A lesson from the
man in the moon
or
How people buy

I challenge you not to see the face.

I challenge you not to see the face.

THIS MUCH won’t surprise you: Younger generations continue hopping aboard person-to-person payment (P2P) apps faster than older ones. 

But maybe this will surprise you: Better than half of Boomers are onboard with P2P. Considering P2P’s relative newness and Boomers’ measured approach to sticking toes in new technological waters, I think it’s fair to call that record time.

The news comes from a study by Early Warning Services, the folks behind Zelle, the fast-growing P2P app looking to overtake Venmo this year. As reported by PR Newswire

Of those surveyed, more than seventy-five percent of Millennials have used online or mobile P2P payments. Generation X is a close second at sixty-nine percent, and Baby Boomers are closing in at fifty-one percent … Forty-nine percent of Millennials use P2P payment services at least once a week, followed by forty-two percent of Generation X and thirty-two percent of Boomers.

I take particular interest in the factor that most strongly influences each age group’s app choice. For Millennials and Gen Xers, it’s friends and family. For Boomers, it’s their bank. In other words, all age groups seem to follow the lead of a trusted individual or a trusted institution. Though not a shocking revelation on its face, underlying it is an important point about human nature that marketers overlook at their peril. 

Age-old human tendency

Technological evolution keeps accelerating at breakneck speed. Moore’s Law—that the number of transistors you can fit into an integrated circuit doubles about every two years—still holds largely true. With it comes exponential growth and increased speed in computational power. (To be fair, some argue that Moore’s Law must inevitably slow, and some believe it already has.)

Human psychology, by contrast, evolves at not quite a glacial pace. That’s why one part of our brain cannot unsee the face on the moon even though another part of our brain knows it’s not really a face. (Apologies to readers who didn’t know.) Another human tendency we hang on to despite a part of us that knows better is that of settling for a friend’s recommendation instead of doing sound homework. This is true even when the stakes are high, for instance, when we’re choosing a surgeon.

Likewise, we humans could take an in-depth look at an array of P2P apps and choose the one that best meets our requirements. But we don’t. We ask friends or an authority figure—like, say, a bank—for a recommendation. It’s an age-old facet of human nature that technology hasn’t changed it one whit.

Implications for marketing 

Acknowledging that people rely on friends for recommendations is pretty much a paraphrase of word-of-mouth is the best advertising. But the friends part is not to be overlooked. People seek advice only from people and institutions they trust. It goes without saying, then, that people don’t seek advice from people they don’t trust. That’s why Ronald Reagan’s ironic, oft-quoted “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” draws laughs to this day. 

Most people start out trusting their financial institution. Otherwise, they’d never have set foot inside or logged on in the first place. Since the relationship starts out with trust in place, the challenge becomes to avoid losing it, and, better yet, to maintain and grow it.

Sometimes all it takes to lose trust is a rude employee. Fortunately, most clients understand that with thousands of employees a wild card is bound to come up now and then. More damning would be management’s poor handling of a complaint. Even more damning would be the exposure of a practice bringing down government censure in a public forum. 

Riding herd on apps

While riding herd on thousands of customer-contact people has its limitations, riding herd on apps need have none. In today’s market there’s no excuse for offering digital banking apps that are anything short of well-branded, cutting-edge, up-to-date, reliable, and user-friendly. 

A bank without the resources to develop its own apps can draw upon a world of quality third-party resources. In choosing one, I recommend—besides peer recommendations—actually digging deep. The best resources will welcome your scrutiny and shine under its light.

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