Ted Novak_resized
Ted Novak Aug 5, 2016

Four ways to personalize in the online space

While the local branch is still important for banks to build relationships, about 74% of customers now access their accounts and make financial decisions online. Typically, banks draw in customers to the online experience by using an attractive rate to generate leads. Users can check the rate against multiple institutions at the click of a button rather than visiting their local branch.

While touting attractive rates is effective for getting a lead on a prospective new customer, it’s not sustainable as a strategy in the long run. Financial institutions have to redefine how they position their brands and communicate their differentiators in the context of the modern marketplace. Customers should see the same levels of personalization and service online to which they are accustomed at their local branches.

To get started, analyze your customers, technology and the people in your organization, and compare those capabilities with your institution’s goals. This lays the groundwork for uncovering how digitally mature your institution is. From there, you have a road map for improving your online presence because you know what to double down on and what gaps to fill.

Here are four strategies for helping your bank stand out to prospective customers:

Improve the user experience. Many organizations, not just financial institutions, struggle to cater to their legacy client bases while attracting new generations. Younger customers seek self-service and digital technology in ways the legacy client base doesn’t. A good user experience (UX) – with easy-to-use, intuitive sites across your digital footprint – serves both audiences.

You can start improving the UX of your site by updating navigation and page layouts, knowing that about 38% of visitors leave a site if the content and layout are unappealing. Financial institutions’ content typically contains four elements: product information with details about different programs and rates; self-service content (i.e., how-to information and FAQs); compliance content and marketing content.

You need to understand that you’ll have visitors who might be focused on one of the above content types and care very little about the others — but each has its place in the overall UX. Start enhancing each type of content by removing any marketing content that doesn’t have a call to action. For customers interested only in product information, provide multiple paths to those descriptions so that users can interact with your product offerings, regardless of their understanding of the products.

Place self-service content where your users need the help. A dedicated FAQ area is most useful when searchable, so you will have a lot of traffic there. But don’t require a user to click away from what they’re doing to find the FAQs. Instead, integrate the FAQs into relevant pages or transactional interfaces to provide a much more cohesive experience.

Lastly, find a balance between the information you want your audience to know and the content your audience is looking for. If you understand how your audience is using your site, optimize content delivery by finding unobtrusive key placement areas for the content you want them to see while they’re having a great experience using the site.

But whatever changes you make, have analytics in place to measure the results.

Understand your customer. Identify the traits of your customer pool, both demographically and behaviorally. Research your client base, and engage with clients to understand why they chose your institution and how you could improve. This tactic goes a step beyond competitive analysis, in which the focus is on standing out from competition. While those analyses have value, your focus should be on why your customers chose you and how you can expand your customer relationships.

The best way to do this isn’t through in-person interactions. Digital survey tools coupled with web analytics, transactional information and demographics alone can provide some major insights, as well as identify trends and customer personas worth engaging directly.

Frequent, welcomed touchpoints. Digital communications such as email, social media and blogs offer multiple mass-frequency opportunities to keep your brand in front of your customers. The trick is to make these communications welcome, which you can do by throttling your frequency and investing in high-quality content that’s more relevant to your audience’s needs.

The average customer has limited interest in content that’s just about the financial products you offer. But you can provide a wealth of relevant information to small business owners, families, homeowners and other customer categories.

Refresh transactional interfaces. One of the biggest opportunities for financial institutions is to redesign the interfaces its customers use to transact business online. Each time a customer logs in to check his or her balances represents an interface with your brand. Your interfaces are the highest-trafficked aspect of your online presence, and redesigning them provides an opportunity to integrate calls to action with other products.

When approaching your redesign, focus on a mobile-first approach. Practicing mobile-first on your transactional interface design will help simplify the experience on all device types by focusing the navigation and functionality on the lowest common denominator in screen real estate. Then, improve usability by conducting a UX analysis and pairing the results with a modern design.

Don’t let proprietary technology bog you down, either. Modern front-end frameworks make it more possible than ever to modernize the design without changing core functionality. If your in-house team is the expert on your platform but is not focused on modern design or front-end coding, then tap an outside resource for the design and front-end development, and integrate that with your current platform.

A redesign reassures the customer that your organization is innovative while simultaneously enhancing the UX. Redesigning interfaces can breathe life into your existing banking platforms without replacing the underlying technology.

By implementing these strategies, your institution should see an increase in market share and customer retention. And by appearing innovative, you can attract and retain skilled applicants who want to work for innovative companies so they can contribute to that mindset.

Mr. Novak is a partner and managing director at Chicago-based Clique Studios. He can be reached on Twitter at CliqueChicago.

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