[With apologies to all those of you who had already read this, I'm re-publishing this as the Forrester gremlins ate my previous post.]
For the past few years, many eBusiness and channel strategy executives in financial services have had a nagging sense that today's websites would be rendered obsolete as new technologies emerged or younger consumers developed radically different behaviour patterns. We think that time if fast coming upon us.
For the past six months we've been working on our vision of the Next Generation of Digital Financial Services, led by my colleague Alexander Hesse and inspired by the work of leading eBusiness teams worldwide. Although our vision is not an exact description of how all digital financial services will evolve, given the wide variety of markets that eBusiness executives operate in and the different strategies of their firms, we think the next generation of digital financial services will be characterized by five things:
Simplicity. Making it easy for customers to achieve their goals.
Ubiquity. Interacting with customers wherever they want.
Personalization. Making the entire experience relevant to individual needs.
Empowerment. Enabling customers to take action by themselves.
Reassurance. Providing human help whenever it adds value.
Last weekend I used my AAdvantage miles on a plane ticket for my husband. I went to AA.com, it was easy to trade off options based on number of miles used and flight schedule. When I went to book, my name and AAdvantage number were pre-populated into the form. I changed the name and number to his but got an error: “The AAdvantage number for Passenger 1 does not match the name entered. Please verify and re-enter.”*
Problem #1: A design problem stopped me from booking the ticket myself on the site.
Problem #2: An unhelpful error message didn’t help me fix the first problem.
Without any other choice, I called for help. Before I could reach a person – or even a menu, I got this message:
“With the refreshed and redesigned AA.com it’s easy to book, explore, and plan all of your travel needs in one place because we’ve organized things better, made it more intuitive, smarter, simpler, cleaner, all to help bring your next trip closer to reality. This is the first step of more exciting changes we have planned for AA.com. Whether you are looking or booking, a better travel experience awaits with the new, easy to navigate AA.com. Book a trip now and see for yourself. To expedite your call, please have your Advantage number ready.”
Problem #3: I had to spend a full minute hearing about how American’s new site could help me — the same site that had already failed to help me.
When I finally reached an agent and explained my problem, she said: “Well, you just had to think on it harder. You needed to leave the Advantage number blank.”
Problem #4: The agent told me I’m stupid. Who likes that?
Armed with new instructions, I tried to book the ticket. But instead I got an error message saying the site had timed out.
For the past few years I have watched enviously as the Finovate online financial technology show has gone from strength to strength in San Francisco and New York. So I was thrilled to hear that Finovate was coming to Europe and today I was lucky enough to go along to the show in London.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Finovate, it’s a fast-paced format with seven-minute live demos and pitches from 35 financial technology vendors. It’s produced by Online Financial Innovations, the people behind the excellent NetBanker blog.
New technologies follow a pattern. They start by imitating older technologies before they evolve to their true forms. The first automobiles looked like horseless carriages. It wasn't until the Vintage Era of the 1920's that cars evolved to a form that we'd recognize today with features like front-engines, enclosed cabs, and electric starters. Televisions started off copying radios - they looked more like an armoire with a small screen stuck on the front.
In the process of working on my latest piece of research, it became clear that the Web has followed a similar pattern. Early sites imitated a much older medium - paper. And even though 'web page' still dominates our thinking, online experiences have begun to evolve away from the page-based metaphor. In the next 5 years, the evolution of online experiences toward their true form is about to take off at a much faster rate than in the previous 5 years.
Consider that today's default Web platform - a browser running on a PC - is rapidly giving way to diverse online environments. The types of devices we use to connect to the Web are proliferating. In addition to the growth of netbook adoption, there are new devices like the Chumby and the Energy Joule. Portable devices are rapidly getting more powerful - as a result, the tradeoff between mobility and capability is shrinking. And even as the hardware evolves, the interfaces on the devices we use to connect to the Web are becoming more and more customizable. And the reason any of this matters at all is because consumers are already adopting these technologies.
So what are the implications of these trends? What does it mean for the future of online experiences? At Forrester, we've concluded that the resulting online customer experiences of the future will be: