5 Ways to Ensure Your Banking Website Works in a Digital-First Economy


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When Americans buy a new credit card, mortgage, or deposit account, the vast majority – 87% – start the process online. In fact, as they start advising family and friends and social media outlets, the remaining 13% generally start by Googling the recommendations. In reality, 100% of these customer journeys start online.

Is your institution’s website designed with this in mind?

Many financial institutions have a strange sense of priority when researching their customer service. James Robert Lay, founder and CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, whose studies produced the statistics above, says additional research found that nine out of ten financial institutions Never a mystery shop their websites to test how well they work. In contrast, 72% do mystery shopping for their physical store locations.

At a time when so many routine banking transactions, as well as an increasing proportion of sales and account openings, have shifted to the internet, Lay suggests that the numbers suggest the industry is upside down. Even if it is common for mystery shopping in stores to examine the stores of competitors as well as their own, many institutes fail to test the online presence of their competitors.

Websites are never finished:

Many bankers and credit union executives still don’t understand how different branches and websites are. When a new branch emerges, the industry tends to treat it like a project with a deadline. In contrast, there is no closing date on a website.

A website is an ongoing commitment, says the consultant. He believes that even if an institution cannot constantly refine its website, it should conduct a review every 90 days to identify weaknesses, outdated practices, and more.

For executives who want web development to be “done,” Lay suggests stopping their websites from being a banking site and more of a part of the e-commerce world. He ticks off some of the leading e-commerce players. While many banks and credit unions redesign their websites every three to five years – and some as rarely as every seven years – leading ecommerce websites like Amazon and Chewy are constantly making changes and improving them.

Here’s a tip to encourage creativity:

In between website reviews, the institution could maintain an “innovation jar” where good ideas gathered from other websites can be stored for potential development and implementation.

The consultant made these observations during a webinar from The financial brand for Optimized. The following additional points come from the event suggestions by Lay and host Laura Dolan, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Optimizely. They cover design considerations as well as their thoughts on content, how to deal with errors and which website aspects to prioritize.

1. Tap the power of website video

One of the key changes during the pandemic has been the growing use and adoption of video in a variety of formats, from video messaging on websites and embedded in email to video banking to the ubiquity of zoom calls.

“Video communication is the most important way to humanize a digital experience,” says Lay. During the pandemic, video messages were used to instill courage and confidence in bank customers at a time when many were confused and frustrated.

The medium can continue to fulfill this role even after Covid, says Lay. Trust is a crucial asset to the industry and video can help make it stronger.

“92% of all communication consists of body language,” says Lay. He believes that not only can it help keep you connected with existing customers and members, but that it can also be used as a sales tool. Even follow-up emails to prospects may have an accompanying short video customized with the person’s name to humanize the contact.

“In our research on lead generation, we found that the faster we can connect a potential customer with another person at the financial brand, the higher the propensity to convert.”

– James Robert Lay, Institute for Digital Growth

“Zoom calls don’t have to go away just because the world opens up again,” says Dolan from Optimizely. These and similar services have been tried and tested for keeping in touch with people when flexibility is required, she says.


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2. Get your head out of the newspaper era

According to Lay, financial institutions should spend more time on the content they want to reach and then let the website design customize the content instead of tying marketing to a certain inflexible type of message.

“Let the content determine the design“Says Lay.

An example of old thinking for Lay is the concept that everything important on a website must be “above the fold”. Of course there is no real fold on the train because there is no paper. The concept goes back to printed materials.

Adopt web concepts:

Think of “depth of scroll,” a concept that should be considered for websites as well as mobile apps and websites.

Lay points out that people keep scrolling assuming there’s something they want to read or see. Think how deep some infographics go – well beyond the depth of a computer screen.

One caveat here: The “call to action” of content should be at the top of the page so it is clear what the institution expects from the consumer. Lay says that only 20% of visitors to a page typically see a call-to-action that is at the very bottom.

Think of messages, not words:

Banking sites tend to be very text heavy due to the nature of the business and compliance requirements. But pictures like icons can communicate a lot in a small space.

“The human mind can translate iconography many times faster than the written word,” says Lay.

3. Trust can be built in years (and destroyed in minutes)

While trust is essential for banking institutions, it can be an imprecise matter and is not always understood. One point that Lay makes a lot of during the webinar is that the consumer, not the institution, should be the focus of website and other digital marketing.

This is why mystery shopping on an institution’s website is vital to see which items consumers rub wrong. Subtle factors can make a site as a whole, or a part of it, a source of trust or an erosive factor. Consumers must be asked for their opinion.

“Trust is the currency with which we trade in today’s digital world,” says Lay.

4. Religiously investigate abandoned inquiries

As far as practical and possible, a banking website in sales mode should collect important contact information early on. This includes email addresses, full first and last name and telephone number.

The idea is twofold.

First, when a consumer begins to register for more information about a particular product or service, they may be interrupted in the middle of the stream. If the basics are grasped first, follow-up is possible.

Second, in some cases, a site can be set up to seamlessly refer a consumer to another provider that the original institution is working with. The third party is not allowed to “look after” the interested party as the mediating institution likes. If they let the deal go, but the contact information was obtained from the original institution, another contact can be made.

Failure can become success:

The idea is that leads are too valuable to just drop into the cracks. An institution that Lay works with generates 20-30% more conversions by focusing on abandoned applications.

5. Focus more on content and SEO

Google’s setting of third-party cookies has been postponed, but is likely to happen at some point. And changes Apple is making to iOS will also make it harder to get lead information.

Because of this, both Dolan and Lay see the importance of content quality and search engine optimization in the near future to make websites an important part of the institution’s sales efforts.

These can be imprecise science, with some efforts doing well and others bringing “crickets”. Dolan stressed the need not to be discouraged. If something flops, go ahead and try something else.

Dolan also emphasized that many believe that SEO can work wonders overnight, but it doesn’t. It can take months of SEO efforts before the institution even moves its needle.

When it comes to spiced up content, Dolan says that “just having a solid content strategy is not enough”. Promoting content on the right social media channel or channels for your audience is essential to ensure that the content is actually seen and consumed.

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