Despite Banking's Best Digital Efforts, Branch is Still King When It Comes to Checking Accounts

Strategies for Digital Financial Marketers

There isn’t a bank around who isn’t thinking about how to accelerate and improve the digital customer experience. But despite these efforts, most financial institutions still fall short of delivering a simple and seamless digital purchase journey when it comes to opening a new checking accounts. Branches continue to dominate this landscape simply because it’s easier. 

In Forrester’s November 2015 report, “How US Consumers Research and Buy Checking Accounts”, Forrester surveyed US online adults to understand how they research and buy checking accounts. The bottom line is that while many consumers research and educate online, when it comes to checking accounts, most purchases are still made in branch because the digital experience is too hard.

With checking accounts being central to a consumer’s relationship with their bank, it’s important to understand how digital experiences can help drive purchase decisions from the top to the bottom of the marketing funnel.

Consumers Educate and Research Online

1. Consumers Know What They Want. 

Checking accounts are a simple, well established product and as such, consumers generally have clear goals in mind when they start their purchase journey. Thus, consumers seek guidance from relatively few sources — an average of 2.4 different sources according to Forrester. So how do we capture the attention of a consumer who knows what they want? 

STRATEGY: One critical strategy here is Content Marketing. As financial institutions work to make their content stand out in a competitive digital landscape, successful marketers will develop content with content optimized for each channel – particularly mobile platforms. When developing content strategies, it is also important to coordinate experience delivery on owned and third party channels. Many financial institutions invest most of their time and effort in their owned channels but for a consumer who might not seek you out directly, focusing primarily on owned properties can be detrimental to your prospecting efforts.

2. Consumers Educate Online. 

Consumers will generally visit both financial provider’s websites and comparison sites such as bankrate.com to find information and compare products. Therefore, banks who invest in quality digital touchpoints like recommendation and comparison tools can help. Twenty-eight percent of online adults who opened a new checking account in the past twelve months indicate they first hear about the account online, according to the Forrester report.

STRATEGY: Financial institutions will continue to see the importance of paid digital ad placements to reach the online consumer. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising through platforms like Google AdWords can help supplement a financial institution's owned content to drive upper funnel consideration. Additionally, social media platforms like Facebook can help build brand loyalty and can also be used to target specific consumers with relevant promotional offers.

Account Opening

Forrester estimates that over 25 million people in the US, 12% of online adults, opened a checking account in the past 12 months. That makes checking accounts second only to credit cards in terms of banking product volume. Given the importance of the checking account as the cornerstone of future cross selling efforts, it’s important for banks to consider every aspect of the consumer purchase journey to capitalize on the volume of accounts in motion.

1. Consumers Still Want To Speak With A Banker. 

Forty-five percent of checking account buyers said they learned about the account they opened in a branch, according to the Forrester survey. 

STRATEGY: Don’t discount your most important asset — the employee.  Empowering branch personnel with guided selling tools can help them recommend the right account for every customer. Additionally, tools created for the online journey can often be helpful during branch interactions.

2. Opening In A Branch Is Easier. 

Today, most financial institutions who have online account open capabilities still see extremely high abandon rates. Forrester indicates that around two-thirds of checking account customers visit a branch to open a checking account. Financial institutions need to understand that there is a growing population of consumers that would rather complete the entire transaction online but get frustrated if it takes too long, seems too cumbersome, or requires them to come into the branch anyway.

STRATEGY 1: Understand your online account opening journey.  By digging into the data and analyzing the interaction points, financial institutions can understand what is most important to address.  Utilizing a Data Management Platform (DMP) can help marketers understand WHAT is happening, WHEN it’s happening, and WHO is doing it. For example, you may see that consumers who fit one demographic profile often complete the online application journey while another profile of consumers never gets past one particular page. By combining first-party and third-party data and having the appropriate tags placed on each page of the digital journey — marketers can really dig deep to optimize the online experience.

STRATEGY 2: As we look across the landscape of financial institutions who do online account opening well, best-in-class providers are:

  • Making the online process quick and easy (less than 10 minutes)
  • Issuing account numbers in real time
  • Making full account opening online possible - end-to-end online experience with no need to visit a branch
  • Providing immediate access to the account through online banking
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