By Bryony Maiklem, Digital Strategist, Curious
There’s not a consumer-facing business in the UK that hasn’t had to confront the reality of the shift to digital, as consumers increasingly opt to shop, work and socialise online. Developing an effective, easy-to-use, visually compelling digital platform should be the number one priority for every brand in 2021, but the prospect can be daunting. The pressure to get it right is immense, with the future of the business relying on the performance of its online presence.
So where should brand managers be looking for their inspiration, and what are the key considerations they should be taking on board before going live?
One sector that has consistently got it right is banking. Whether a traditional high street banking group or one of the many new fintech players, the shift to digital banking has taken place in step with customer expectations. As our preference has favoured online banking, so the companies themselves have responded – almost universally – with apps and websites that tick all the boxes, from ease of use to unique branding and, above all, with the security that every online banking customer expects.
As banks close more and more branches, digital platforms have, for many, become the go-to method for day-to-day transactions. This meant that many of us were already familiar with online banking; Covid restrictions just sped up our conversion.
So, what is it about online banking that means it’s so easy to incorporate into a hybrid lifestyle? Research carried out by ThoughtWorks showed more than 70% of Brits have fundamentally changed the way they manage their money because of the lockdowns:
- ⅓ of people have stopped carrying cash
- 29% of younger people now only bank online
- 33% tried mobile banking for the first time
- 14% of people had opened a bank account with an internet brand
Here at Curious we were intrigued not just by how our relationship with technology has changed since the pandemic, but by how brands were responding to the consumer-led rush online, so we teamed up with YouGov to survey the public about what they wanted – and what they expected – from a digital brand.
We asked people which activities they were likely to continue remotely once restrictions eased, and found that only shopping ranked above banking – and that was by just 1%. It is clear that banking is an industry that has – in general terms – got its digital offering right.
The past few years have given rise to a new breed of fintech businesses, such as Monzo and Starling, who excel in impeccable online user-experience (UX) and user-interface (UI). This, combined with the growing demand from customers for more control of their finances meant there was pressure on traditional banks to up their online game.
And they have responded to the potential threat positively, investing in their online offering and ensuring consumers are able to use their platforms intuitively. So what did brands do to get to this position, and what do other brands need to do to emulate their success?
The key is to understand what consumers want from digital platforms. We asked our panel which factors were most important when completing a purchase online.
The answer was clear; 93% of people said ease of use was important to them. Given that many people who have a branch of their bank a few minutes walk away from their house would still choose to bank online, proves that a brand would do well to simply make their customers’ lives easier.
In line with this notion of ease over all else was our finding that 46% of people have abandoned an online shopping basket at some point in the past because they were having a bad experience on a website. A third of those cases had taken place in the last year, showing even when people have no choice but to undertake a digital transaction, they will not stand for a second rate experience.
UI and UX are equally important for retailers in an online space, but there is an important balance to strike with the two working together to create an effective overall experience. All good web designers will work with this knowledge in mind; something perfect for a brand’s audience on paper can be hard to use if the UI is bad, while a good UI is something that looks great, aligns perfectly with the brand and is tailored to what the user needs.
Web design can be daunting but should not be over complicated; indeed our study found consumers did not necessarily value unique design or originality over ease of use. Visual distinction was second only to functionality on the list of priorities, being cited by 73% of people, while a unique experience was important to 26% of respondents.
For brands to succeed in the digital retail space it’s integral that they understand what their audience wants and needs when it comes to a website or app. User testing is a great approach to gaining this insight and will enable a brand to learn about how their site is navigated under realistic conditions. The process will throw up any areas which could cause a user to drop off, allowing the brand to improve their online platform, by smoothing out the consumers’ journey.
Meanwhile next time you are carrying out your online banking admin, take a moment to look around the app or website and try to put your finger on what it is that makes it appealing to you. It is clear banking is doing something right when it comes to online performance – now is the time for other industries to take note.
To download the report visit curiouslondon.com/a-curious-report-the-hybrid-consumer/