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By Patrick Costello, Senior Product Strategy Director, Optimizely  

The shift from physical banking in branches to online banking services is by no means a new trend. But the gradual move from traditional banking towards new technologies such as online and mobile banking has dramatically accelerated over the last two years as a result of the pandemic, where consumers had no choice but to turn to their laptops or smartphones to manage their finances and make payments. 

In fact, according to research, a staggering 72% of adults in the UK will use mobile banking apps for payments and transactions by 2023, rather than going to a physical branch or using an ATM.

But as more and more people turn to the convenience of online banking and cashless payments, consumers are now increasingly expecting their banks to provide 24/7 access and frictionless service. This means financial services brands are now under even more pressure to provide stellar online customer experiences to meet these expectations and keep customers happy.  

With digital here to stay, financial institutions must adapt to these changing consumer demands and reduce uncertainty, which requires involving the whole business in improving the customer experience. 

The key to success lies in significantly improving these experiences, based on evidence, and rolling them out with a large degree of control. Speed is also essential, and brands must move fast by optimising and personalising customer experiences on a continuous basis. 

Start experimenting 

According to Bain & Company, successful marketers tend to conduct tests on a regular basis, whether it’s testing different brand messaging, product pages or creative content. This helps the whole marketing team gain a deeper understanding into how their customers behave online and enables them to create and push the content that’s likely to resonate with their customers and, in turn, drive higher engagement. 

One of the main reasons why digital giants like Amazon and Google are so successful is because they have a well-established experimentation culture embedded in their operating models. Their marketing teams are constantly testing features and technologies to understand how their customers are behaving and how they can reach the desired business outcomes faster. 

By rapidly testing and experimenting, brands can reveal how customer habits are changing and what features they interact with more frequently in order to inform better business decision-making.

Online travel company is a great example of how brands are implementing testing to gain significant business benefits. The company runs more than 1,000 rigorous tests simultaneously, which is an estimated 25,000 tests a year. At any given time, quadrillions of landing page permutations are live, meaning two customers in the same location are unlikely to see the same version. These experimentation efforts in fact helped transform the company from a small Dutch start-up to the world’s largest online accommodation platform in less than two decades. 

Evidence-based decisions 

More often than not, traditional software development cycles rely on fragmented data from a range of different sources rather than a single unified view of the customer. But this can mean that some new releases do not necessarily resonate with customers and require painful and time-consuming rollbacks to previous versions of a website or landing page. 

However, ensuring that customer data is placed at the very centre of product development and conducting tests early can help brands to understand if a particular feature is likely to resonate with customers before building the full feature.

To give an example, one of our customers, a major US airline, noticed its competitors were offering instalment payment options on its site. But instead of just adding this feature to its own website immediately, the airline created a test that included creating a minimal-effort user experience, which consisted of measuring clicks on an icon. 

The team were then able to use the data collected from this test to develop a solid business case for the new feature and allowed for better decision making around resources and future potential. 

After implementing the new payment feature on the site, the airline saw a significant uplift for the business. However, this decision was entirely based on evidence rather than an immediate reaction to the competition. 

Personalising the customer experience 

Consumer expectations have changed dramatically over the past couple of years as a result of Covid-19. In fact, over a half of consumers are now more likely to shop with the brands that provide a digital experience that meets their specific needs and preferences. If brands fail to deliver on this, then shoppers are likely to look elsewhere. 

While this adds complexities to the customer experience equation, having a strong personalisation and optimisation strategy can help financial services marketers engage with users at a personal level by sharing the right message with the right users at the right time.

But this type of approach requires continuous improvement and iteration and the adoption of ever more sophisticated personalisation capabilities, for example, core segmentation. 

This includes identifying psychographic characteristics of audiences, their affinities and intents. One-to-one personalisation can be achieved with the help of machine learning (ML) capabilities, where businesses can map out who their audiences are and their needs at any given point in time. 

Continuous personalisation and optimisation not only reduces risk and increases certainty, but also has a demonstrable impact on revenue. In fact, three in four companies have increased their digital revenue by over 5% through always-on optimisation and personalisation, according to Digital Experience Economy Research.   

As financial services brands navigate the ongoing market volatility and evolving customer needs, delivering engaging and impactful customers experiences has never been more important. 

New initiatives or features, whether that’s content, offers or products, should never just be rolled out for the sake of it. They should instead be released in a control manner, created based on evidence to ensure its relevant to each customer. 

Those brands who tailor the experience to each and individual customer will be the ones to not only ensure the maximum consumer satisfaction and grow their customer base, but the ones who will be able to remain competitive in such a volatile and ever-changing landscape.

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