By Terry Moore and Madhavi Mantha, Accenture
More than one-half of financial services product searches in the United States begin online, according to Accenture research, and that figure is likely to increase. Indeed, customers rank the online channel as the single most important way of interacting with their banks.Yet, many banks haven't adjusted to that reality. They tend to think of their web sites simply as a location for advising customers about products and services, rather than as a strong driver of sales. Research shows that customers using the online channel tend to hold more products, are more satisfied and are more profitable.
Transforming the web site will take on increased importance as the economy regains momentum and the competition for deposits heats up. Those banks with sales-oriented online channels will have a leg up in casting a wider net for potential customers.
What's Holding Banks Back?
The banking industry has a lot of catching up to do. According to Accenture research, banks ranked 27th out of 38 industries in their use of digital capabilities to drive and convert customer traffic through the Web.
Many banks emphasize commodity features on their web sites - such as bill payments and account transfers - and tend to focus on the look and feel of their sites. Instead, their goal should be to drive high volumes of customer traffic to their sites and successfully convert that traffic to product sales, as many retailers do.
Many also lack the ability to originate and fulfill a product sale online, so even when banks entice someone to shop online, they often can't convert that prospect into a sale. With product fulfillment processes so cumbersome, sales application abandonment rates of more than 70 percent are common. Inefficient technology is another stumbling block. Many web sites are built on outdated legacy infrastructures which are slow, provide only limited direct insight into end users, and are costly to maintain and upgrade. Additionally, digital strategy and execution are often spread across multiple departments, such as information technology and marketing/sales, which contributes to a lack of alignment with business objectives.
The Power of Analytics
To overcome these challenges, banks must build or strengthen their analytical capabilities to interact with customers in a targeted, personalized way. Analytics can enable a bank to incorporate a variety of factors into a given customer's experience, including whether the person visited the site in response to an online advertisement, a social referral or a search engine; whether the person visited on a weekday or a weekend; and whether the visitor is an existing customer or a prospect.
By pairing search conversion management systems with flexible website architecture, a bank can offer visitors a distinct experience depending on which sites they came from-whether they have just visited a competitive bank or a car-buying site, for example. Delivering more timely, relevant and personalized online experiences can improve conversions by 30 percent or more.
One leading bank was able to differentiate itself from competitors who were offering a range of look-alike products by providing an improved customer experience. Analysis and testing of its website revealed the critical importance of showing a prominent call-to-action that visitors to the Web page could see immediately. The landing page was reconfigured and as a result, the bank increased conversion rates by nearly 300 percent. Similar upgrades to the mortgage and loan product landing pages improved conversions to completed applications by 21 percent and 36 percent respectively.
In these times of economic uncertainty-when customer behavior is increasingly difficult to predict-mastering the ability to capture customers and their deposits online is more important than ever.
Terry Moore is a senior executive and managing director of Accenture's North America banking practice. Madhavi Mantha is an executive in Accenture's banking practice and expert on customer acquisition.