Checkout Lessons: What Banks Need to Borrow from eCommerce

Banks' digital platforms often lag on key technical performance metrics that eCommerce veterans have long realized are critical to customer experience and retention. Customer preferences and new regulation may force banks to close the gap.

What defines a high-performing and reliable banking website? The same criteria that underpin a high-performing and reliable eCommerce site:

  • Speed: A banking website must be quick and responsive to prevent user frustration from delays.
  • Transaction efficiency: The site should provide an efficient experience for making payments, transferring funds, and reviewing account summaries.
  • Constant availability: The importance of maintaining continuous operation 24/7 cannot be overstated.

Recently, Catchpoint analyzed over 50 banking websites to identify the hallmarks of top-performing sites. The study focused on key metrics:

  • DNS Time
  • Time to First Byte (TTFB)
  • Document Complete
  • Webpage Response,
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), and
  • Overall site availability.

Benchmarking Digital Excellence

The three sites that topped the list were Franklin Templeton, Bank of New York Mellon Corp, and Thrivent Financial. The common denominator among these sites is that their numbers for availability and performance were well within industry standards, delivering users a fast-loading website and one that is genuinely available and reliable at all times. Each site took less than 2 seconds to load, with an aggregated availability of about 99.9%.

Here are the top 10 banks with the highest availability:

  • Bank of New York Mellon Corp. — 99.98%
  • Santander Bank — 99.97%
  • Thrivent Financial — 99.97%
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co — 99.96%
  • PNC Financial Services Corp. — 99.96%
  • CIBC — 99.95%
  • Putnam Investments — 99.94%
  • BB&T Corp. — 99.93%
  • Fidelity National Financial — 99.9%
  • Franklin Templeton — 99.9%

And the top 10 Banks with the lowest DNS numbers, using milliseconds:

  • Franklin Templeton — 27
  • Regions Bank — 29
  • E Trade Financial — 32
  • Quicken Loans — 48
  • Bank of New York Mellon Corp — 51
  • First Data Corporation— 66
  • Northern Trust — 70
  • Wells Fargo Bank— 73
  • Bank of America Home — 78
  • Fidelity National Financial — 84

Regrettably, however, many banks neglect these metrics, overlooking their significance. The perception, at least from a customer’s point of view, is that the banking sector considers user experience to be secondary. Let’s face it: how often do you change your bank?

Most consumers have not changed their bank since opening their first account. There’s a prevailing belief that customers will endure subpar services due to the inconvenience of switching banks and the hassle of transferring all their bill payments. Unfortunately, this has led to complacency – banking, and I’ll include healthcare, are very mature markets where change is slow.

It’s time for these industries to embrace the eCommerce approach to customer service by asking, ‘What eCommerce strategies can we adopt that will enhance our services?’

Here are the top 10 Banks with the lowest webpage response times, using milliseconds:

  • Fidelity National Financial — 1666
  • HSBC Bank — 2746
  • Thrivent Financial — 2938
  • ING Bank (Voya) — 3031
  • UBS — 3050
  • Putnam Investments — 3062
  • Brown Brothers Harriman — 3344
  • Sovereign Bank — 3398
  • Bank of America Home — 3517
  • Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — 3542
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Lessons from the eCommerce Evolution

In the early 2000s, the eCommerce world was beset by issues when Black Friday and Cyber Monday gained popularity. I can’t recall a single Black Friday or Cyber Monday that wasn’t affected by a significant outage at a major eCommerce company, Amazon included.

Over the years, however, these companies have learned that downtime and a lack of resilience are bad for business. As a result, they’ve invested heavily in their load testing, performance teams, tool sets, and telemetry.

eCommerce has much to teach the financial and healthcare industries, which also experience high seasonality and peak traffic periods. Events like 401(k) sign-ups, healthcare enrollments, and tax days are notorious for bringing down systems. In my experience, performance is synonymous with user experience. For instance, when I attempt a mobile check deposit with my bank, it often fails, forcing me to visit the branch, which is inconvenient.

Learn more:

Reimagining Traditional Services in Digital Eras

Many digital-first banks don’t operate physical branches. Their success is due to a singular focus on user experience, performance, speed, flexibility, and a mobile-first approach. This is what has won over the current generation of young people who do not need to visit a teller.

It’s crucial for banks to recognize the importance of these advancements and to take action. Otherwise, they risk losing their competitive edge.

In the U.S., some banks perform exceptionally well with only an online presence, with USAA as a prime example. Some companies, like Capital One, are innovating by transforming their banks into cafés. They provide WiFi, allowing customers to work and do more than just banking. This shift dramatically enhances the user experience.

Promises of Open Banking and Regulatory Impact

It will be interesting to see how the rise of open banking levels the playing field. By enabling third-party applications to access and manage consumer banking and financial data, open banking could redefine both competition and the customer journey within the industry. This shift is expected to spur major banks into more direct competition with their smaller and emerging counterparts, which could lead to reduced costs, enhanced technology, and improved customer service. Traditional banks will be challenged to innovate and invest in new technologies to adapt to this changing landscape.

Observing the effects of new regulations such as the European Union’s Digital Operational Resilience Act, (DORA) on the banking sector will be noteworthy. Previous reforms in banking have concentrated on economic stability and market behavior, often neglecting the aspect of resilience. DORA aims to shift the focus, highlighting the importance of Internet resilience for financial institutions.

As digital banking reshapes customer expectations, the industry must prioritize user experience and innovate, or risk being left behind. The evolution towards more agile, customer-centric services is not just inevitable but essential for staying relevant in the fast-paced financial landscape of today and tomorrow.

Mehdi Daoudi is co-founder and CEO of Catchpoint, a digital experience monitoring expert. Before Catchpoint, Mehdi spent more than 10 years at DoubleClick and Google, where he was responsible for quality of services, as well as buying, building, deploying and using various internal and external performance monitoring solutions, which sparked his interest in this space.

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