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

By Arnold, Wade | ABA Bank Marketing, October 2012 | Go to article overview

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.

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Fundamental issues

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.

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