Digital banking: What was once a differentiator, is now a commodity
By Sara Mans, lead UX researcher, The Archer Group
The data are clear: Digital banking is hugely popular, especially among younger consumers. Research shows 71 percent of millennials believe it's "very important" to have a banking app, 51 percent have made a purchase through a mobile website or app in the last month, and 27 percent have used their phone to make a payment in store.
But despite the predominance of digital banking, there's evidence customers are growing less satisfied with their digital banking experience. While the majority may be satisfied overall, there is a definite downward trend in how consumers view their banking experience.
This is a fraught area for financial institutions. An intuitive and engaging digital customer experience is no longer a luxury, it's an expectation. Meaningful functionality within an app or mobile site is now table stakes: what was considered advanced functionality just a few years ago is now the standard. Banks and other financial institutions no longer compete on the stability of their organization, but on the capabilities of their software and the user experience of their mobile app. To stay on the digital vanguard, and gain and retain customers, banks need to design their digital offerings with six requirements in mind.
Complicated financial processes need to be presented in a straightforward fashion that's both logical and easy to complete. This is especially important for common tasks like depositing a check, where customers use the function again, and again, and again. Less frequently encountered tasks should be simple as well, as customers are likely working in unfamiliar territory.
Breaking down the processes into step-by-step interactions with few visual distractions and clear calls to action will lead a user comfortably through a multistep system. Absent this clarity, user anxiety and frustration are likely.
Financial institutions want to capture as much of a customer's "wallet" as possible, so most now offer a wide range of products that support all aspects of a customer's financial life. These different products must be integrated and streamlined into their digital presence. Financial institutions that offer users a comprehensive view provide greater value than those that present a series of disjointed experiences that don't connect the different parts of their users' financial lives.
Users have become familiar with apps like Mint or Clarity Money, where all of their financial information is centralized. Apps like Wallaby enable users to link all of their different credit cards, then recommend which card should be used in which circumstance to maximize points. If banks are not offering a streamlined, integrated experience, then some other app will come along and do it for them.
When it comes to finances, users want to know the details. Interest rates, credit scores, bill pay, mobile deposit, and the terms and conditions need to be easy to find, well branded, and clearly labeled. If not, it causes uncertainty and even feelings of distrust about their bank.
In today's mobile-first world, users are more willing to apply for credit cards or other products on their mobile device. That said, the user must feel secure. This trust is imparted through many tactics, from enabling touch ID to embracing design practices that assure customers of security at every step.
Banks have always been masters at creating an image of safety and security. The archetypal bank is a massive building with granite or marble columns, a huge vault, watchful guards, and enough space to conduct business in privacy. A bank's digital presence should project a similar sense of security.
Users have become accustomed to instant feedback. Once a transaction is completed, a prompt, text message, or other form of immediate feedback is essential. Any amount of time spent waiting for an email is too much time, and creates an unsatisfactory experience. We expect similarly instant feedback in our personal relationships, and this feedback can be an important mechanism for creating closer, more engaging relationships with customers.
Push notifications can be an important aspect of this relationship. If anything happens with a customer's bank account or credit card, a push notification or alert can help keep the bank top-of-mind. “A deposit was made in your account.” “A bill is coming due.” People have been trained to expect this sort of feedback by their other apps and service providers.
Part of the complete customer experience
A bank's digital experience has to be fully integrated into every other touch point through which customers encounter it, including its ATMs, in-person tellers, customer service representatives, and call centers. Mobile and digital banking offerings should transition gracefully into the bank's other channels. Not only should digital be designed to switch seamlessly to in-person support, the support centers themselves need technologies and processes designed to provide visibility into the customer's situation. Each customer should have a seamless experience with the bank, no matter what channels were used.
Digital offerings need to meet these six requirements. They're mutually supportive and complementary. Together they build the brand trust and loyalty necessary to create the experience consumers expect. People may not talk about their financial situations, but they do talk about apps and mobile sites. If a financial institution is doing something well, a user will share that information, perhaps because it's innovative and rewarding. Previously, banks were rarely known as innovative. Today they have to be.