Supermarkets are a great example of advanced global commerce. The largest supermarket chains include factories, worldwide planning and development systems, logistic facilities and a network of shops offering an endless selection of products to the furthest corners of the world.
Imagine a consumer going to a local store with the intention to spend money on a desired set of food, beverages, home supplies, etc. Now, imagine something happening that causes … for some reason … the money to remain in the consumer’s pocket. Nothing gets purchased, and the consumer leaves the store with an empty shopping cart.
The banking industry faces this challenge every day, both when potential buyers walk into a branch, but more frequently when a potential consumer wants to make a purchase through digital channels.
From Groceries to Sushi: Digital Design Disconnects
Many years ago, I drastically changed my career field and started to work at a digital IT agency. Back then, our team believed that the most important thing was a stunning and trendy interface that met technical requirements. Therefore, the search for inspiration was the most important part of our work.
Everything was fine until one of our customers complained that, after redesign, sales through his site had decreased. Nobody understood how this was possible, since we made the client’s online site much more appealing with world-class design. We obviously missed something.
Thinking about this problem on my way home from work, I went into the supermarket to purchase yeast. Entering the store, I automatically went to the spice aisle, but to my surprise, I wasn’t able to find the yeast there. After a moment’s thought, I continued my search in other areas of the store to no avail. Asking a sales assistant also failed, since knowing the exact location of one of the 20,000 products obviously was no easy task.
In this situation, the large supermarket turned out to be useless due to the lack of intuitive goods navigation in the store. I felt angry about my helplessness in the situation because I knew that the store carried yeast, but I couldn’t buy it!
Suddenly, I realized that we were facing the same issue in the IT world. A user of our digital services may be interested in purchasing a product or service. He/she might be enthusiastic about the design, but couldn’t cope with obstacles on the way to the purchase. This is exactly what happened to our customer. A beautifully artistic design on the website actually disturbed users instead of encouraging them to place an order.
As time went on, I uncovered a long list of similar cases. For example, one time I decided to order sushi and went to the web page of a neighborhood restaurant that was highly recommended. In order to see the ingredients, I had to click twice on every dish that interested me. After 40 clicks and 20 minutes of wasted time, I had finally made my choice.
Ready to make my purchase, I realized that the site did not have a basket for orders. Instead, users had to remember specific names of different fish and rolls and call in the order. Rather than fight the process, I ordered dinner from another restaurant.
In both of these instances, I realized that the traditional approach of creating digital design did not work. Despite being new to the industry, I could not accept that the result of our work depended on the inspiration of the designer or the requirements of the technical system. I realized that our work should bring real benefits to the business, and this became a real challenge for my team.
The Power of Improving the ‘Search and Find’ Process
Imagine that I came to the grocery store and there was only one shelf with the one product I wanted on it. The purchase would be quick and pleasant. Unfortunately, in real life, we have a few thousand products and options in most buying decisions, among which you need to find the one that meets your needs.
The critical aspect is in the “search and find” activity. In general, the search activity is the basic mechanism ensuring the evolutionary survival of mankind and other living beings. At the dawn of humanity, those who knew how to search for food, shelter and a partner for procreation had the best chance of survival.
Ironically, the relevance of this principle has grown significantly since over time. The amount of information around us is increasing at warp speed, but there are still more questions than answers to be found. Throughout life, we need to look for work, customers, ideas, employees, like-minded people, the right products and many other things. There is a clear match between success and a good search with analytical skills.
In fact, many of our achievements are due to the fact that, at the right time, we were able to find something faster and more efficiently than others. The more easily we can find effective solutions and opportunities in a modern society, the higher are our chances of success.
Any search process involves several stages, and is essentially cyclical. A person finds options, chooses criteria for comparison and constantly narrows the field of choice, until he/she stops at the optimal solution at a specific point in time.
Improving the Search Process in Banking
The key element that we need to consider is the user’s search behavior. Manufacturers of goods can create spectacular packaging design, formulate stunning descriptions of advantages and provide high-quality product, but if I cannot find the goods in the store, it’s all useless. The same applies to digital financial services.
Many managers think that if a customer really needs a specific product or service, he/she will find a way to buy it. Perhaps this works in the absence of an alternative option, but there is always a way to find alternatives. So, it is important for us to understand the behaviors and needs of our potential customers.
In a supermarket, since just about every basket of purchases includes milk and bread, these goods are usually in the far opposite corners of the store, forcing buyers to move around the store and increase their likelihood of buying other products.
Similarly, in the world of digital financial design, if a visitor comes to your site to find a loan, do not make him search your entire ‘store’ for what is desired. Show him credit products, offer a calculator for quick evaluation of opportunities and an online form for a remote application. Make his search for a solution instantaneous and extremely simple.
Improving the User Experience (UX)
Realizing the need for a scientific, client-oriented approach to design-effective digital services, I found that there already exists a methodology that combines psychology and technology – UX design. The main element of this methodology is the targeted alignment of positive experience with the technological system. In other words, this is a way to make the customers’ search process fast, pleasant and convenient with the help of digital services.
For several years, my team studied over 1,000 articles and books on UX and usability. We found hundreds of case studies and conversion rate optimizations. Most importantly, we conducted our own experiments and collected data on the basis of dozens of client projects.
We found that search activity is the most important but not the only element of an effective digital solution. It is important to take into account search behavior with keeping the right balance among functionality, simplicity and user-centricity.
If you make search too simple, it will lack useful features. This is like Google yielding only one search result or Forbes only one key article. On the other hand, if your solution becomes over-featured, it will lack usability. Thus, for the design of an effective digital solution, a balance between the interests of the user and of the business is needed.
We must also take into account that the design of financial services is not limited to the interface; this is just the top of the iceberg. Interaction with the service occurs at different levels. At the bottom stands the core of the system. Its automated algorithms perform query processing and information exchange. Therefore, to digitize the financial institution with a thoughtful and appealing interface is not enough; the development must capture all levels. After all, a user-centric service is created at all levels.
Unfortunately, there is no ideal digital solution. In practice, the presence of errors does not exclude the effectiveness of the solution nor does it guarantee complete absence of errors. Rather, there are important factors that can influence the effectiveness of the service, such as patterns of user behavior, perception, decision-making psychology, cognitive biases, motivations and user needs.
Efficiency, Growth and Soul
How would you formulate the meaning of the phrase, “effective digital service?” The way you see the essence of a service depends upon the approach you take to create it and the criteria for evaluating the results. We posed this question to many people, and below we identify the most popular answers.
Let’s imagine that, based on these options, we are trying to create a perfect service and not worry about the details.
- The first option is interface design and appeal. In this case, we will try to create something spectacular, attractive and memorable, a feast for the eyes. But will it help our users?
- The second option is functionality. Then we must create the most technologically advanced service – artificial intelligence worth billions of dollars that is capable of providing any functionality on demand. But will it help to develop our business?
- And finally, the information (in this case, our service) should be a real encyclopedia, with tons of text written by the most intelligent people on the planet. But will it be simple and clear enough for our customers?
As you have noticed, in each case, the definition of the best service is reduced to its attributes. And here a fundamental mistake occurs. We are missing something that is beyond our attention. The essence of the service is determined through its purpose. All services are created for something, and if we talk about organizations, then the primary task of any service is to help the organization achieve its goals.
Of course, each organization has its own characteristics and goals and not necessarily financial ones. But there is something in common among all organizations. Any organization is in one of two states – growth or failure. Healthy organizations are always striving for survival, and therefore the main goal that all services are facing is to promote growth for their organizations.
So, in general, to create a successful service, we take into account the goals, features and strategy of the business, the behavior and needs of the user and the technological capabilities of the product and its features.
The business, the user and the product are the key elements on which the development of the digital financial service should be based. Those elements should be investigated on all levels. Based on the data obtained, the strategy of the digital service, its role in the company’s business processes and connection with the user’s search behavior is formulated.
To implement this formula and structure this process at all three levels, we recommend using the Design Thinking approach and UX design techniques.
Takeaways and the Fintech Secret
These are the keys to developing user-centered digital financial services:
- Define the criteria for the effectiveness of a digital product for your business: Ask yourself a few important questions. Why is your business developing a digital service? What business processes will it be connected with? How will it help realize the short-term and long-term goals of your business? How will it help to grow your business? Answers to these and similar questions will help you create a list of key performance indicators (KPIs) for evaluating the effectiveness of a digital product and its requirements.
- Identify the features of user search behavior: Study your users and find out their problems and needs. Build a customer journey map. How and where do your users look for a solution to their problem?
- Identify obstacles on a customer journey: Find the difficulties your potential customers face in searching for a solution to their problem. Analyze all potential scenarios. Uncover all possible pain points and determine the weight of each of them. It is important to understand the degree of influence of each obstacle of the client’s behaviour. What can force them to abandon your or a similar service, and what will cause only slight discontent?
- Identify opportunities to remove barriers and meet user needs: Your product should, in every way, help the client in their search for a solution to the problem, and not interfere with it. Therefore, determine how your product can help eliminate the identified obstacles and turn pain points into “wow” points. Identify the most important user needs within the investigated problem, and design the way they are ultimately satisfied with your service according to your business model─in a fast and incredibly simple way.
- Develop a strategy and architecture for a digital product that balances business requirements, user needs and technological capabilities: Do not forget to coordinate the strategy of a customer-oriented digital service with the interests and goals of the business. Define the goals and objectives of the business, as well as the needs and behavior of its users for each phase of the user’s journey. Next, based on this, develop the best configuration of functions and the information architecture of the product.
Basically, this is the secret of the success of popular fintech services. They choose a thoughtful and clearly focused business model based on solving actual user problems. Then they make the service simple and clear … making it easier for consumers to find and select a solution. It is very important that, instead of trying to offer everything and doing so immediately, you focus instead on the key needs of your users, bringing their satisfaction to an ideal level.
Bottom line, the main goal of a good financial service is to improve people’s lives in exchange for business growth and the potential for development.