Late last year, Forrester reviewed and ranked the secure websites of the 12 largest retail banks in the US and Canada. The full reports can be found here (US) and here (Canada). Overall, banks' secure websites earned an average score of 70 points (out of 100), demonstrating a level of quality that meets customers expectations but also leaves room for improvements. Here are some of the highlights:
Citi moves to the top of the US rankings with a website overhaul. In July 2011, Citi launched its first tablet banking app. Based in part on insights gleaned from that process, the bank rolled out a newly redesigned secure website, followed by additional digital features and functionality for online bankers, mobile bankers, and tablet bankers. As a result, Citi moved from second-to-last in our ranking to the top spot this year.
RBC pulls off a historic sixth-straight win among Canadian banks' secure sites. For a record sixth year, RBC earned the top spot in our Canadian rankings. Two factors drive RBC’s digital banking success: First, the bank's secure website offers a wide array of secure site features, including eBills, tax management tools, and more; second, the bank continues to innovate, this year adding customizable money management dashboards and new mobile features such as foreign exchange and mortgage payment calculators on its iPhone app.
Whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, you probably have a wishlist for your business. We thought it would be fun and interesting to find out what some of your wishes are, so the Digital Banking Strategy team at Forrester reached out to some of our eBusiness clients at banks and asked them “What one ‘wish’ do you have for your team’s digital banking efforts or strategy in 2013?”
Here are some of the answers we got back:
“We wish we could transform every branch and call center employee into an advocate for marketing and educating customers on our digital capabilities.”
“I wish that our execs would understand how understaffed we are.”
“I wish we had better live help for our digital banking customers.”
“I wish I knew which area of mobile payments to focus on and what is going to ‘shake out’ and actually ‘stick,’ so to speak.”
“We wish for a digitalized branch pilot that focuses on advice and guidance.”
“We wish all of our customers – including the most skittish and skeptical – would try out our digital banking capabilities (online, mobile, and tablet)… and those who already use them would do so even more regularly.”
“I wish I could spend 3 hours with our CMO – and have his full attention – to show him how much impact our online and mobile banking efforts have.”
“I wish we could sort through the clutter of mobile wallet vendors and offerings to know which will actually pan out.”
“I wish I could snap my fingers and have great secure site search and intelligent cross-selling on our secure site.”
Earlier this week I caught up with Discover’s Mike Boush to talk about his keynote at the upcoming eBusiness Forum, where he’ll explore innovations in eBusiness at Discover. Here’s a snippet of our conversation, and a sneak peak of Mike’s session at the event:
Q: What digital initiative have you undertaken in the last 12 months that you're most excited about?
A: I love what we're doing with partnerships online. It's creating a whole lot of value for customers and, frankly, getting us out of the "must be built at Discover" mentality. It started with an integration with PayPal in order to deliver peer-to-peer payment services. The program leverages PayPal’s huge delivery platform, and customers love it. Then we introduced an integration with Amazon that lets customers pay for their Amazon.com purchases with the cash they earned through our Cashback Bonus rewards program. This really highlights the difference between competitors' "points" programs and our straightforward cash, and the transparency shows just how great our program is. And recently, Google announced our integration of Discover card enrollment into the Google Wallet from our website, which is convenient for customers and helps position us in the mobile payments space. These integrations are just a sample of what we've done, but they become powerful illustration of what we can do when we team up and innovate with other great companies.
Q: What gets in the way of delivering the right experience to your customers?
Back in November 2006, a startup called Wesabe first showed the potential of online money management. Packaged personal financial management (PFM) software for PCs like Intuit's Quicken had existed for years, but Wesabe, Mint.com and a handful of other startups showed the value of using customer data, and community, to help people understand their finances better.
Since then, hundreds of banks, credit unions, wealth management firms, and other companies have launched a range of spending categorization, budgeting, peer group comparisons, and other money management features for their customers.* The leaders are increasingly making money management available in mobile and tablet apps, as well as on their websites. Fuelled by the poor state of many of the world's developed economies and growing use of digital channels, customer interest in online money management is substantial, as my colleague Reineke Reitsma wrote on her blog a few months ago.
Yet despite the growing number of firms that already offer money management, and the evident interest of some customers, many financial services eBusiness executives still question whether the business case adds up. Our new report on The Business Case For Personal Financial Management addresses that question. Here's what we found:
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) leads all of North America.RBC again took the top spot in the 2012 Canadian Bank Digital Sales Rankings, scoring 77 out of a possible 100. It continues to tweak and improve an already good design; the bank started a major redesign in 2009. RBC continues to excel in areas big and small: For example, the firm presents fulfillment options in an easy-to-read format (see screenshot below). In 2012, Royal Bank of Canada improved its navigation, content, and online application functionality, and its score for 2012 reflects that improvement.
Citi and Wells Fargo top the US banks.Citi and Wells Fargo topped Forrester’s 2012 US Bank Digital Sales Rankings by delivering on multiple levels. Both banks combine good usability with exceptional account-opening processes. For example, Wells Fargo uses presentation best practices to make its checking account fees clear to customers and prospects (see screenshot below).
Customers today have more choices than ever. Not only that, they have more information about those choices than ever. And they can get that information anytime, anywhere, and on whatever device they happen to be using at the moment. These changes have collectively put customers in the driver’s seat.
If you’re a fan of strategy guru Michael Porter, you can think of this as a shift in one of his five forces of competition: buyer power. But even without a sophisticated analytical framework, you can feel this change in your daily life. That’s because you’re a customer, too, by virtue of the fact that you buy goods and services, day in and day out.
Try comparing the power you used to have as a customer with the power you have today. I recently tried this exercise by comparing the way I picked my bank in 1998 — when I moved to the Boston area for a job — with the options I have for picking a bank today.
In June of ’98, I wanted to switch to a local-area bank but didn’t know where to begin. I dreaded doing the research on top of moving my home and starting a new job. The woman who recruited me suggested that I sign up with Bank Boston because it had the most ATMs in our area. With a sense of relief, I did just that and went on with my life.
Over the intervening years, Bank Boston was acquired by Fleet Bank, which was later acquired by Bank of America. Today that makes me a Bank of America customer, even though I never decided to do business with it. Fortunately, the relationship has worked out okay. But what if it stopped being okay and I wanted to switch? How hard would it be to pick a new bank and switch in 2012?
It’s the latest craze sweeping the nation… No, I’m not talking about Fruit Ninja, I’m talking about gamification.
There's a reason "gamification" is the buzzword on the tip of so many tongues these days. It takes ideas and structures from games - the video kind and other types - to guide companies in their quest to affect consumer behavior. So should digital strategists at banks and financial institutions use gamification to meet their business objectives?
We’ll get to that, but for now let's start by clarifying what we're talking about. Forrester defines gamification as:
The insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior.
These mechanics come in many shapes & sizes – SCVNGR, a mobile game developer, has a list of more than 40 – but here’s a quick list of four major ones:
· Points. The most basic element of gamification, points is any type of virtual currency – or, in a few cases, IRL currency. Digital strategists at banks & credit card companies have used this tool for years in the form of rewards points.
These are worrying times for people across Europe as the euro lurches towards another crisis, with leaders talking openly about the possibility of Greece leaving the euro and reports of customers starting to withdraw deposits from banks in Greece and Bankia in Spain.
It's easy to feel powerless in the face of such powerful forces, but fundamentally the repeated euro crises are about two things: debt and confidence. Lots of individuals, small companies, banks and governments across Europe have a large amount of debt, and lenders -- depositors, investors and other banks -- aren't completely confident that all of them will be able to pay it back. It's critical to avoid a vicious spiral of declining confidence that will harm Europe's economic prospects and the livelihoods of its peoples.
What can bank eBusiness executives do about it? Remember that you control two of your bank's critical communication channels: the website and email. Use them to reassure customers. How?
Help customers understand what the crisis is about. Banks aren't just about products. Your purpose is to help customers manage their money. Help your customers understand the causes of the crisis and the reality of the hard choices facing Europe. Nobody likes realizing that they are poorer than they thought they were. Without getting political, help customers understand the situation and what it means to them.
Spell out why your firm is safe. My bank emailed me on Thursday to remind me that it's covered by the British government's Financial Services Compenstation Scheme, covering up to £85,000. Put a similar message on your home page and onto the secure site, where online banking customers are most likely to see it.
Websites are the most widely used touchpoint for credit cardholders interacting with their providers. The quality of a credit card company's secure website impacts the relationship that firm has with its customers. To understand the state of card issuers' digital services, Forrester has just released our 2012 US Credit Card Secure Website Rankings. We found that:
Discover leads the pack with exceptional service features and valuable transactional functionality. With a score of 80 out of 100, Discover received the highest overall score among the six credit card issuers whose websites we evaluated. The firm earned a whopping 91 in our online servicing category, as well as an impressive 84 in our transactional content and functionality category.
eBusiness teams at card issuers have room to improve in cross-selling and usability. Although the websites we looked at revealed strong digital services among credit card issuers overall, our benchmark also uncovered opportunities for improvement, specifically in the areas of user experience design and secure website cross-selling. eBusiness teams need to enhance their websites’ navigation, task flow efficiency, and location cues while improving the contextual cross-selling & upselling on the secure site.
The past five years have been awful for most European retail banks. The financial crisis, and the resulting recessions in most of Europe's economies, nearly destroyed some banks and crushed the profitability of many of the remainder. Worse than that, it was a problem that was partly or largely of (some) banks' own making. Banks are being forced to shrink their balance sheets, sell off non-core businesses and cut costs (i.e. fire employees) just to survive. And Europe's ongoing financial crises are far from over as banks' fortunes are closely entwined with those of their indebted governments.
There's one small silver lining among these dark clouds. Over the past 15 years, eBusiness has evolved from providing an electronic brochure to become a fundamental strategic function within retail banks. One of the effects of the financial crisis has been to force most European banks to focus on how to generate profits in their core retail banking operations by serving customers efficiently. Digital banking is a big part of the answer. So, despite the bleak economic outlook, most retail banking boards know that they must continue investing in digital channels. Digital strategy is an increasingly important component in overall strategy.
I'm still surprised when I find heads of eBusiness who remain marginalized within their firms, reporting into IT or marketing rather than a centralized distribution channels function alongside branches. The leading banks no longer make that mistake. That has greatly increased the power and influence of digital banking executives, but also their responsibility for the overall success of their businesses.
Here's our view of the top five priorities for eBusiness and channel strategy executives at European retail banks: