Consumers are a fickle bunch when it comes to banking online, with nearly a third (31%) of banking customers end up selecting a different brand to their preferred one when browsing online, according to new research.
The study, from Google and international customer experience research partner Global Reviews, also found that the majority (77%) of customers didn’t know the product they chose existed when they started looking.
The research found that the challenge for providers of credit cards, current and savings accounts is that customers looking for financial products are not loyal to a particular brand when exploring products and brands online and will not tolerate websites that fail to deliver basic content or help choosing a product.
The study into consumer online purchasing behaviour analysed the behaviour of 600 customers, asking them to find a banking product (credit card, current or savings account) that would suit their needs from a blank Internet browser screen.
It was found that search is very important with 49% of customers who started their research with a brand in mind actually going directly to a search engine instead of the brand’s website.
These same customers started their research on a search engine with generic keywords such as ‘savings account’ and ‘credit card’ instead of brand names.
31% of customers who started with a preferred brand in mind ended up selecting a product from a different brand online and 77% of customers didn’t know about the product they finally chose when they started looking online.
Even if a customer finds a suitable product on a website they are likely to still compare the offer with those from other banks and 63% of consumers would compare a new offer with their current bank to see if they could match or beat the offer.
The study suggested that consumers want banks to get back to basics when it comes to the Web experience. It identified the top three most useful elements for consumers when researching and deciding on a product as information that is easy to understand, a website that is easy to navigate and detailed and complete product information.
These fundamentals were rated as more useful than dynamic tools such as comparison tables, customer reviews and online calculators.
A similar preference for consumers seeking help and customer support online was found.
The most popular course of action was to look online for FAQs to help solve a problem.
Consumers rated basic online help higher than newer support techniques such as live chat and ‘call me back’ tools. When they can’t resolve their query, consumers are likely to abandon the website entirely.
Harvind Bhatti, UK Director, Global Reviews said: “These findings have a profound effect for how banks need to approach their digital marketing efforts and onsite experience design. Banks need to make sure that they expose their brand and offer quickly to customers to ensure they are considered. The challenge for banking executives and marketers is to make their search marketing and web experience the best it can be. A customer’s transition from search result to product page should be as logical as possible with consistent marketing messages.”
Maureen McGonegle, Google Finance Industry Analyst said: “Understanding your customer’s online purchasing behaviour is key to setting your online strategy. The lesson for bankers is that search engine marketing should be a key component for your online strategy. They need to focus on search marketing to attract customers and to offer a smooth transition to a quality web experience to increase the likelihood of winning business.”
The study found that there is a lot that bankers can learn from these consumer preferences. Below are the main recommendations.
• Make your website compelling. Ensure that key product information such as interest rates, fees and benefits is highlighted on the product overview page. Some banks still place this information in separate areas of their site, which makes users work harder to understand their product.
• Make it easy to compare offers. The study demonstrates that customers often compare multiple offers. Over 60% will compare a new offer with one from their current bank. That means you should make it as easy as possible for your current customers to understand your products and the benefits of opening multiple accounts at your bank.
• Make it easy for customers to pick up where they left off. Since we know that customers visit multiple websites during their research process, you should make it as easy as possible for customers to return to you site and see recently reviewed products. Consider offering shortcuts to recently viewed products or links to specific product names so users can easily find the products they want. Ensure that your site search results links directly through to product information from product name search.