Digital banking has not replaced in-person banking, but clearly has become far more important for financial institutions. But is the typical effort up to this new expanded role?
Think about a consumer’s experience when they visit a branch. In the best cases they enter a secure facility, are offered assistance from a service representative and guided through the process they came to complete.
How does this compare to a consumer’s experience when they come to your bank or credit union’s website? Do they feel comparably safe, supported and empowered? These are fairly simple requirements, but not often fully attained.
Optimizing the consumer digital experience impacts nearly all aspects of an institution’s website, from usability and accessibility to security to positioning. By implementing some or all of the suggestions in the following “do’s and don’ts,” banks and credit unions can deliver an effective consumer experience online and deliver beneficial business results.
1. Don’t Overlook the Importance of Your Website’s Design
Many factors contribute to a consumer’s sense of security on your institution’s website. Most immediately, the design will influence the way they feel, including how comfortable and confident they are in your brand and services. This can be impacted by how modern and mobile-friendly your website is, as well as it’s consistency with your overall brand — so it’s important to keep your site’s image fresh and stay current with trends on all platforms.
Perhaps less noticeable but even more important, a bank or credit union’s website should have built-in indicators of security. These include bot-detecting features on forms, compliance symbols and content commonly found in the footer, as well as an SSL certificate to confirm that transmitted data is encrypted.
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2. Create Cross-Channel Consistency
Many banks and credit unions offer certain services, such as investments, only at specific branches. But what if common services, like withdrawing money and making a deposit, were only available at select locations? Clearly this would be both confusing and frustrating for customers. The same would be the case if your website only offered access to certain features or services on some devices and not on others.
While responsive design may be mainstream, simply reconfiguring web pages to a small screen size is not enough. Websites must be designed with a truly mobile-first approach to ensure that all features and functionality are not only available, but user-friendly, from desktop to mobile to tablet.
This may require some creative strategies and techniques to optimize for mouse clicking versus finger tapping, but will ultimately create confidence in your brand.
Search engines have been indexing just the mobile version of sites for some time now, so providing a rich mobile experience can not only help your user experience but also your organic search strategy.
3. Don’t Assume Consumers Know What They Need
While financial products and services may seem straightforward to those in the industry, the average consumer doesn’t always understand them. They may not know that a CD can help them save reliably for the long-term, for example.
In person or on the phone, service reps can determine what a consumer wants and provide relevant recommendations. Your website needs to provide the same consultative experience. Online, financial institutions can use action-oriented language or “I want to” statements to position specific solutions. Another option is to ask questions, such as “How can we help you?” and surface relevant products and services based on the resulting indicators. There are also interactive tools that can provide customized product, service and resource recommendations based on a consumer’s selections.
4. Don’t Aimlessly Push Products
In a branch setting, if a consumer was asking about buying a home, a representative wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) randomly ask if they needed an auto loan, too. Not only would it be an irrelevant distraction, but could create distrust if the consumer senses you’re only trying to sell them. This is how websites without a thoughtful promotion strategy can feel.
While it’s important to have online space dedicated to promotions and resources, these should be related to the topic at hand. For example, on a home loan page, promotion space would be best used for a timely offer related to reduced closing costs, credits or even a gift card to “help make your house a home” — not to highlight a completely different product, which often happens online.
On-site personalization strategies based on personas, previous browsing behavior or other meaningful criteria can help create a relevant experience that offers value to visitors and ultimately supports your business goals.
5. Don’t Presume Consumers Understand Product Differences
A consumer may know that they need a savings account, but deciphering the differences between your uniquely branded account names or your tiered interest-rate structure isn’t always an easy feat, even in person. Your website should include features that can help consumers evaluate the distinct benefits of each product, and pick the one that is best for them.
Comparison charts are a great way to help consumers understand the value of each option and offer more control in decision making. In addition, custom developed product finders can ask a series of questions and make a tailored recommendation based on responses.
6. Provide Relevant Content and Help from a Human
Effective self-service goes beyond comparisons charts and product finders. It should also encompass resources that support the decision-making journey. These include how-to content, answers to commonly-asked questions, live chat and more that can support the consideration phase.
It’s also important to realize that while many individuals appreciate independence, they have varying communication preferences. Make it easy, therefore, for them to contact you online or on the phone to get help from a human if they want or need it.
7. When People Don’t Apply Online, Collect and Nurture Leads
After being directed to your site from search, social or another platform, a consumer might decide that they are interested and perhaps have questions, but they are not yet ready to take immediate action to apply.
By offering a direct-contact form, you allow the consumer to submit inquiries and get answers easily, while giving your financial institution the means to re-engage. This can be done by retargeting and direct contact or through a combination of tactics, but ultimately provides better service and guides consumers closer to conversion.
8. Consumers Don’t Want to Explore Your Site – Engage Them
Let’s face it. The majority of people visiting a bank or credit union website do so simply to access online banking. However, certain features and functionality can engage visitors and get them to explore more of your financial solutions and support.
Animations and other subtle motions are a great way to catch visitor attention prior to login. Scroll indicators, trackers and anchor links can help encourage movement down a page. In additions, fresh content including blogs, news and promotions can support continued site interest.
A button-based online banking login function is a perfect spot to place personalized promotions for existing customers.
Additionally, geo-specific content or timely greetings increase the chances that messages will resonate and be received. Explore all opportunities to help engage visitors and lead them through the site … when they’re ready.
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9. Make Your Website ADA Conformant
Creating an accessible website for those with disabilities is essential to delivering a positive consumer experience. If a site is not optimized for screen readers and other commonly used accessibility tools, or does not follow current WCAG guidelines, the experience can be incredibly frustrating, confusing and open your institution up to legal liability.
Banks and credit unions have an opportunity to increase their potential audience and create positive impressions by making their websites accessible to users with disabilities. The additional investment to retrofit a website to be conformant is a requirement for any modern website.
10. Showcase Diversity and Inclusiveness
The idea of diversity and inclusiveness goes beyond current events and long-standing societal issues. When referring to different life stages, financial marketers typically refer to individuals that follow a very traditional timeline of events, from going to college, starting a job, getting married, buying a home, having a family and planning for retirement.
But what about those people who go into valuable trades, are single parents or have different definitions of home? There are many untapped opportunities for banks and credit unions to engage these audiences and appeal to less conventional, yet increasingly common lifestyles and stages. This is also an effective and sensitive way to show your financial institution’s commitment to being open and supporting individuals in all walks of life.