As the online channel has become the primary channel through which most customers interact with their financial institutions, the pressure to deliver a more compelling user experience has grown.
Websites such as Amazon.com are often cited as the gold standard for the online experience, yet turning your credit union website into a carbon copy of a retailer site is neither practical nor wise.
While no financial institution can be, or should be, just like Amazon, there are some strategies and tactics that credit unions can borrow from online retailers, particularly when it comes to promoting products and services.
To better understand consumer attitudes toward online banking and shopping, Fiserv conducted a series of consumer focus groups and a survey of 3,000 U.S. consumers who both bank and shop online. Responses indicated that consumers think differently about online banking and online buying.
Part of this is due to a banking vs. browsing mentality. To consumers, banking is task-oriented, while shopping may be more of a pastime. During focus groups, consumers stated that they prefer to “get in and get out” when they are banking, but they often spend time browsing when they visit a retailer site.
In addition, consumers have told us they hold their financial institutions to a higher standard than they do online retailers. One focus group respondent compared the relationship with his financial institution to the relationship he has with his doctor, while he expected retailers to “sling stuff at me to see what I’ll buy.” This respondent expressed a clear expectation that a financial institution should act differently.
As evidenced by such consumer feedback, financial institutions must be selective of the practices they borrow from online retailers. This is particularly important for credit unions, as overt selling can be seen as undermining the credit union mission.
After considering the data, Fiserv has identified five recommendations for credit unions that want to pursue online product and service promotion:
Make it easy for members to find what they want –The number one driver of consumer satisfaction with online banking is ease of use. Credit unions should make it easy for their members to locate and conduct specific transactions by prominently positioning frequently used online tools. Similarly, advertisements or marketing content that interrupts a task is likely to annoy members. Instead, credit unions should position offers in tandem with a related transaction or present promotional information when a task is completed or as members log off.
Offer a personalized online experience – Personalization does not have to be complex. It can be as simple as providing online banking users with a personalized greeting or the ability to edit their profile and account information, areas where the online banking experience lags the online buying experience. For example, 70% of participants in the Fiserv survey indicated they were highly satisfied with the ability to edit their profile and account information at a leading online retailer, while fewer than 50% said the same of their online banking service.
Target the message to the right member, the right way – Credit unions should present products and services to members based on their needs, rather than sending all members a blanket offer. For instance, members with checking accounts may be receptive to an offer for overdraft protection or a new homeowner might welcome information about a home equity line of credit.
Position recommendations in a helpful, friendly manner – Online retailers are good at low-pressure product promotion. Following in their footsteps, credit unions may want to consider adding social elements to certain areas of their sites to let members provide product feedback. In that way, members that “like” products or make positive comments provide a softer approach to product promotion. Credit unions can also promote products and services by offering suggestions to members about what may be helpful or useful to them, rather than using more traditional sales tactics.
Focus on what you know –When members are engaged in online banking they are most receptive to offers about products and services that are provided by the credit union or that are related to financial management. Online banking users are not generally receptive to third-party offers, unless it is for a service or tool that can help them save money.
Seventy-four percent of survey respondents indicated that they would be open to recommendations for financial institution products and services that are tailored to their specific financial needs and activities and recommended in a helpful manner.
Focusing offers on financial products and services while using tactics borrowed from online retailers can boost the success of credit unions’ online promotion initiatives. Done right, online banking can help credit unions meet members where they are while delivering right-timed offers that, instead of being distracting, are considered helpful.