a banking app is unlikely to drain one’s monthly data, data sponsorship removes a potential pain point that other firms have yet to acknowledge. Not only does this new feature reflect that SunTrust is aware of the growing importance of mobile banking, it better positions the firm to compete in a market that will only get more competitive in the future.