Have you ever visited a website and felt disconnected to a familiar brand, or wondered if you were even on the right website? A visitor’s website experience should be similar to a visit to one of your credit union or bank branches. The personal, unique branded experience and messaging should be consistent throughout all your delivery channels, especially your website. Here are some key strategic steps to assist you in delivering a consistent experience when designing a new site for your institution.
1. Define key strategies based on your mission, brand and organizational attributes.
Start with your organization’s “Why.” Simply stated by Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” What is your financial institution’s “why”? In other words: what is your institution’s mission, brand promise and brand attributes? The answers uniquely define your organization from competitors and convey how consumers view your services. The answers will help you strategize a website that positions you competitively in your market area and distinctively caters to your target audience. You’ll then begin to articulate a vision that creates a brand road map for your website to drive your visitors’ experience, and ultimately translate into results for your organization.
2. Define your high-level navigation to reflect your vision and brand.
What institutional goals can your website support? What does your organization want to accomplish with your new website? What are your visitors saying about your current site that you can improve upon? Your vision should be easily scalable so that as your organization grows, so can your website. You don’t want to lock yourself into a site architecture and design that cannot easily accommodate new products and services in an intuitive manner. Your site architecture should be reflective of these goals and needs, be very easy to navigate to offer an efficient user experience, and scalable to grow with your institution over time.
3. Make your site intuitive and easier to use.
Creating an intuitive site navigation structure will encourage visitors to explore other pages and features on your site. As bank and credit union marketers, we know most people go to our home page to access online banking and leave the site when they are done. Effective sites use mega menus to drive visitors to deeper tier levels. Incorporating robust onsite search functionality is also key. Be sure the search function can accurately pull keywords and is “trainable” because consumers may call different products by different names. For example, do you have children’s accounts or kids’ accounts? If you have third-party vendors that provide additional services on your site, you should also consider a search feature that will search and index these sites for key content as well.
4. Focus on wire-framing before you design.
Finding an expert to translate your vision into a wireframe before you begin design, will allow you to create a website that delivers your brand while remaining relevant to your target market. At Truliant Federal Credit Union, we wireframed the site navigation experience, as well as key user paths and interactions. The site navigation approach should provide easy access to your most popular pages, be intuitive throughout and encourage more in-depth visits. Additionally, every page should have digestible content areas and a clear call to action. Organize other page elements in a consistent, uncluttered manner.
5. Build in additional relevance through targeted personalization.
Gone are the days of one size fits all. Your overall design should appeal to your main target audience, but as strategic marketers, we know the magic is in further targeting based on understanding and matching the needs of our visitors to ultimately achieve a target of one. Toward this end, consider choosing a Content Management System (CMS) that offers robust personalization based on complex logic to provide hyper-relative content to specific visitors or visitor segments at the right time. With strategic persona planning and technical setup of personalization functionality in the CMS, you can target messages to consumers based on criteria such as their geo IP address. Did you build a new branch where the visitor lives? Wouldn’t it be nice to present this information upon this person’s initial visit? Will your new CMS enable you to target messages to match a Google search or visitors’ previous interaction on your site? The more relevant your messages, the more needs you’ll uncover, match and fulfill.
6. Choose features and functionality that align with your goals.
Technology changes quicker than most financial institutions can keep up with, but consumer demand drives us to deliver. Keep this in mind because most financial institutions’ websites take at least 8 months to build, especially if you are using more strategic services like wire-framing, copywriting, custom development and more. Due to this speed of changing technology, be sure that you are building your site with the most advanced code, infrastructure and functionality. Today, responsive design is a must because consumers want instant access to full information on all of their devices. Be it Web TV, PC, tablet or mobile, your visitors must be able to easily access all information for your site or you could lose them to the competition.
An intuitive, high-functioning CMS is also a must if you will be updating and managing your website. Furthermore, it’s helpful to look at other institution’s websites to determine what new functionality could nicely align with your brand. Don’t forget to look at other industries for inspiration, such as Amazon and other online leaders. Be creative and innovative: what features could make consumer visits more meaningful and relevant? What services do you provide in your branches and how can they translate to your new website? If you can envision it, an innovative and experienced web development agency can probably code it.
7. Design a visually striking website that appeals to your target audience.
Your brand guide should guide your website design. If you don’t have a brand guide, consider investing in one to ensure your brand has a consistent look and feel that aligns well with your mission and delivers your brand promise. If you don’t have a strong brand or if your brand needs to be refreshed for better market positioning, consider conducting a robust external and internal assessment of your organization’s brand foundation, messaging and competitive position. This information can then be used to create a brand architecture and a visual look and feel for your new website. Why spend a lot of money creating a new website if you cannot align it with an already strong brand design and voice?
8. Include feedback features so visitors can share opinions about your products and services.
Consumers love to have a voice. They want to share what they love and tell you what they don’t like. They also use others’ opinions to assist in their decision-making. This can be scary for a financial institution, but consider this a great way to create a buzz when you have a great product, and a way to easily gather information to make improvements. History has shown that great brands listen to their customers and act on their feedback, creating stronger brand loyalty. For websites, this means features like online chat, interactive forms, product rating tools, social media and more.
9. Build your analytics to measure the success of your strategy.
The key to knowing if your site is successful is setting up analytic measurements that align with your institution’s overall goals and track consumers’ page visits and navigation. You’ll also want to tie in website promotional banners, as well as online and social media marketing efforts to your website tracking to determine if they are driving traffic through and to your site, and ultimately converting visitors to customers or members. If you have third-party fulfilment for loans and online account opening, be sure to have your analytics tracking extended to these vendor pages so you can measure results beyond a click on a link. You’ll want to measure each step of the process, through loan funding or account opening.
Once your analytics are set up properly, you can determine if your strategic site met your objectives. Of course, great marketers do not rest on their laurels; good analytics will empower you to enhance your strategies and online marketing efforts to more effectively address your organization’s “why” while supporting your short- and long-range business plan goals.