TD Bank Is Planning To Add Context Awareness To Its Mobile App

FlybitsTDBank_2It’s nice to present a customer who has previously demonstrated a love for, say, ice cream with a coupon for a discounted cone. But it’s nicer if that offer comes on a hot day in proximity to an ice cream shop and if the payment is taken care of through a seamless integration with one’s banking app.

Context adds an extra layer of meaning, especially within a mobile experience, said Rizwan Khalfan, chief digital officer at TD Bank.

“Our goal is make our customers feel like our app has been constructed specifically to help them with their lives,” he said. “Rather than pushing out a generic coupon or a discount, we’re looking to ask the question: What do our customers need and what is their situation?”

The most common way to answer that question is with location.

“Because you’re always somewhere,” said Jerry Rudisin, CEO of Flybits, a Toronto-based company that bills itself as a “context-as-a-service” solution.

Flybits announced an exclusive partnership with the Canadian arm of TD Bank in September. TD is in the midst of integrating Flybits into the Canadian version of its app, which has around 2.8 million monthly actives, with a planned rollout in the first quarter of 2016. The rest of North America is slated to follow.

“We think of their platforms almost like a companion app to our own that allows us to deliver more personalized experiences,” Khalfan said.

The Flybits SDK pulls in a variety of different data points to help an app become context aware, including social feeds, sensor data, language settings, health data, personas and, most popularly, location through geofencing. A person’s location plus what he or she is doing at any given moment inform how a brand decides to engage.

Brands can choose from a library of prebuilt plugins designed to pull in contextual information, or they can develop their own depending on the desired use case. From there, the brand sets up business rules that trigger the delivery of specific information or content based on a user’s where and what.

Although TD is still in test mode, Khalfan envisions a mix of use cases, some of which go beyond what one might usually think of as a banking experience.

“Say I’m going to watch a baseball game with my family,” Khalfan said. “As I approach to ballpark, I get a notification from the TD Bank app with information about the game, stats, directions that guide me to my seat, and then, as we watch the game, I order food and drink and it’s paid for right through the app. We want to walk the boundary between traditional banking interactions and customers just living their lives.”

The question of whether consumers actually want to receive baseball scores from their banking app aside, the ballpark scenario relies heavily on location as an input to inform context. But there are other situations in which location doesn’t necessarily come into play, said Rudisin, noting another Flybits client working to develop an app that analyzes how well a person slept the previous night. To determine that, the app pulls in weather information and health data, even accessing the user’s calendar to see how busy the person’s day was.

Although privacy is a concern, especially with information as sensitive as health data or finances, as in the case of TD, Rudisin said Flybits uses anonymous tokens to make its connections so that none of the info filtered through its system can be tied back to a specific user.

Khalfan is also acutely aware of the need not to get carried away. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

“We want customers to feel empowered, for them to see that they’re getting value for sharing data,” Khalfan said. “The fundamental relationship we have with our customers is built on trust and we’re always trying to enhance that. If they feel like we’re compromising their privacy in any way, then it just doesn’t work.”

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