Demise or rebirth of the banking web ?

Mobile Banking is gaining a lot of momentum and hype now. Most banks are investing heavily in mirroring self-service functionality from their on-line banking channel to the major mobile devices. These investments are hard to justify from a strict financial perspective given that the mobile banking service is cannibalizing on the on-line banking channel. But the strong customer pull and the promise of the cellular as a payment device are having the banks to embrace this new cost of doing business. But this blog post is not about mobile banking but what will happen to the banks’ public pages when a majority of the simple self-service transactions have migrated to the mobile devices.

What happens when the main attraction is used elsewhere and has lost its allure? Is it the demise or the rebirth of the bank’s public pages?

I see several reasons why the banks will transform their web presence into a leads and sales generator using one-to-one marketing technology:

  • Low sales in mobile banking. The mobile, with its limited screen, does not provide the same possibilities to promote relevant offerings with banners and simple guides. Management will understand that the clutter free solution tends to be the sales free too.
  • Inbound traffic from partners and social media. The web, with its hyperlinks, provides the best means to integrate with affinity partners and to intercept customers that use social media, price comparison sites and/or search engines to find a financial solution to their needs without limiting themselves to a particular bank. A survey from Accenture shows that customers are more prone to shop around now after the banking crisis in 2008.
  • Legislation governing the responsibility of the financial advisor will continue to drive the development of internet based guides for general recommendations in order to avoid compliance issues. The same rule based guides can probably be developed as apps but the process of finding and downloading a designated guide app will be too cumbersome for most customers, especially for the 50% of the Swedish Banking customers that have several banking relations.
  • Success Stories from Early Adopters. One-to-One marketing as a concept has gone through most of the stages in Gartner’s Hype Cycle. But the success of early adopters like SNS Reaal may convince banks that the technology have reached the stage called “Slope of Enlightenment” where players really start to see the business benefits. SNS gave evidence at the Bank 2.0 conference in 2011 that they have increased their conversion rates with 60% using their “in-bound marketing” engine.

To summarize, the web site is a better leads generator than the mobile apps in the new banking market where customers leverage search engines, price comparison sites and social media to find the best prices on the banking services. It may even be that the web is superior to the bank’s front office personnel in simpler sales where the customers do not need personalized advice. Early adopters have proven that there is a strong business case for transforming the web site.

I will describe in my next blog post what this re-born banking web will look like.

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