Firstly, I hope all my American colleagues and friends are enjoying Thanksgiving. Happy holidays everyone!
I especially hope that all the IT professionals who work in the consumer retail markets get some rest because this coming Monday is Cyber Monday, one of the biggest days for online shopping transactions in the business year. Cyber Monday is part of the holiday season, which Forrester defines as November through December, and as our recent retail forecast report for 2013 points out, we expect online sales to top $78 billion in the US alone. Cyber Monday is not just a US event though; even in the UK, spending is forecast by Sage Pay to be more than £500m for this one day alone.
These figures highlight how digital our world has become. There is no need to go out in the cold or the rain as purchases can be made via mobile devices at any time or anywhere. This move to the digital world means that for many consumer retail companies, their websites and increasingly their mobile apps are now key to their success as they are becoming a major revenue and brand image contributor.
For my money, the most surprising high-value secure website feature is search (here we mean natural language keyword search that lets a user find what he or she is looking for on the site). In fact, our research revealed search to be one of the few bank website features that customers rate as above-average in importance, yet search is either nonexistent or poor on most banks’ secure sites. So we wrote an entire research report about it. Here are some highlights:
Online banking customers want search… We asked consumers who bank online to "rate how important it is to you that your bank's website has each of the following features" and asked them about 14 different features, including search. The majority of online bankers — 68% in the US and 63% in Canada — say search is important to have on their bank's secure website.
…but few banks offer search on their secure website…Just seven of the 25 largest banks in North America include search functionality on their secure websites.
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.
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).
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.
After more than 12 years of evaluating website user experience, Forrester reached a major milestone — completing 1,500 Website User Experience Reviews. That's more than 100 reviews per year or more than 10 per month. Whew! We've been busy.
These reviews (using an expert/scenario/heuristic review methodology) span B2C and B2B sites, intranets, and employee portals across many industries and countries. What we do: We identify target users and attempt to accomplish realistic user goals for those users, and then we evaluate the experience on a set of 25 criteria graded across possible scores of -2 (severe failure), -1 (fail), +1 (pass), or +2 (best practice) for each criterion.
Many poor experiences. Since scores for each of the 25 criteria range from a -2 to +2, total scores could range from -50 to +50, and passing all tests would result in a grade of +25 or higher. But the average score across all of our reviews was only +1.1, and only 3% of the sites earned a passing score (that's a total of 45 sites out of the 1,500. Yes, you read that right: 45).
Fluctuations in scores over time. The average score rises and falls when we look across versions of the methodology and over time. But, finally, in the latest version, there was a significant increase in the average score over the years just prior — a trend we hope to see continue. There's a similar pattern when we compare B2C and B2B sites. B2B sites have consistently lagged behind B2C sites in user experience scores, but we're finally seeing that gap narrow.