Erste Bank was established in Croatia in the year 2000. We spoke with Igor Strejček, Head of Direct Channels Division, about the impact PhotoPay had on their customer experience and overall business.

According to Mr. Strejček, throughout the years Erste has aimed to develop a digital strategy based on the latest technological achievements and a strong focus on the customers' needs, so it comes as no surprise that they were the first to implement PhotoPay into their mobile banking app. 

In 2005, Erste Bank launched the mBanking project.
“The project was backed up by thorough market analysis and a big advertising campaign. Our expectations were big. However, the boom didn't quite happen. We were unpleasantly surprised", said Mr. Strejček, "because we realized we didn't help the customers in a way we hoped we would. The procedure and the way our on-the-go banking service was used was not optimized for small mobile screens."

Second time’s the charm

Around 2010 there was already some hype around mobile banking, but it wasn't backed up by great usage numbers. In many markets across the world, its introduction was lagging because the majority of the population was still heavily relying on either paper bill transactions, over-the-counter services, or even computer-based Internet banking. Mr. Strejček and his team were on the quest to find new ways to deliver significant value to their customers. Having researched new solutions on the market for mobile platforms, they decided to rebuild the mBanking app.

The project was a collaboration between three companies: Erste Bank as the client, Infinum as the mobile app developer, and Microblink as the mobile OCR technology provider.

erste bank microblink photopay

The scan-to-pay revolution

PhotoPay, a mobile SDK (software development kit) for fast and accurate scanning and recognition of paper utility bills helped improve the transaction process in a twofold aspect.

Its main benefits are increased usability and saved time by replacing manual data input with an incredibly intuitive, simple, and fast action. Instead of having to transcribe payment data by hand (or keyboard), the users could make any payment in a matter of seconds by simply pointing the camera of their mobile phone to the payment slip.

Besides its ease, the other major feature of PhotoPay was that it wasn’t an attempt to change the system from scratch. In Croatia, most transactions were still done via paper bills and slips. Complete elimination of physical paper from transactions would have been too big of a bite for the users and the whole system to chew on. Scanning of paper bills was trivial and it did not require users to completely give up the way they were used to make payments.

After the launch in 2011, the app was very well-received by the users and got many positive reviews on the app stores and across social media. "Adding payment slip scanning was a great UX improvement and it brought a lot of value to our users. The number of mBanking transactions has doubled in the first two years after PhotoPay integration, and in the year 2017 only, the number of users grew more than 30% compared to previous year," said Mr. Strejcek.

erste bank microblink photopay

Let’s talk numbers

The initial version of the app from 2005 had quite a low usability. This was not necessarily reflected in the number of mBanking users because there was approximately 15 000 of them, but a surprisingly low number of yearly transactions, only 1600. To put it in better perspective: in the overall number of transactions, only 0.45% were mobile, and out of all customers, only 4.6% made mobile transactions.
After PhotoPay integration, within three years the number of mBanking users went up by 160% - from 15k to 40k. More importantly, the number of mobile transactions jumped from 1600 to 160 000 in a year, which is an astounding increase of 100 times! The numbers have continued to grow: in 2014, the app reached 55 000 users and 375 000 yearly transactions.
As a result of such a rise in app usage, their share price went up from 0.45% to 13.54%, while their compound annual rate was more than 360%.

Nothing succeeds like success

The quest to upgrade the user experience in mBanking did not stop with payment slip scanning. Encouraged by the initial success of the app, the team in Erste explored how to make mBanking useful for an even greater number of its customers.
In November 2015, a new addition to PhotoPay was introduced: field-by-field scanning. The users could now get not only instant data from standardized payment slips, but also from various types of invoices. “This has proved to be very useful for legal entities that operate with payment data in various formats, which was often complicated to type in”, said Mr. Strejček.

Erste mBanking app screen with partial scan to pay

After the introduction of mBanking for corporate clients featuring field-by-field scanning, the number of mobile transactions grew by 144%. In the year 2017, their share in the total number of transactions grew by 120%, and the overall number of users grew 31%.

Strejček commented on these statistics: “We have been collaborating with Microblink from their very beginnings and are highly satisfied with the cooperation. The success of the Erste mBanking app has continuously been supported by ever-growing numbers over the recent years”.

Erste&Steiermärkische Bank d.d is a part of the Erste Group, one of the biggest financial suppliers for Middle and East Europe. This is not our only collaboration with Erste Bank - we have also collaborated with Erste Group on multiple markets: our technology is part of the GeorgeGo app (IBAN scanning SDK for faster money transfers) in Austria, as well as Erste and Sparkasse mBanking apps in Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The amazing success of using mobile OCR in mBanking apps can easily be replicated in many other industries where manual data entry is required. All Microblink’s products are easily integrated into existing mobile apps without much development effort and completely customized to be invisible to the end user.
To learn how mobile OCR can help your business and improve the experience for your customers, try out PhotoPay and other Microblink products for free. Get in touch if you want to have a chat about your use case.