These days, most major banks and credit unions do a pretty good job of exposing their various products and services to website visitors. But when it comes to actually moving visitors through the sales process, it’s a mixed bag. The best have account selection tools, online applications (see note 1), readily available help, good benefits-oriented copy, and so on.
But you still won’t mistake banking sites for a retailer. Most banks still assume that visitors are already familiar with their brand and are predisposed to buy. While that thinking works fine with walk-in traffic to bank branches, on the Web it’s a different environment, with near-infinite choice.
You need to quickly impress visitors, then provide incentives to get them to take action. I always go back to the AIDA framework from Marketing 101: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Many financial sites are effective only for consumers already ready to take action. They are missing crucial financial AID (sorry for the weak effort at banking humor).
HSBC diverts customers to a lower-cost checking account
However, there are many exceptions. For example, HSBC’s U.S. website. The site really sells. There are dozens of little things they do right, and a few that could be improved, but here’s something I’ve not seen before.
When looking at checking account options, I clicked on the Basic Banking package. Instead of telling me about the account, I was greeted with a popup, on top of the grayed-out screen, explaining how I could save the $3 per month charge by choosing Choice Checking (see screenshots below).
I never thought I’d see a major bank, or large retailer for that matter, trying to push me into a lower-cost option (see caveat below). But it makes a ton of sense. HSBC knows that most website visitors are expecting a no-monthly-fee checking account. So why not direct them that way instead of just hoping they find it before heading off to ING Direct or other online options?
But I wonder how many visitors are happy with this recommendation? Choice Checking is only conditionally free (which is disclosed in the popup). The account has a direct-deposit or minimum balance requirement to avoid the $8 monthly fee. Customers unable to muster those hurdles would be better off with the account they were originally looking at, Basic Checking. And, many visitors, especially outside the branch footprint (note 2), might prefer the Online Payments Account from HSBC Direct.
Only HSBC knows whether the end results are positive, but it’s a great marketing technique regardless.
HSBC Basic Banking landing page (8 Dec. 2009)
Landing page for “lower cost” option
Note: It’s only free if you have direct deposit or maintain a $1500 combined balance (highlights below are mine).
1. For more information on the online sales process, see Online Banking Report: Online Account Opening.
2. We have several HSBC branches in the Seattle area, so the results of this cross-sales experience could have been different if I’d been searching from a different IP address. It’s possible they had a cookie on me from present visits as well.