January 26, 2010

A report released by Forrester Consulting today, "The Impact of Poor Web Site Performance in Financial Services," finds that, unsurprisingly, bank customers' expectations for website performance are high, with 75% of online financial services consumers expecting 99% or higher web site availability. The findings of the study, which was sponsored by Akamai, also indicate that website performance is second only to security in user expectations; 36% of consumers who bank online and 42% of consumers who trade online consider 100% availability important.

More than half of online banking users (56%) expect web pages to load in two seconds or less, which is significantly more than the 47% of consumers who just shop online. Website performance ranks above even functions like single sign-on or ease of use. The study also found that 64% of online banking and brokerage customers have had dissatisfying experiences online.

"Financial services firms have done a great job ensuring core systems are always available," said Stephen Pierzchala, consultant for Gomez, the Web performance division of Compuware Corporation, in a statement. "But there is room for improvement for them on the Internet. In our most recent banking benchmark, 35 of the 47 banks we measure fail to deliver pages in two seconds or less."

Based on the feedback of 621 U.S. consumers who bank or trade online, Forrester Consulting found that 57% of online U.S. adults bank online, and 36% of online U.S. adults who have an investment account invest online. Among those who bank online, 29% access their accounts on a daily basis " a segment referred to as Power Users.

"Financial services customers are using the online channel more and more every year. Since the economic downturn they are checking their accounts even more frequently," said Kevin Levitt, vice president of online market intelligence firm comScore, in a statement. "This study confirms that online performance can have a big impact on customer acquisition and satisfaction. Providers that deliver a fast application process will see the reward in higher customer conversion."

The study also finds that website performance has a direct impact on revenues, profits and satisfaction. According to the study, 29% of online banking users who encounter problems in the research process on a financial services website opt to go to a competitor's website. Almost half (48%) of those who trade online would use the phone or branch if they could not conduct their transaction online. The ultimate effect of poor performance is a decrease in willingness to recommend a firm with 48% of online banking users stating that poor performance "impacted" or "significantly impacted" their likeliness to recommend a firm's services to a friend or family member. In addition, the study notes that the more engaged a user is online, the more profitable they are and the lower cost they are to serve. The Power Users are less costly for banks to service.

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