One of the biggest challenges facing bank and credit union marketers today is how to create a digital experience that opens communication with consumers while providing the tools and services they need. Mastering the right online presence can unlock many other opportunities for your financial institution: drawing and identifying new prospects, powering data-driven marketing, effectively cross selling and more.
There is no question that your website is the foundation of your digital delivery channel. It is often the first and most frequent point of contact that an institution will have with consumers. Marketers must ensure that they have a relevant and effective website before doing anything else. Three essential ingredients make up the core of a solid financial website.
1. Modern Technology
A lot of attention is being directed to mobile apps, and deservedly so. However, financial marketers must have an equally solid strategy for their mobile web presence. There is a looming debate over committing to a native app or a mobile website or both, and to what extent a mobile site may or may not be linked to the traditional website. While Google supports three smartphone-optimized site configurations — each of which carry major considerations for financial institutions — responsive web design is recommended by Google to be the new standard, and that matters.
With responsive web design, a single set of URLs gives financial institutions the option to condense or modify content, and it fundamentally delivers consistency throughout the experience with content that adapts itself to any type of device. Banks also gain accurate data from all browsers and devices – reaching consumers with the same messages and opportunities regardless of how they are getting there. The result is achieving a true unified delivery. It is important to note that being “responsive” does not preclude an institution from having separate content between devices or set rules and parameters. In fact, many banks and credit unions are delivering targeted campaigns based on demographics, device or even location on a responsive design platform.
Modern web standards are not just about leveraging HTML5 and CSS; this is already common practice. Bankers need to use them effectively and cleanly. Fast-loading websites have always been important, but as users embrace mobile it has resurfaced as a heightened demand. Websites made to load in three seconds on desktop will take up to eight seconds on a smartphone, which is a millennium to a Millennial consumer. Mobile users demand more immediacy to the content they want in faster than ever times, making web performance critical.
Arguably, the most important benefit of responsive web design for financial marketers is search engine optimization and compliance. Website visibility and presence is the strongest when content is mirrored from traditional to mobile because it enables Google to rank the site more effectively and accurately in organic searches. Additionally, the FFIEC Authentication Guidance Supplement for online banking requirements calls for simplifying banks’ means to report on changes, updates and communications to any website over time. Responsive web design is logistically the best option for banks to respond to this standard.
2. Focused Messaging
Users should have a seamless experience across devices, whether on desktop or mobile. Not only does responsive web design improve the user experience, but it also improves the bank’s ability to better market to its customers.
Responsive web design is not just about making a website work on multiple display sizes. When done well, a responsive website will make sure that messages — the mobile engagement platform — become front and center, ensuring the bank’s customers see what is important at a glance. When planning your content, remember that consumer preferences are trending for simplistic marketing messages over those that are more in-depth. Keep advertisements and content brief – the shorter a statement the more it says.
A clear advertisement should make the intent of the desired result clear. Focused content will always lead into an action based on what the advertisement is offering. For example, do not just say, “Check Out Our New Mobile App!” with a link to a page that has a wall of text. Instead, lead the user to a page with short informational descriptions about key product features and relevant photos showing what is being discussed. Then, make clear a tangible call to action, and lead the user into making a decision.
3. Driven Engagement
From advertisements and educational content to balances, all website material should engage the customer by providing ways to actively bank, communicate and collect information easily — Apply Online, Open an Account, and Select a Product are a few examples. The convenience of self-service channels has removed the in-person contact that used to differentiate financial institutions. As a result, e-channels need to focus on fostering two-way communication. Your web presence must tell you who your customers are, what services they need, what they are going to need and how they can respond.
Non-bank competitors are already infringing on this space. Banks and credit unions need to make a plan immediately to drive engagement. They must ensure customers not only have the means to transact with them remotely, but also provide feedback, ask questions and just shop around for products they may need. Then, predictive analytics can help to ensure that you are considered when new banking opportunities arise.
Consumers have hundreds of choices to make when it comes to their mobile preferences. A variety of carriers offer around 40 smartphones and even more tablet choices. And, they don’t choose just one; the average American has 2.7 devices. This means a bank’s digital presence needs to have hundreds of different shapes and sizes that all easily flow together. The demands will continue to grow with the constant proliferation of devices, wearables and more. The good news is that bank and credit union marketers who stay focused on the big picture – keeping your technology modern, your messaging focused and driving engagement – will be poised for success in all of their digital marketing endeavors.
Wade Arnold is the managing director of Banno, ProfitStars. Together, Arnold and ProfitStars have launched and support more than 1,500 bank and credit union websites, some of which have been featured in The Financial Brand’s lists of the Most Spectacular Website Designs in Banking.