By David Black, Managing Director, Financial Services, Google UK
Things have changed in the banking and financial services industries. American author and banking guru Jim Marous recently noted that “financial institutions must be able to deliver an easy to navigate, seamless digital platform that goes far beyond a miniaturised online banking offering”. If this statement had been made at the turn of the century, how many banking and finance brands would have agreed? Or even truly understood?
From retail to travel, digital has revolutionised how brands and their customers interact – but arguably no industry has been impacted as quickly and significantly as banking. Since 2006, the share of UK adults who use the internet every day has risen from 35% to 86%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – with online banking the fastest growing activity online.
But this isn’t a change restricted to desktop. In fact, desktop is arguably becoming less important than mobile. Increasingly users are checking balances and making payments on the move, favouring smartphones and tablets over laptops and computers. Research by consultancy CACI estimated that the number of bank customers using mobile apps will more than double between 2017 and 2022, while desktop or laptop banking activity will drop 63% during the same period.
Despite the majority of traffic coming from smartphones, many finance brands still think desktop first. This means that their sites are poorly optimised for mobile – and consequently the user experience is negatively impacted. This is particularly relevant for the finance industry. Google’s benchmarking study showed that UK finance sites are the most unusable for mobile users (versus travel and retail), with 30% using desktop pages on a mobile experience. The need to address this is clear – research from Google has found that 75% of people in the UK say that the speed it takes to load a page has the most impact on their overall experience – and 62% say they are less likely to purchase from that brand in the future if they have a negative mobile experience. In fact, 50% of UK users abandon mobile transactions altogether because of a poor experience. The most forward-thinking financial service brands are already taking steps to rectify this industry lag – and one great example comes from consumer credit reporting company Experian.
Seeing over 60% of its website’s visitors come via mobile, the case was clear for improved mobile user experience for Experian, which took steps to enhance its mobile experience. To begin with, the Experian team invested in a web performance measurement tool which allowed them to assess any correlation between the impact of site speed on revenue. For brands wanting a similar assessment of their mobile performance, Google has recently released its updated Test My Site tool, which offers businesses an indication on how they perform compared to an industry benchmark.
The results of this test underlined the need to review the brand’s mobile site experience. Viewing their site’s performance against their competitors, Experian saw that their mobile site took an average of eight seconds to load. To put this into context, Google’s research shows that more than half of mobile visits are abandoned if a site takes more than three seconds to load.
In an effort to improve site speed and positively affect the conversion rate, Experian partnered with Google and took a three-pronged approach.
Experian’s first step was building a number of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Web pages and ads published in the AMP open source format load nearly instantly, giving users a smooth, more engaging experience on mobile and desktop. Using AMP pages, Experian was able to slash its average load time to just 1.5 seconds.
Secondly Experian optimised key complex pages, such as the homepage, by following web performance best practice – this means keeping the site ‘light’. Large images, or multiple files concerned with font, size, colour and spacing, have a significant impact on mobile load times. By prioritising above-the-fold content over anything else, brands allow users to view the site as fully loaded earlier on, enabling them to start browsing faster.
The third change Experian made was embedding a mobile-first culture into the business. Although marketing and product teams know that delivering better experiences than their competitors is vital for their business, it is often a struggle to translate this into a clear business case. By testing their mobile site, Experian were able to quantify exactly how their site was performing and build a case to the business for it becoming a priority.
Today, people expect their mobile experiences to be speedy and seamless. For banking and financial services brands, simply being accessible via mobile is no longer enough. By instilling site speed as a priority across the company, Experian offers a great example for brands looking to match and surpass the expectations of their users. Now that’s something any finance brand would love to bank on.