Marketing: Bank of America Reinforces Digital Banking Features, Benefits

Hotels.com spokesperson "Captain Obvious"
Hotels.com spokesperson “Captain Obvious”

 

Sometimes, the most obvious things are easiest to overlook. For example, despite the importance of mobile (and desktop) functionality for website visitors, some banks, even major ones (Chase I’m looking at you), don’t bother to reinforce their features and benefits. That is probably less of an issue for big brands where most customers assume state-of-the-art digital features are readily available. But community banks and credit unions should have mobile and/or online banking listed in primary or secondary navigation. US Bank has always been good at doing just that.

Recently, BofA has been promoting its online/mobile features with a homepage promotion (see screenshot #1 below). I first noticed it while paying my BofA card Friday, but I don’t know how long it’s been running. Clicking the See popular features link delivers you to a page touting features across three categories: Manage Accounts, Payments and Transfers, and Security. The first five are visible on screenshot #2 below:

  • Set up a travel notice (currently the featured feature across top-half of screen)
  • Check your FICO score
  • Redeem credit card rewards
  • Update your contact info
  • Set up custom alerts

The other 11 (not shown in screenshot):

  • Replace card
  • Go paperless
  • Direct Deposit
  • Reorder Checks
  • Bill pay
  • Transfer and send money
  • Pay with a digital wallet
  • Mobile Check Deposit
  • Lock or unlock your debit card
  • Fingerprint sign-in
  • Security Center

Note: I’m surprised Bank of America’s “deals” aren’t one of the 16 features highlighted. Even though you can’t really make it out, the mobile phone at the top of the landing page (screenshot 2) has the BankAmeriDeals section open along the bottom (note the Starbucks logo).

Bottom line: A good explanation of digital features and benefits should be easy to find on your website and mobile app. Even though the features seem straightforward to power users like yourself, it’s all a big mystery to 95+% of your customers who just want to spend as little time as possible banking.

 

Bank of America invites customers to check out its digital features.
Bank of America invites customers to check out its digital features

 

Bank of America's extensive digital features explainer.
Bank of America’s extensive digital features explainer (link)

Useful UI: The Dashboard Metaphor

biz-dashboard-definition

Every now and then a useful term comes into widespread use and it can be hard to decide whether it’s a fad (e.g., home banking) or something that will be around for decades (e.g., ATM). Dashboard is a term we are seeing more and more of. While it’s too soon to say if it will still be around in the next decade, let alone in 50 years, it’s a good word in wide use in consumer and business services today (see definition below).

redfin-dashboard
Redfin’s homeowner dashboard

Redfin, for example, sends new homeowners an email suggesting they log in to the Owner’s Dashboard of their new property. Redfin must be matching home-buying records to its user database to make the connections. It’s a nice touch. Who wouldn’t want to sit in the virtual driver’s seat of their most important asset and get a look around. And with home prices appreciating in most parts of the country, it’s a mighty fine view. In the example, the home value is up almost 15% since February.

Banks should consider using similar language for their advanced digital banking services. Rather than a fancy name to confuse consumers, use Dashboard, which is not only easy to remember, but also has all the right connotations. One major bank already doing so is BB&T (see below), with its unique customizable mobile and desktop service, U. Another is Ohio-based First Financial Bank as well as $88 million Gateway Community Bank (screenshot below).

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BB&T's U digital banking is centered around a "Dashboard"
BB&T’s U digital banking is centered around a “Dashboard”

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Bottom line: The name of a digital service isn’t going to make or break it. But as we struggle with educating users on the features and benefits, the use of known terms can ease the learning curve.

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Gateway Community Bank homepage with news of its new "Dashboard View"
Gateway Community Bank homepage with news of its new “Dashboard View”

Banking UI: Let’s Not Get Overly Responsive on the Desktop

 

nextcard home2My favorite website of all time was from the ill-fated dot-com “fintech” card issuer, NextCard. In 1999, it was light years ahead of its time in design and UI. If only it had been equally savvy in its underwriting skills, it would be a digital banking giant by now.

What I loved about its website was the almost total lack of copy. In an era where most traditional brands dumped everything they could think of on the homepage, NextCard made due with just 50 words of copy, an almost “Google-like” experience (and this was before Google). See its circa-2001 homepage above.

The nice thing about the NextCard effort, besides the big red “easy” button dominating the page, is that the whole thing fit nicely on a single desktop computer screen. That was back when horizontal and vertical scrolling were the norm.

Fast-forward 15 years and the vast majority of banking websites are MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better. And I am a big fan of responsive design. It’s forced designers to pare back on overly busy home pages that have been a hallmark of banking sites since the 1990s.

wsecu mobileHowever, I think we are now in danger of becoming over-reliant on responsive design, at least on the desktop. Yes, it’s cost-effective to build a single site that works across all screen sizes. But if you are big enough to have a six-figure marketing budget, you can afford to tweak your site so it sparkles on both smartphones and desktops.

I don’t want to single out anyone, but I need an example, so I looked at a few sites in the Seattle area and chose Washington State Employess Credit Union to illustrate my point. Its site renders great on mobile phones or tablets with an intuitive swiping down (or is that up?) layout (see inset for iPhone 6 capture).

However, the same photos, fonts and layout rendered on a 13-inch laptop browser screen aren’t as elegant. The biggest issue is navigation. WSECU goes with the smartphone convention of a small “hamburger” menu in the upper right (see screenshot below). Users accustomed to mobile navigation will likely find it, but others may be perplexed.

With no visible desktop navigation, the eye is drawn to the “We’re all in” main headline along with the two running across the bottom (“Look what’s happening at your branch” and “Reflecting on 2015”). None of those are particularly enticing jumping-off points for the casual online visitor.

Overall, the WSECU site is pleasing to the eye and has easy-to-find login and search. However, the desktop version isn’t as effective as it could be explaining the products, services and benefits of banking there. And 20 years into web design, we should be more responsive to visitor needs.

WSECU home2

Website Design: 10 Reasons to Love the Homepage of City National Bank of West Virginia

city_national_WV_home

Sometime serendipity leads you to great places. Looking for inspiration this morning, I did a random search on Google for “banks in West Virginia.” The top organic result was City National Bank, an 82-branch bank headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia. If they were a fintech company, we’d be talking about how close they are to becoming a unicorn (current market value is just under $750 million).

And more importantly for our blog, City National has an awesome website. The overall look and feel is great, the polished graphics grab your attention, and it’s limited it to about 60 words of copy. Here’s 10 more reasons why it clicks with us:

  1. Easy-to-find site search: Placed in the upper right with a purple magnifying glass to give it a little extra polish.
  2. Four key items limit the main navigation: Personal | Business | Mortgage | Wealth Management
  3. Functions on personal drop-down menu easily accessible (not shown) includes: “Online and Mobile Banking” and “Online Account Opening” two important functions that are often difficult to find. It also lists “Avoiding overdrafts” first (see #10)
  4. Well designed promo area: The four rotating promos are beautiful, with great visuals and dramatic color.
  5. Visible call to action: The promo includes a specific call to action: “Add your card.”
  6. New-user help within login area: I really like how they split the button into thirds with Login | Demo | Enroll
  7. Account opening choices: It’s important to showcase the ability to open online since that’s still not widely understood. But extra points go to City National for also not forgetting that many (most?) still like the support of opening in branch.
  8. $5 e-statement credit: Great to see the bank sharing the cost savings by ridding the system of paper
  9. Overdraft avoidance: The bank not only uses the O-word (on the homepage no less), but also helps customers avoid overdrafts (see also #3 above) (see note 1).
  10. Suggestion box: After #9, I’m not surprised, but it’s also rare to see this level of encouragement to provide feedback to the bank.

Grade: A

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Note:
1. If you go deeper into the overdraft-avoidance advice, it’s not as consumer friendly as I expected. The bank could do more to promote overdraft-protection options.

US Bank Adds “Thank a Banker” to Homepage

usbank_thankabanker_boxUS Bank has been on a roll lately, appearing in our blog more times this summer than in the previous three years. Its latest novelty? A unique “thank a banker” function, complete with smiley face emoji, prominently located at the bottom-middle of homepage (below the fold on my 13-inch laptop). It’s shown to both customers and non-customers.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it. While I don’t see the harm, it would seem to be a fairly low-usage feature to warrant homepage real estate. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. It’s great brand positioning, essentially saying, ‘Hey, look. we aren’t one of those impersonal banks. Our customers love us so much we have to put a box on our homepage to collect all the compliments.’

And then if anyone actually does use it, the bank gets a stream of attaboy/girls to send out to staff. Clever. Hopefully, the bank sends the customer a nice thank-you email (I hadn’t received one 30 minutes after submitting form).

The website function is outsourced to an employee-recognition specialist, OC Tanner. An ewardcenter.com URL is displayed to US Bank customers as they fill out the 13-field form, a hefty 9 of which are required fields (see second screenshot below).

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More importantly, I like the Labor Day loan sale at the top of the US Bank homepage (see below). It’s traditionally a big car-buying weekend, so it’s a great time to promote vehicle lending, especially with the still ridiculously low APRs available here.

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US Bank homepage (3 Sep 2015, 10:00 a.m. Pacific):

usbank_home_0915

US Bank “thank-a-banker” form (link):

usbank_thankabanker

 

 

Design: Creating Online Awareness of Digital Banking

design_iconThere is only one reason I visit a bank’s website: to learn about its online and/or mobile banking features. Granted, understanding digital banking is my livelihood. But normal people looking for a new checking account, credit card or loan also need to understand digital capabilities. Even for those that need the comfort of knowing there’s a branch nearby, online/mobile is still a key attribute for the vast majority of consumers, and businesses, shopping for banks.

So I don’t understand why digital features are often relegated to a sub-menu buried in the Personal Banking section. Of the 10 largest U.S. retail banks, only two, US Bank and BB&T, feature online banking in high-level navigation. This is little changed from our mid-2013 overview.

My favorite among the mega-banks (again) is US Bank, which highlights digital on the upper left and uses both “online” and “mobile” in the navigation tab:

usbank_home


BB&T’s
placement also works with “Online Services” on the far right of the top line. While that naming is okay, it would be better to see “mobile” mentioned. So, I’d recommend changing it to “Online & Mobile,” which is the same number of characters.

bbt_home
Plenty of smaller banks and credit unions are already showcasing their digital features. For example, San Diego County Credit Union uses “Online & Mobile Banking” along its top navigation.

sandiegocu_home

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Image licensed from 123rf.com

Mobile Monday: Engaging Prospective New Customers

mobile_phone_lineupHow important are mobile users to your sales efforts? 76% of Facebook’s ad revenue is from mobile (and it was considered by many to be a mobile laggard a few years ago).

Prospective customers are already visiting your website from their smartphones in massive numbers. Are you making a good first impression? Does the UI work across key devices? And more importantly, is there an easy-to-find path to mobile purchase?

This afternoon, I visited 20 leading banking and personal finance sites (as a proxy for popularity, I used the 20 most downloaded free finance apps in the U.S. Apple App Store, see list in footnote). And it was like a trip back in time before (desktop) websites had adopted browser-design standards. By the numbers:

  • Excellent: 19 of the 20 had mobile-optimized sites (Laggard = Navy Federal Credit Union)
  • Satisfactory: 14 of 18 had a visible link for login (2 required a native app to login)
  • Needs work: 11 of 20 had a visible link to download the native app (including the 3 below)
  • Needs work: Only 3 of 20 used an initial “pop-up” screen that prompted download of the app, then the user needed to find a link to the non-app site
  • Needs work: 12 of 20 made a visible attempt to sell something
  • Fail: 6 of the 20 made a pretty marginal first impression, including several of the biggest financial institutions in the U.S. and the world: American Express, Chase, Citibank, Mint, PNC, Wells Fargo

My favorites (from this sample of 20, see footnote):

Bank: US Bank
Nice, engaging layout with clear path to more info, but missing a link to download the app

usbank_msite

Runner-up: TD Bank
Easy-to-find customer service, login, location, but missing app-link

tdbank_msite

Favorite non-bank: Credit Karma
Good branding, clear get-started button, but no link to native app

credit_karma_msite

Least favorite FI: American Express (lots of competition for this one)
Too much emphasis on logging in, easy-to-miss card-finder at bottom

amex_msite

Least favorite non-FI: Mint
Straightforward app link, but needs to better engage new user before offering the two choices; not very graphically interesting

mint_msite

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Top 20 apps (in order at U.S. App Store, 5PM Pacific 31 Aug 2015): Chase, BofA, Wells Fargo, PayPal, Capital One, Venmo, Credit Karma, Square, Mint, Acorns, GEICO, Citibank, Discover, American Express, USAA, Progressive, US Bank, Navy Federal, TD Bank, PNC Bank

#RockChalk (for Karl, Joe and Mary)

Design: Mixed Verdict as Chase Bank Mimics Mobile Look on New Desktop UI

chase_new_v_old_homepage

Chase unveiled a new homepage (on right above), the second in the past three years. While the first (on left above), unveiled in Oct 2012, was a massive rebuild, the latest is a more of a large remodel. I was not a huge fan of the 2012 version, so I’m glad to see the improvement, especially the downsizing of the page-dominating log-in area.

The first impression is good and the overall look and feel supports the Chase brand. But I think other homepages (e.g., Umpqua Bank, Verity Credit Union or even Capital One) do a better job showcasing banking products as opposed to “lifestyle” content that Chase seems enamored with (see #5 below). However, website design is much more than the homepage, and Chase’s previous design is a top performer in Change Sciences overall 2014 website usability and conversion ratings. So clearly Chase knows how to convert their massive website traffic. I’m sure they will be closely following the metrics after the change and will tweak any under-performing areas.

Chase’s press release provides a handy outline to lay out a few thoughts on its website. (And I apologize in advance to the Chase team for a bit of snark sneaking through; press releases have a way of doing that to a person.)

So here are the five points taken verbatim from the press release along with our comments:

1. Feel at home: Localized images personalize the site for returning visitors.

My take: This is a great feature brought over from Chase’s mobile app. Customized images are a nice and a relatively easy way to localize—still important in a country with 10,000 banks and credit unions, 99% of which are locally oriented. However, Chase’s implementation is a bit jarring. The eight images dizzily zoom right-to-left every 7 seconds and never stop. Luckily, they don’t begin until after you’ve been on page for 20+ seconds, so you can log in before the show begins.

2. Take a scroll: As with any newsfeed, customers can scroll down the homepage and have access to relevant content.

My take: Take a scroll is a clever bit of wordsmithing, but it’s a bit unusual to claim it as a benefit. That said, I do like the comparison to a newsfeed, a more modern concept generally not associated with banks.

3. Navigate with ease: The easy-access menu stays clearly in sight as customers scroll down the homepage.

My take: Chase’s fixed navigation is a UI feature that’s important on longer pages. But is it smart to mimic the mobile UI so closely? A universal complaint about mobile websites is their inconsistent navigation compared to desktop websites where nav has become well standardized. Yes, the design looks cooler, like a ginormous iPhone screen, but does the aesthetic win come at the expense of usability? With those jumbo images flashing by every 7 seconds, you do not want to linger. There is also inconsistent navigation: The homepage uses the mobile approach while the inner pages have the older navigation—do we assume that’s temporary?

4. See the choices: Customers can find which checking accounts, credit cards or mortgages best fit their lifestyle.

My take: Chase claims: “Customers can find which checking accounts, credit cards or mortgages best fit their lifestyle.” I’m pretty sure real people don’t think about their bank accounts that way, but what I believe the bank is saying here is that exposing readers to products within the “news and stories” section (see below) will lead to more sales. I have my doubts, and Chase can alter this quickly if the metrics aren’t supporting the tactic.

5. Learn from both experts and customers: News and Stories’ timely advice and insights move to a more prominent place.

My take: Big brands have been toying with “content marketing” off and on for 20 years. I understand the bank’s desire to market this way, but with so many other credible sources of personal finance info, you just end up looking amateurish compared with the NY Times, CNN Money, not too mention the hundreds of personal finance blogs. And even if you pay Pulitzer prize-winning journalists to write original content, you cannot avoid the fact that the article is POSTED TO A BANK SITE. My advice, stick to facts, tutorials, and links to third-party resources.

20 Mobile Banking Landing Pages

image Last week, I caught up with the USAA folk to share thoughts on the future of mobile banking. They explained how they are converting visitors on the mobile web to their native app with a popup (interstitial) prompt (see inset). It’s the first time I’ve seen a bank use that desktop technique on the mobile web.

It had been more than a year since I took a tour of major banks using my phone’s browser (Safari, iPhone 5, iOS7). The last time proved relatively uninspiring. Several banks showed a mobile-optimized view, but most defaulted to their desktop-PC view which is unusable without tedious “pinch and zooming.” And no one pushed users to the native app.

Today, that’s changed dramatically. Of the 20 major mobile banking websites I visited, only one (Citibank) delivered a desktop-PC view (and that varied depending on which URL was used to enter the Citibank site). And four of the 20 pushed their mobile app heavily (and three more showed a download link to the app store).

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Recommendations 
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  • While there has been much talk about pushing customers to less-costly HTML5 and  responsive-design mobile websites, it’s still an app world (1 million and counting on iOS alone). And that’s not changing if Apple has anything to say about it. If you have a native app, make sure your mobile customers know about it.
  • Every mobile web front landing page should include a prominent link (above the fold) to your native app(s). And it’s not enough to simply show the Apple and Android app store logos. That’s too subtle for many novice smartphone users.
  • The call-to-action should list at least one benefit to the native app. Facebook, for instance, simply says, “browser faster.”
  • Test an interstitial landing page such as the one currently used by USAA. Users can choose “remind me later” to defer their decision to download the app, or they can kill the interstitial permanently by choosing “no thanks.”

Table: Mobile web default view from 20 major mobile FIs
Key: Native promo = Promotes native app
Mobile web = Delivers mobile-optimized view
Pinch & Zoom = No mobile optimization on main landing page, requires pinching and zooming to navigate

  Mobile Optimized View? Native App Call to Action? App Store link? Large Promo?
Native app promo        
Bank of America Yes Yes Yes Yes
Barclays (UK) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Moven Yes Yes Yes Yes
USAA Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mobile web        
American Express Yes No No No
BB&T Yes No No No
BECU Yes Yes No No
BMO Harris Yes No No No
Capital One Yes No No Yes
Chase Yes No Yes No
Fifth Third Yes No No No
ING Direct (Turkey) Yes No No Yes
Regions Yes* No No No
Schwab Yes Yes Yes No
Simple Yes No No Yes
SunTrust Yes No No No
US Bank Yes No No No
Wells Fargo Yes No Yes No
Pinch&Zoom        
Citibank Varies by URL No No No
GoBank No No No No

*Regions uses popup to provide choice of mobile view or full website