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Towards More eCommerce Sites in Banking

I decided to write this article following the amount of coverage Australia’s Bankwest recently received for their newly redesigned website. The newt site is more focused on ecommerce, but it still doesn’t incorporate any user generated content or voice of the customer.

BankWest-Homepage
First of all, it is always a pleasure to see innovative initiatives in banking and fresh designs meant to improve the customer experience (and online sales).

Please find below a statement from one of Bankwest’s Senior Executives.

Vittoria Shortt, Chief Executive Bankwest Retail, says: “We’ve looked at 
Bankwest
the best Web sites beyond financial services and used this to benchmark ourselves. We’ve simplified online research for customers and given them the rich experience they expect from the best sites online whilst also maintaining our unique Bankwest brand.”

Happy Banking
HappyBanking
I found it fun to mention that Bankwest is not the only bank to use the “Happy Banking” domain (http://HappyBanking.com.au). Indeed Bank of Tenessee in the US has adopted a similar approach quite some time ago (http://HappyBanking.com).

eCommerce, Social Media, UGC and VOC
Within the last couple of years, the most engaging and successful brands worldwide have shifted their strategy towards more engagement and contribution with/from their market. They understood that people wanted to communicate and express themselves outside the previously almighty corporate site.

So they’ve been busy building their social media presence, listening to online conversations and engaging with their influencers (detractors and advocates) online. They are also urging their customer to review their products and services or share their suggestions, and react on brand values.

And it makes perfect business sense. Indeed, 76% of people trust their peers, even strangers, more than traditional marketing messages. Collecting customer feedback and suggestions is also an efficient way to achieve a number of strategic goals such as enhancing your existing products or launching new ones (co-creation), improving your customer support and increase customer satisfaction, or driving more qualified traffic to your site and eventually increasing propensity to do business with you.

Did you know that 90% of the content on BestBuy.com is User Generated?

Bankwest-Feedback
On the new Bankwest site, we are still missing the social media element and “the Voice Of the Customer” (VOC). Yes, there is a small share button on a few pages, and a big “Got feedback?” button somewhere on the site, but customer reviews are nowhere to be seen.

How Much Will this New Design Help Bankwest Increase Market Share
Unarguably, http://www.bankwest.com.au now looks different from the more traditional, unsearchable, self centered and opaque banking websites. And this is an improvement. The industry must shift from legacy systems to content-managed systems and more intuitive and user friendly websites (public and secure by the way).

But could differentiation in banking really come from the design more than the level of engagement in the facebook era? For the last two years, UBankhas successfully increased its market share based on innovative, simple and appealing products, strong customer support and better engagement online through social media. Recently, NAB was the first large bank in Australia to draw blood with its incredibly viral PR social media initiative “the Break Up“.

Nowadays even though people have access to more information online, they are seeking guidance and they are expecting their bank to listen to them and provide them with a high level of assistance, wherever and whenever they need it, and help them better manage their finances. Hence the rise of Personal Financial Management tools.

People are visiting banking sites less and less due to the uptake of mobile banking (cf Standard Chartered Breeze), alternative payment solutions like PayPal, Peer-to-Peer communities such as Prosper.com orFriendsclear.com, and access to customer support on twitter or facebook (@AskCiti@BNPParibas_SAV or @LloydsTSBOnline).

From my opinion, all those factors need to be taken into account and addressed as part of any new redesign projects, don’t you think?

Other Fresh Designs & Customer Experiences in Banking
Bankwest is not the only financial institution to provide a fresh, vastly improved, customer experience online. I invite you to check the 5 following financial institutions’ websites and social media presence.

HP-FNB
* FNB
 (South Africa): the First National Bank websiteprovides an excellent customer experience and easy need-based vs product based navigation. I’ve always enjoyed the level of engagement on FNB Premier Banking’s facebook page.

HP-CajaNavarra
* Caja Navarra
 (Spain): the Caja Navarra websitedoesn’t look like a banking site, but more like a community site with a ton of rich content and promotion of their social media presence. I invite you to check Cancha 24 (customer support & social media) and their innovative twitter contest via DM.

HP-Fidor
* Fidor
 (Germany): the Fidor AG website is more inviting than your traditional banking site. I invite you to visit their online community and watch my interview with my friendMatthias Kroener, CEO.

HP-CAPG
* Credit Agricole Pyrenees Gascogne
 (France): the French regional bank is one of the most active bank in the social media space. I invite you to check their site, lefil.com, which has seen a x800 increase of traffic since they started to embed their blogs on the homepage. On 1st April 2011, they launchedTooKam.com one of the most innovative virtual branches focused on social media and virtual currency.

HP-USAA
* USAA
 (US): the website of USAA, arguably the most innovative bank / insurance firm in the US, is almost built around Customer Generated Content (CGC). It is one of the best example of the power of capturing the Voice Of the Customer (VOC) in a proactive and secure way. They also built a sizable audience both on twitter and facebook.

Are Banks Ready to Deal With Customers Like Amazon
For the last 5 years, since my Head of Online Sales job at now the largest banking group in the UK, I’ve heard a countless number of times banks aiming to provide the same online experience as the likes of Apple or Amazon.

But is it what customer really want? And is the industry really ready to be customer centric at last? From my opinion there is still a long way to go, and a lot of effort breaking the silos internally and shifting your employees behaviour and your corporate culture. To find out more about the challenge ahead and find some inspiration, I invite you to visit the blog of my good friend Brett King.

Join the Conversation, Contact Us
I am keen to help you and your financial institution to better understand and leverage social media.

Don’t hesitate to call me (0044 7736 446 357), send me an email (christophe.langlois@visible-banking.com), or DM me (@Visible_Banking) to talk about about twitterfacebook, customer reviews & Voice Of the Customer (VOC) projects in banking, financial services and insurance..

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