Bank Websites: Time for a reboot?

Much like everything that is impacted by digitization nowadays, the ‘corporate website’ is another key element of customer experience that is evolving, and yet for many banks it has been neglected and lost its primary purpose. It is an easy mistake to make over time, particularly when the website becomes a ‘Business as usual’ maintenance task, and results in 100’s of webpage’s to update, add or delete. As is the case with all valuable cyber real estate, overtime, various stakeholders within the organization make the argument to be represented more and more on the website, and before you know it, you have a site that focuses primarily on detailing the lines of business, a history of the organization, and how to contact the company. The creation of ‘The Site Map’ is testament to the maze of information that is now contained within a typical website, and despite the availability of content management solutions, very few organizations create websites that are easy to navigate and use. It is ironic that the most important sales and service channel in the business commands so little real estate and focus on the homepage! 

 

As a digital business, your website, first and foremost is the channel which showcases your product and services catalogue, and should allow your visitors to acquire those products and services as seamlessly and friction-free as possible.  Everything else is of far less importance. When a potential customer has made the decision to consider your bank’s products and services, your website is likely the first place they will visit using their Smartphone, PC, or tablet (in that order), and should be designed with this in mind. Perhaps one day their smart watch or smart glasses will figure in the list too!

 

All this considering, most bank websites do very little justice to their products and services catalogue, and tend to market them using an outdated hierarchy based menu. It is no surprise then that according to a 2014 study by McKinsey that dropped leads and leakage can be as high as 85% in many cases.  The vast majority of corporate website pages tend to be cluttered with unnecessary detail, and overloaded with paragraph upon paragraph of text, which frankly is the best way to switch customers off and get them disengaged. It’s time for a website rethink – one in which digital and mobile-first is the core objective, and where bank’s focus on simplicity, design and consistency in a bid to streamline the onboarding experience. Think App store, think Amazon.

 

Simplicity

Banking today is often criticized for being overly complex, with a vast array of products with names, terms and conditions that the simple man on the street will never fully comprehend. This common issue stands firmly entrenched in the roots of why bank’s nowadays are finding it so difficult to be trusted. I liken this to any business in which small print and terms and conditions are so extensive that the inherent sentiment from the customer is that the conditions are only in place to hide charges, or protect the business, but never the customer. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, as it is the perception…and in banking perception is reality.

 

The same complexity stands true for the sales and onboarding experience on most bank’s websites. When it comes to website usability dynamics, most bank websites tend to follow a similar format when listing the products and services they offer. There is a menu system with personal banking categories, and under each category there is a list of associated products.  For example Accounts>>Checking Account, Current Account, Savings Account, or Credit Cards>>Credit Card A, Gold Credit Card B, Platinum Credit Card C, CoBranded Credit Card D. When selecting the individual product, it usually presents you with a few paragraphs of details on the product, its benefits, eligibility criteria, perhaps a calculator of some sort, and then a link to apply for, or enquire, about the product. Furthermore there will probably also be a plethora of banner ads, side menus and other information that perpetually clutter the page. Such an approach is not conducive to a great shopping experience and frictionless onboarding process, and is probably one of the main reasons for lead leakage. How often have you visited a website, ready to acquire their product only to abandon half way through, due to an overly complex and arduous form filling exercise? I liken this to a recruitment site; do you want to just upload your CV/resume in one or two clicks, or spend half an hour filling in a multitude of fields that are requesting the same information?

 

The good news is that banks don’t need to reinvent the wheel to establish a new approach for onboarding via their website. Amazon has done all the hard work for them. Consider that shopping for banking products and services should be no different to purchasing a book on Amazon.  Your potential customer already has a good idea of what they want, and now simply wants to see if you can provide it, and then commit to the new relationship using the shopping cart and checkout process they have become so familiar with over the years. Simply put, retail bank websites need to be built using an mCommerce shopping approach. When a customer visits your homepage, they should be presented with a shopping friendly interface of your products and services, simple categories to browse from, and a shopping cart facility with which they can add products to before completing with a Checkout process. The product pages need to be simple, visual, helpful and present only what the customer wants to know, not what the banks want to tell them.  If Ts and Cs, and eligibility criteria need to be communicated then this can be done at a later stage when the customer has a vested interest in knowing about them.  When deciding how to truly represent your products and services, effectively think of the information that Amazon presents when you look at their products, and try to emulate this experience. A picture of the product (a picture still says a thousand words), the name of the product, the benefits of the product, any significant cost, fees or rates, the delivery time, independent customer reviews of the product, and even a suggestion about additional or complimentary products that other customer’s liked. You might even try an approach of listing your product’s benefits instead of the products themselves, as ultimately many consumers are attracted to a product like a credit card because of the benefits on offer, rather than the interest rate it commands. For example air miles or co-branded benefits. Simplicity. 

 

Most often, bank websites are also failing miserably in their end to end fulfillment process. Often attributed to stringent compliance requirements, banks notoriously make this a difficult process and have a habit of requesting far too much information, simply because they have convinced themselves that more data is better, and will allow for improved cross sell opportunities after onboarding has happened. This assumption could not be more wrong. Getting the onboarding done through a simple and convenient process will create a great customer experience, and then customers will be only too happy to provide more information. Perhaps cross sell won’t even be necessary, as a delighted customer is likely to want more products from you naturally. To further simplify the checkout process, look at ways to utilize something on all smart devices these days – the camera. Allow customers to upload or take a picture of their personal ID document (passport, driving license etc.) instead of having to type in their personal information. There are now several tools available that very effectively can read the barcode on the document and extract all the personal information into a readable file format that can be auto-populated into your application form or risk decision engine. Not only does this streamline and make the onboarding process that much more efficient, but it will eliminate any manual input and data quality issues that happen today. 

 

Design

Today, people are increasingly using more and more devices to access websites. Five years ago, organizations only had to worry about how their site appeared on a PC browser. Granted there was some consideration that went into people’s screen resolutions, or the browser that they used, but essentially you did not have to be too concerned with designing your site to work in portrait or landscape mode, or on screens that vary substantially in size and are sensitive to touchscreen navigation. Today, these are critical elements when considering the design of a website. The objective of the website must be to capture the attention of the visitor, irrespective of what device they are viewing the site on, and allow them to easily investigate and apply for your products with minimal effort. Investing in good design and fluid experiences will yield fantastic results and leave a lasting impression on customers.

 

Consistency

The proliferation of touch points and channels in banking is growing year by year. Today, customers expect to be able to interact with their bank whenever and wherever they deem it convenient. This could be on the website, online and mobile banking, ATMs, the branch, or the endless list of social media sites. What is now a daunting task for most banks is managing the content and messaging across all these channels and ensuring the response is consistent. In many banks that I have visited, the seemingly simple task of updating the product and services catalogue is a nightmare. Content is duplicated and independent and very rarely does a central data repository exist for all customer communication channels. For banks considering a revamp of the website, investing in a content management system will be key to fixing this issue, and simply relying on a design agency with no knowledge of the evolving nature of digital banking will prove to be a very costly mistake. Good website design is fast becoming a commodity, but the success of your online presence will be determined by the strategists who know how it all comes together.

 

About David Horton:

 

David Horton is the Head of Innovation at Synechron. He has a deep understanding of retail banking and two decades of experience and extensive knowledge in technology, innovation and financial services.  Prior to joining Synechron, David was the Chief Transformation Officer at Mashreq Bank.

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