E33: Aligning Banking Website Experience with End User Intent

Allison walks us through ways to make sure your website experience matches what your audience is looking for.


Michael Reynolds Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Allison, I'm excited today, because we're going to talk about today one of your favorite topics, which is website user experience.

Allison Gibbs Yep.

MR I love it. I love it when we get passionate about topics and you can soap-box a little bit. So that's our topic today. Specifically, aligning banking website experience with end-user intent. There's a lot we can unpack here, but I know you have a list. So what you got today?

AG I do have a list. Well, this came about because I'm in client meetings on a regular basis --

MR All the time.

AG -- and I hear the same things over and over again. And I'm just going to start with -- we just need to own something. We need to own that marketers ruin everything.

MR Including us. [laughs]

AG Including us. I get it.

MR We're all in the same boat.

AG Yes. We're in the same boat. But there are some very specific times that we marketers should not ruin things to the extent that we ruin them. The first thing is, on our website, we need to balance our brand and marketing with the end-user experience. We spend lots of money on branding, and it is fantastic, and we love it and the consistency and having the right messaging and the right tone and, obviously, the look that goes along with it. On a website, that makes sense, and we should continue doing that. But we want to make sure that we are balancing that brand and marketing message with the end-user experience; so --

MR And what they're actually looking for.

AG Yes. And so the -- where I see this the most is going to be within the top navigation. A lot of times, people will have these really cute names for -- it's all on-brand and it aligns perfectly with the messaging, but that messaging may not necessarily make sense to the end user. And so I always tell people that we have to cater to the lowest common denominator; we have to make it super straightforward for everybody, and that we can't have those -- I call them "branded keywords" in the top navigation.

MR Do you have an example?

AG I don't have an example from a --

MR You don't want to call anyone out?

AG -- yeah. Because I don't want to call anybody out.

MR Fair enough.

AG That's the thing. A lot of it goes back to product names and branded product names and it's perfectly fine to have that, and everybody -- I think every bank and credit union has a branded product, whether it's a handful of checking accounts that have very specific names; same thing with savings. That's usually pretty common. But it's important to have what it is in the title itself; so it's not just Bank Name Premier, Bank Name Basic. What does that even mean? The reason why I say this is because -- and, marketers, I love you, but you always fight me on this because it's always Well this is our brand. We're on brand, we're on brand, we're on brand. But people don't have your style guide sitting in front of them --

MR "People" meaning your potential members or customers?

AG Yes. In order to understand what some of this stuff is -- now, sure. People could interact with the site; they could click on things to find out what it is there. But with patience levels not being that high, I would say that we should make sure that we're making it really easy for our user. So if it's checking accounts, call it checking in the top navigation. Same thing with savings. We balance between dividing the navigation up by brand line -- so personal, business, maybe wealth management's under there or it has its own line -- or we break out all of the different product lines within the top navigation -- so things like checking, savings, borrowing, however you want to say it. We see it different ways: we say bank, save, borrow, or banking, saving, lending that kind of thing. Pretty straightforward and to the point.

So number two, don't hinder people getting to what they want and/or need. Where this comes into play a lot is with things like pop-ups on sites. Now, pop-ups are warranted in some cases, and there's a way to do them that makes sense.

MR I hate all pop-ups.

AG I know --

MR All of them.

AG -- I know you hate all pop-ups --

MR [laughs] -- with a passion.

AG -- but I will say that I think the best use of a pop-up that I've seen recently with a bank -- and this was a community bank in particular -- that they used it as their alert system. So instead of having --

MR Well that's actually useful.

AG -- yes, it is useful. So there was inclement weather; they were able to pop up and say branches were closing early that day, and it was in everybody's face.

MR That serves the user.

AG Yeah, it does serve the user.

MR I can get behind that.

AG Yeah, but constantly advertising your products with a pop-up?

MR That does not serve the user.

AG Yes. It doesn't serve the user.

MR That annoys the user.

AG And I know what -- I know what you're trying to do. I know that you are trying to get to people before they log in to their online banking. I know that's what you're trying to do. But there are other ways that we can do this. Another way that you can get that information in front of people is through the online banking portal itself. So if this is something that you're attracting your -- let's say the main end-user is your current customer base or your current member base. Utilize the online banking portal if you are able to. So that way, when they got to your main site, click through or sign in to their online banking, and they go into their online banking portal, utilize some sort of marketing area within that portal in order to promote what you are wanting to promote. Now, I know that not every single online banking portal allows you to do this. And I am hoping that online banking portals get on board and help us marketing folk out. Now, there are some that are, I would consider to be, maybe, enterprise-level online banking that does allow you to customize the content quite a bit more. But that doesn’t work for every single bank or credit union. Utilize what you have available for something like that. The other thing that you can do instead of using the pop-ups, you can utilize email marketing. I know that you're trying to --

MR I thought that email marketing was dead.

AG Oh my gosh, Michael, stop.

MR [Laughs]

AG Email marketing is not dead. It's not dead. If you do email marketing really well, then you can promote your products without it seeming overwhelming. Well, I'm going to call out --

MR I kid. I kid.

AG -- Bank of America right here, because Bank of America -- so I have an account through them, and it's just a constant barrage of products. I know that they have awesome content on their site; they have a whole portal -- or a whole separate section that's all financial wellness education --

MR I didn't know that.

AG -- they know -- yeah -- they know that I have been -- they know what pages I've looked at, and they can tailor the content to me in that manner, and they haven't yet. So I think that you could utilize email marketing in combination, maybe, with some of your, maybe, marketing automation software. If you've got CRM in place, you can probably tailor some of the the email marketing messaging a little bit better than just what a pop-up's going to cover. Then the other thing is take a look at your top pages as far as the most trafficked. So if your locations pages are highly trafficked -- that is one that I see quite a bit is that "locations" is usually within the top 10, most of the time top 5 -- maybe utilize the locations page or the individual location page itself to have some additional content on there to attract the user. So if they're going -- I'm going to say this with the caveat of don't ruin the locations page; make sure that you can get the hours, the location -- the actual location information, make sure that that's not blocked in any way, but you can probably find a way to squeeze in some additional messaging on that page to attract the user. Don't hinder people getting to what they want. Rude. All right, so --

MR [laughs]. Did you say "rude"?

AG Yeah. I did. I did. Because -- and here's the thing -- I mentioned this earlier: Patience. We don't have a lot of it right now. So if people get upset over stuff that we can prevent, there's just no excuse for that, I don't think.

MR [laughs]

AG I know. I'm pretty aggressive today. Michael, I have a question for you.

MR Yes.

AG What do you think is more important? Search-friendly content or user-friendly content?

MR Yes.

AG Good answer. I was trying to trick you. The question --

MR [laughs] You got to get up pretty early in the morning to get past me, Allison.

AG I know. Man. Well --

MR I know the right answer.

AG -- the trick question is that they're the same.

MR Yes. They are the same.

AG They're the same.

MR And ADA compliance fits into all that, too.

AG And ADA compliance does fit into all of this. This, again, comes back to if we've got -- let's say -- we mentioned earlier about balancing the brand and marketing with the user experience; so with that we want to make sure the product -- that the basic product name is within the menu structure, that it's within the page title, that it's on the page. But you also need to make sure from a keyword perspective that you are taking a look at the overall search volume, because you may have something named a particular way. One that I've run into recently is somebody had a page called "new car purchase." That's obviously pretty straightforward. I know what I'm going to get when I go to that page. But the search volume for "auto loans" is probably a lot higher. And especially within that area is probably a lot higher. We want to make sure we balance their product names with the searcher's keyword all together to make sure that people are finding the right content. Now, there are people out there that might say that Google will recognize "new car purchase" and that they will match up "auto loans" with that. I haven't seen it be that sophisticated yet, where it's taking something that's totally different -- a totally different -- that's completely different altogether. If we were talking about auto loans versus vehicle loans, maybe I could see where that would align. So it is going to be important to at least have somewhat of a close keyword in there from a search-volume perspective. Tried to stump you on that one, Michael.

MR Nice try.

AG I know.

MR Try again.

AG Nice try. Well, this is my last item for this. So how can we balance the website experience with the user intent? We are, as a society on the whole, are inclined to be more self-sufficient than ever. We want to be able to do as much stuff on our own as we would like to do. Part of that is, obviously, the internet allowing us to do that. What I see is, often banks and credit unions, that the websites are far behind when it comes to online engagement. It's getting better; so yes, it's getting better. But, basically, we need to have a self-sufficient online presence. A lot of times I hear from community banks in particular that people leave because they didn't -- either there was something on the app -- they probably weren't able to make deposits on the app or there was something that they couldn't do from afar, but they could have still maintained the account even though they weren't in the specific area. This is easier said than done. I understand that I'm saying this, but having a mobile app where people can essentially do all transactions, I think, is going to be important. Now, the question will be But, Allison, sometimes we need signatures. Okay. Well I'm starting to see more and more banks utilizing e-signature. Now, there is an opt-in component to that where you have to ask your end users or your end customers if that's something that they want to do. But I would say that when you're starting to see the younger generations moving into the space of opening new accounts and wanting to do everything online, that the concept of e-signature is not going to be foreign to anybody.

MR And even -- I had an experience recently -- maybe not recently, but I think it was last year sometime -- when I was looking at banking products, and I wanted to get all the answers on the product right then on the website, but they weren't there. I was looking at a specific business product, and I was like Okay. I have these questions about it, and it was basically just this vague little description Hey call us for more information. And if they had put all of the details on it, I probably would have just signed up right then, but there were no details there. How you build out the content on your site -- be kind of self-serve from the pre-sales aspect is very important as well. And it's good for search because the more details you put there, the more answers people will find when they search also. So from a pre-sales, marketing perspective that was an experience I had.

AG Yes, and I have transparency on my list for this one as well, because nobody wants to request a brochure. They may want to request more information --

MR Or even talk to a person.

AG -- or talk to somebody. They may want to talk to somebody --

MR --until the time is right, yeah.

AG -- yeah. They may want to talk to somebody. But do not hide your content behind just a basic paragraph and then request a brochure.

MR Be transparent. Be specific.

AG If the content is in a brochure, put it on the website.

MR [laughs]

AG Put it on the website.

MR Why not just put it there?

AG Exactly. And I know. They're trying to get the contact information. I know what you're trying to do. I'm a marketer, too. I know exactly what you're trying to do.

MR Well, usually they don't put anything there. Usually it's just one little page on a product and it's like Oh, call us for more information or details. Well, no. Put the details right there on the page. Make it a big, long, descriptive page.

AG Yes.

MR That's my point.

AG Also, I will say --

MR I'm ranting.

AG -- That's okay. So am I. I will say that something that I'm seeing more and more of is this midway step: midway between the I'm looking for information and the I'm ready to sign up for an account. So, Michael, I think you're a pretty direct person, and once you have a process, then you go through the process until it's complete --

MR How did you know? [laughs]

AG I've known you for a few years. But not everybody does that. There's that in-between step of they definitely know that they're looking, but they're not ready to make a commitment yet; they're not ready to open the account online or they're not ready to set up -- or to fill out the application, whatever that is. In that case, I've seen a few systems kind of go through the process of collecting the information online -- almost like a "do you need to talk to somebody", but they collect the information online, and then that serves up some additional digital information almost like in a magazine style. That then gives the -- basically, they ask for the contact information and then that starts to connect them with the individual user so they're still able to track that from a business-development perspective. There is this in-between area that I think that we need to work on, on the whole, but I'm starting to see that more and more as well. Make it as self-sufficient as possible. It will pay off --

MR Agreed.

AG -- in the long run. It will pay off.

MR Good list.

AG Thanks.

MR It was nice of you not to call anybody out, but the examples are pretty useful.

AG I know everybody means well, and they are doing the best that they can, and I --

MR Yeah.

AG -- that's the thing -- I don't -- except for Bank of America. I will call you out.

MR [Laughs]

AG [Laughs]

MR Well, I'm sure they will make improvements, because I'm sure they listen to our podcast. I'm sure they're all just --

AG I'm going to send them -- I'm going to find out their marketing --

MR --huddled around their speakers listening to every word. [laughs]

AG -- well, hey, I'm one of their customers, so...

MR There you go. Well, thanks, Allison. That was good stuff. We appreciate everyone joining us. We have, actually, an announcement: next week, we're going to start a new series called Brand Distillery. If you want to work through your organization's brand via podcast, join us then. It'll be a lot of fun.