This is the second year that Forrester has evaluated the mobile banking services in China, and we’ve just published the results in our 2016 China Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark report. Compared with last year, we found that incumbent banks are close on the heels of top performer Alipay. Mobile banking teams can use these findings to benchmark their own mobile banking capabilities and identify areas for improvement.

To help mobile banking teams benchmark their mobile banking capabilities, identify critical mobile features, and plan for the future, we used our updated Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark methodology to evaluate the mobile banking services of six of the largest retail banks in China, including five traditional banks — Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), Bank of China (BOC), China Construction Bank (CCB), China Merchants Bank (CMB), and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) — and one nontraditional bank: Alipay.

The Chinese mobile banking services we reviewed achieved an average score of 59 out of 100, an improvement over last year's 55. Leading traditional banks like CMB and ICBC have made many improvements over the past year and narrowed the gap with leader Alipay. Overall, we found that:

  • Alipay holds a slim lead.With an overall score of 66, Alipay, the only nontraditional bank in our review, outperformed the five traditional banks again this year — although it’s now just 1 point ahead of runners-up CMB and ICBC. Alipay again scored highest in three of the seven categories in our benchmark: account and money management, service features, and marketing and sales. Alipay hasn’t added many new mobile banking features over the past year, but still excels with unique mobile features that none of the major traditional banks provide. For example, it lets customers manually categorize spending and makes financial recommendations based on customers’ context.
  • CMB and ICBC are close runner-ups.These two banks shared the second highest score of 65, just behind Alipay. They both launched significant upgrades to their mobile banking apps this year and stood out with impressive mobile banking capabilities. The banks achieved the highest scores in transactional features and both support a wide range of mobile touchpoints. ICBC scored highest in cross-channel, while CMB did well in account and money management. Both banks provide some mobile features that their competitors don’t: CMB is the only bank with an effective mobile-optimized website on which customers can easily make transactions; ICBC is the only one that provides contextual help.
  • Most of the banks have room to improve, starting with service.Banks in China should continue to create better experiences for their customers in various ways and help them complete service tasks on mobile devices more conveniently. Areas that Chinese banks need to improve the most include adding search functionality and real-time and contextual help. They also need to improve in marketing and sales and in security and privacy content.

Forrester clients can read our full report here to see the detailed breakdowns of each individual bank’s overall score and where we think digital teams can further improve. Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments section.