Refresh Your Website: Doing a Makeover Is a Good Time to Update Your Overall Digital Marketing Strategy. and Don't Forget to Prepare Your Website for Tablet and Smartphone Accessibility
Arnold, Wade, ABA Bank Marketing
MANY FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS SPEND VAST AMOUNTS OF MONEY attempting to turn their website into a digital self-service channel. The goal is to lower operational cost and allow users to fulfill almost any task without visiting a branch.
There is a downside to this approach, however. If the digital channel becomes a self-service gateway with little or no interaction between the customer and the bank, the financial institution is missing a huge opportunity to create dynamic, cross-channel marketing that is relevant and personalized to each visitor.
Sure, you can (and should) continue to improve online banking, bill pay, account opening and other self-service tools. However, are these additional capabilities going to determine the success of your digital marketing? Not even close.
The website today is the frontline of communication through the digital channel; it is the primary place visited by both customers and prospects. Your Web presence sits at the intersection between the reduction in branch traffic and increase in digital access to a consumer's finances. It maintains the rare ability to be visited weekly, daily and sometimes hourly. Websites have the added benefit of having the least vendor dependency and minimum long-term cost of any channel to reach consumers.
With the online channel dominating consumers' research for financial products and services, it must be viewed as the primary means of driving service, selling and interacting with customers in a relevant way.
To achieve that level of sophistication, banks must understand each customer and his or her relationship to the products he or she already consume. From a product standpoint, they need to understand the "next best product" offering for existing customers--which should take into account product profitability. Some of this information may sound like the same sort of information you ask your customer service representation to obtain from customers visiting the branch. Asking questions that elicit the same type of information should be the focus of your online channel.
If community banks need to know one thing about their Web presence, it is that they are now required to think about the way their website functions beyond the home PC browser. Consideration of smartphone and tablet accessibility is a must when planning.
This may sound challenging, but other industries have many successful examples from which to learn. Consider the design of Apple's product layout and Web navigation, as well as Amazon's tailored recommendations to additional products based on each visitor's specific needs (as determined by previous viewing behaviors). Their ability to access personalized services at any time from any device is what bank customers demand in their online and mobile financial experiences.
Bankers have a lot of reasons, or excuses, for not offering a personalized, action-oriented website. Monetary resources, lack of time to maintain updates and compliance issues are all legitimate concerns. So what should be a part of a website refresh in 2012? Here are a few fundamental actions that financial institutions should be careful to take.
1. Provide good search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is more than a buzzword. Proper application of SEO techniques provides greater visibility to the institution's online presence in organic searches and helps drive consumers to the pages relevant to their needs.
Dubuque, Iowa-based Premier Bank (assets: $267 million), which went live with a new website in April, wanted anyone Googling its name or searching for the availability of certain financial products within its area to have the institution included in those search results. A first step was ensuring that any SEO embedded within the site was being used to the fullest through the design--including placement of keywords in headings, subheads and finally the content. It also created clean URLs for all of its subpages, making it easier for search engines to crawl and index, leading to greater search optimization. (An example of a "dirty" URL not easy for a search engine to crawl: www.site.comiceis=page23. An example of what the cleaned up URL would look like: www.site.com/free-checking.)
2. Make sure your website will load fast.
With more and more sites being "dynamically" rendered from a database, ensure that you are using cache to speed up the load time.
3. Keep content fresh--enough so that users notice.
Think about your home page, the one you use to login to Internet banking. What advertisements are on that page? When was the last time you looked at one of the advertisements? If it's been a while, you are like most of your users who have already seen the content over and over and have a predisposition that the content holds no value. We have encouraged our users to not scan the entire home page because of a lack of updates, and they have developed a "change bias." (A change bias is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a change in a visual stimulus goes unnoticed by the observer.)
With over 90 percent of your traffic and repeat users accessing this page, ensure that you are committed, and can easily create regular home page updates. Give routine site visitors something that will grab their attention, diverting them from their usual beeline into online banking.
4. Design first for mobile!
Provide a complete experience for your mobile users who are constantly connected to your brand and online services. Limiting a bank website's functionality and compatibility across devices also limits its profitability. The exponential proliferation and fragmentation of devices and the unique user experience across a multitude of screen resolutions has to be at the forefront of your design. Enabling users to have the best browser experience possible regardless of the device is paramount as smartphone and tablet usage continues to soar. Research reveals that by 2015, there will be more smartphones connected to the Internet than PCs sold.
If community banks need to know one thing about their Web presence, it is that they are now requirement to think about the way that their website functions beyond the home PC browser. Consideration of smartphone and tablet accessibility is a must.
For northeastern Iowa-based Banklowa (assets: $464 million), having a mobile-enabled site was critical. Being in the rural Midwest, it wanted to market the institution's availability to customers regardless of their location--meaning no desktop computer necessary. The bank also recognized the general consumer, as well as the industry, shift to mobile devices; it was up to BankIowa to ensure each user experience was satisfying.
With Premier Bank, being able to have customers run a mobile search and then be directed to a functioning mobile site without interruption was a significant game changer.
These changes are simple first steps that will generate greater visibility and accommodate smartphone and tablet users with a vastly improved experience.
Web opportunities you may have overlooked
Ultimately, banks must use the Web to attract and maintain profitable customers in addition to developing some newly profitable relationships from existing customers. By leveraging new technologies, banks can post rates, promotions and other dynamic, real-time information to get a customer's attention while maintaining compliance.
For instance, banks can be more impactful in promoting their competitive rates by avoiding generalizations (like "low rates") and instead present the actual rates. Rates need to have the ability to be changed as easily as possible--and across all media--so that, in return, the bank saves time and money. ATM and branch locator capabilities show your customers the various physical locations of your ATMs, branches and main office, and can serve as a powerful feature when accessed via a mobile device. With users searching for your ATM and branches on the go, it is important to post hours and enable driving direction functionality to ensure users can receive the information they need when they need it most.
Additionally, banks can market targeted campaigns to various customer segments by using separate portals. Retirees, people growing their families and young professionals are not only in very different stages of their lives, but also have varying financial needs.
Next steps: repositioning content
Taking targeted marketing a step further, Premier Bank is planning to make the most of customers' online behaviors. The bank is updating its website to drill down and target customer Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and direct its most relevant messaging and promotion to that customer. The information will be based on what the customer has viewed in previous site visits. This personalized product and service marketing opens up additional cross-sell opportunities and can make the bank's site a true resource for the customer.
Premier Bank explains, "We are in a very competitive field and need to stand out as a community-focused financial institution. One clear way to shine is to show our strengths and personalized attention, even on our Web and mobile channels. Now, we can do that by better knowing our customers and what they are interested in viewing," Premier Bank did its own market research surveys to understand customers' banking behaviors. The bank uncovered a prominence of mobile devices, as well as customers' intent/likelihood to start--or enhance--their existing mobile interactions with the bank. That got the bank thinking about how customers will be coming to the site.
BankIowa is also mindful of keeping customers on its website. To make that happen, it has pooled financial tools and runs rotating service promotions with each customer's visit to the homepage. "We are realistic that we only have one second of our customers' attention when they land on our homepage. Now, we feel that we are really taking advantage of that opportunity."
This repositioning of content approach enables banks to transition their websites into a profit center for the institution, just as with any of their physical branch locations. The ultimate aim is to continually funnel visitors toward taking action. Websites designed based on what customers want will get customers coming back to the site more frequently and for longer periods of time.
Banks' goal must be to become the resource for anything financial in their customers' lives.
All banks should include a search function on their websites, enabling users to instantly, locate relevant products and services.
Banks can market targeted campaigns to rarious customer segments by using separate portals.
RELATED ARTICLE: Selecting a Hosting Vendor for a Website Refresh
When choosing a hosting vendor for a website refresh, banks should keep in mind two things:
1. Importance of operational consistency.
2. Record keeping capabilities.
Most financial institutions do not value a hosting solution until theirs goes offline. In today's tumultuous banking environment, community institutions cannot afford to have these channels disrupted. In the emergency of a failed server, can users still access the bank's URL and login to online banking? What is the backup plan if an emergency takes place? What will users experience during the situation? These are questions to ask to assure that maintenance to the infrastructure and hardware outages can ensue with degradation to site performance.
Additionally, the requirement to keep record of any and all websites updates often prevents banks from updating their sites as frequently as desired. Locate a vendor that puts the power and control of content back into the bank's hands, and enables an electronic record for tracking these items for audits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
WADE ARNOLD is CEO of Banno (formerly T8 Webware), Cedar Falls, Iowa. The company is a provider of custombranded mobile applications, websites and personalized payment card services to financial institutions. Arnold is a graduate of the 2012 ABA Stonier Graduate School of Banking. Website: www.banno.com www.banno.com…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Refresh Your Website: Doing a Makeover Is a Good Time to Update Your Overall Digital Marketing Strategy. and Don't Forget to Prepare Your Website for Tablet and Smartphone Accessibility. Contributors: Arnold, Wade - Author. Magazine title: ABA Bank Marketing. Volume: 44. Issue: 8 Publication date: October 2012. Page number: 22+. © 2009 Bank Marketing Assn. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.