Build Digital Experiences That Rival Google, Facebook and Amazon

Financial brands should steal ideas from the playbook tech giants pioneered to create the sophisticated digital experience today's consumers expect.

Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon have transformed nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and the financial industry is not immune to their impact. In fact, a study by Accenture found that 31% of consumers would be willing switch to one of these companies for banking services, and a third of these said they would actively seek them out if the option was available.

The kind of trust consumers place in tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook means other organizations need to sit up and pay attention. Namely, they must upgrade their digital experiences to gain similar levels of consumer confidence.

Avoiding Innovation Puts Your Brand at Risk

According to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes just 2.6 seconds for consumers to form an opinion about your brand online. So if you have a website that hasn’t been updated in years or is difficult to navigate, many consumers will simply give up and turn to a competitor.

It’s simple: in the Digital Age, consumers will abandon brands that refuse to innovate, and they’ll look instead at competitors that are more up-to-date. People want intuitive solutions that offer flexibility and convenience. In other words, they seek brands that make their lives easier, and do so in digital channels.

Financial brands that don’t keep up will be left behind, as more and more consumers make the switch to banks with a more relevant, tech-savvy value proposition. That’s why many banking providers started offering mobile deposit options — so people don’t have to visit a branch or ATM. Others now offer virtual tellers, which extend hours so people aren’t confined to traditional 9 to 5 branch times.

But such moves are only scratching the surface. To truly mimic the digital experience consumers find with major tech companies, there are a few key things financial institutions need to do, starting with branding.

When consumers associate a brand with a high-quality digital experience, the business will naturally grow. The best way to build this association is through brand awareness. Consumers should frequently hear and see the brand’s name, along with the financial services (beyond basic checking and savings accounts) that it offers. That way, the consumer will learn to associate their needs with that particular brand. After all, the first step in any consumer’s decision-making process starts with awareness; they naturally gravitate to the brands they hear about more often, while shunning brands they aren’t familiar with.

That’s why brands like Google, Amazon and Facebook have succeeded. They have used their superior digital experience not just as a differentiator, but as a vehicle to generate brand awareness. They have so radically redefined and simplified complex and cumbersome processes that they generate huge amounts of buzz. Everywhere you turn (including this article), people and the press are talking about their brands.

Reality Check: The less remarkable your experience is, the more you have to compensate with bigger advertising budgets to achieve brand awareness.

Read More: Becoming the Amazon of Banking

One company that did both — deliver an exceptional digital experience and spend money to accelerate brand awareness — is E*TRADE. With its memorable “E*TRADE Baby” ads on TV, the company was able to raise brand awareness. So much awareness, it seems, that the day after Super Bowl XLII when the first “Baby” ad aired, they generated more new accounts than ever before. But that was only possible because consumers were impressed enough by E*TRADE’s digital experience that they were willing to follow through and sign up. Glitzy marketing and funny ad campaigns alone won’t get the job done.

Here are three more things financial brands can do to create a sophisticated digital experience for consumers:

Honest Audit of Your Website

Go to your website and pay attention to all the little details. Ask a lot of questions, and look at it as if it’s your first time seeing the site. Or better yet, ask someone who has never visited your site to poke around while you peek over their shoulder.

Reality Check: The vast majority of banking websites barely get a passing grade — a far cry from the experience delivered by the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon. You can’t succeed in the Digital Age if your website only gets a “C” (or even a “B”) grade.

Google Analytics can play a big role in ensuring that your website meets people’s expectations. Considering that 86% of consumers surveyed say they would pay more for an improved customer experience, those expectations matter. Data from Google Analytics provides a deeper view into your visitors’ mindset and buying behavior, which allows your company to tailor its digital strategy. You can start by looking at “exit pages” — where people are abandoning your website. If people are frustrated or disappointed, they will quickly abandon your site. Pages with a high exit rate suggest improvements are needed.

Read More: 5 Google Analytics Reports Financial Marketers Can Mine

Add Value at Every Turn

Always be thinking about what value you’re adding for the consumer in digital channels. Consider whether these features, upgrades and enhancements will help build people’s trust, as well as how they’ll set you apart from the competition. Anything you offer consumers should ultimately make their lives easier.

Ally Bank offers customers a top-notch digital experience for desktop, mobile, and app. Because Ally doesn’t have any physical branches, it gives its customers everything they could possibly need on its online channels. Other digital-only banking providers are worth a look too; they’ve figured out how to satisfy the expectations of today’s digitally-savvy consumer… because they have no alternative, no brick-and-mortar “safety net.”

If you think like Facebook, your top priority is to simplify people’s lives. That’s why Facebook added debuted a feature in its Messenger app that allows users to make financial transactions. These little value-added touches not only make consumers more likely to become fans of your brand, but they also encourage people to utilize on your platform for all of their financial or social needs.

Ask People What They Want

Satisfying today’s consumers doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Social media has made interacting with the public easier than ever (and more candid — no one pulls punches online). Consider hosting a live Facebook video chat, or set up a Q&A session on Twitter for people to ask questions and give feedback.

Although nobody ever wants to hear negative reviews, dissatisfied customers are actually the most helpful. They reveal parts of your experience that need the biggest improvements. Amazon, for instance, takes customer reviews to heart, helping them earn top honors on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Keep in mind that nine out of ten consumers say they find online reviews just as trustworthy as recommendations from loved ones, so ensure that your organization puts customer feedback to good use and keep those positive reviews coming.

Daniel Wesley is the CIO of, a consumer finance website specializing in personal loans and credit cards. His work has been featured in Forbes Technology Council, Mashable, TIME Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Inc. You can find him on LinkedIn.

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