Nowadays, bank clients are no longer willing to wait in long lines to ask if they’re eligible for a loan. They expect a process that will take minutes, or better yet – seconds, and they will change any banking service that won’t provide smooth – and most importantly – quick customer experience, much like the social media platforms, rideshare apps or food delivery apps they use. This is quite a challenge for banks, and user flow optimization could prove to be extremely helpful in addressing that challenge.

When it comes to loans and mortgages, non-traditional lenders have developed improved digital lending processes. New digital tools have become the industry norm. But there is still room for improvement. And most of it concerns user experience and user flow. According to a 2016 Federal Reserve survey, nearly half of all respondents complained about long waits for a credit decision. What’s also important – 42% agreed to the description of the application process as “difficult”.

A study from PwC put it best when they explained:

“Lenders need to think bigger than ‘minimizing the number of clicks,’ reducing manual data entry, and improving the speed of decisions. Instead, digital investments need to be aligned to the overall company strategy and desired omnichannel experience.”

And that’s where the process of optimizing user flow through a digital banking platform comes in. By user flow, we understand the path a user takes to complete a specific goal. An example of a goal could be signing up for a new banking product. But it can also be less obvious, e.g. accessing an interest rate calculator or a frequently asked questions document. It all depends on how you define the goal, or the conversion.

That is also why there can be a whole number of user flows, as there are many ways to complete the predefined goals. They can often surprise marketers and analytics, as it’s one thing to plan out the desired outcome, but a whole other thing how actual users will behave on your websites. User flow is usually connected to the user experience, and rightfully so, as they both influence each other.

Now that we understand why user flow is important, let’s explore some optimization ideas:

  1. Introduce true omni-channel banking

“Customers desire the same experience, ease of use, speed, and product and service availability across channels. For example, the customer may initiate an unsecured loan application on their laptop while in the office, look to continue the process via their mobile banking app at home, call the bank’s call center to clarify terms and conditions, and eventually walk into a branch to complete the loan application process. At every stage, the customer expects that steps previously completed will not need to be repeated, data entry does not need to happen again, and the same level of service is available across interaction channels. Simply, customers expect to bank when, where and how they choose” states Nicolas Grilli, Global Product Manager at Axxiome. A true omni-channel functionality offered by the digital banking platform serves as the backbone of user experience and customer journeys in every interaction with the bank, across channels. Learn more at www.axxiome-digital.com

  1. Utilize user experience

There’s no optimization without data, and there’s no one trick that fixes all the problems. That’s why your clients should receive customized messages, and their experience with your banking platform should be tailored to answer their needs. Don’t generalize the messages and mistake optimization for general automation. Focus on creating materials, user paths and funnels for a specific segment of your clients, for a specific stage of their journey.

To do that utilize data from the whole customer journey: from anonymous visitors, through prospects and to registered clients, from the account opening process, from the way customers use their accounts and navigate in their member areas. Create granular user profiles and audiences based on those insights.

Those insights will become the starting point for any process of user flow optimization. And that’s why it is essential to have access to all this data. You might have the best digital banking platform, but do you have a way to measure all we mentioned above?

Are you using web analytics tools capable of tracking the full journey of your customers, including their actions in post-login areas? This is a question you should ask yourself before starting the optimization process.

One of the most popular tools that enables tracking in secure member areas while respecting their privacy and providing the highest levels of data is Piwik PRO. Designed for data-sensitive industries it allows you to adhere to the world’s newest and strictest privacy regulations. With advanced web analytics you can easily locate your customer pain points, create segments and optimize user flows.

  1. Simplify the customer journeys

Digital banking platforms offer several new options allowing banks to increase customer engagement. But at the same time there is a higher chance those new options and new processes might confuse your customers. Don’t take their level of expertise for granted: the fact you think your platform is intuitive does not make it so for each one of your customers.

That’s why your first instinct should be to simplify all the banking processes. But this could prove tricky, as oversimplification is also a mistake. It makes you look less credible and it makes customers question your legitimacy and professionalism. Basically, it makes your customers trust you less, not more.

So how to do simplification the right way? Again: it all starts with data. Analyze the paths your users take (and their funnels). Look for high abandonment rates during the process of filling out the loan form, find out if your customers start applying for a mortgage and stop at a certain point. Look for patterns where Users abandon processes by channel. Look for bottlenecks and high friction points. Those insights are all clues revealing what to optimize.

After doing the research, ask yourself: Maybe your customers need some sort of assistance? Maybe the form you created is too difficult to fill out? Maybe they don’t know how to answer some of the questions listed in the form? This is where simplification comes in. With video walk-throughs that quickly explain what to do, you can focus the onboarding process and helping customers better understand each feature in the banking platform. There are several ways you can simplify the customer journey (for instance, auto-populate data in the forms for existing customers) and the data will always point you to the challenges your customers are having.

  1. Utilize digital banking platform for the onboarding process

 The onboarding process is one of the most important (if not the most important) in retaining customers. After your marketing and sales department have done all the work to acquire new customers, you wouldn’t want to lose a customer because of lack a broken onboarding process

Email is one of the more popular channels to promote relevant banking products. But, as JD Power points out, the messaging should include between 7-9 communications using multiple channels – SMS, push notifications via the mobile banking app, messaging via the online banking portal, among others. And this is where you can utilize your digital banking platform. It is crucial that the messages disseminated through the channels are non-overlapping and are coordinated.

You can create customized pop-up messages with user guides, or videos at the welcome page of the secure member area and track how clients are interacting with them. That way you can help customers learn how they can benefit from their account while diversifying the onboarding efforts.

If you succeed at this early stage of onboarding, you increase your chances of retaining clients.

  1. Customize the onboarding process

Vanessa Oligino, director of business performance solutions at TD Ameritrade Institutional describes the dichotomy of onboarding process:

“It’s tricky because you need to be able to onboard people in a consistent and efficient way, but you always want to be personal, which means you need to get to know them.“

This is exactly the dilemma you are facing – on the one hand you want to optimize the onboarding process, but on the other hand, the more personal the process, the better. As she puts it: “It’s a big mistake to put the relationship on autopilot once the accounts are funded.“

Remember to collect customers’ preferred contact method – whether it is via email, phone, chat or a combination of channels – and customize the onboarding process accordingly

  1. Improve the process of opening an account

This might seem like a no-brainer, but many banking services still require a lot of effort from the potential customer in order to open an account online. And the customer journey with the bank gets aborted even before it can properly begin.

Of course, this does not mean banks should abandon privacy and security measures. They should always be the top priority, especially because users appreciate knowing their personal data is secure. But at the same time let’s not kid ourselves – the account opening process is a critical stage of the customer journey. The number of potential customer banks lost because of an overly complicated process of opening an account is staggering.

So, what’s the area most worthy of optimizing? The online identity verification stage. Think about implementing digital identity verification to accelerate the account-opening process. This might be one of the most challenging issues your platform faces, but at the same time it might reward you with the biggest spike in conversions. Try to make the account-opening experience as intuitive, fast and simple as possible (while never compromising the privacy and security standards). This can be achieved by integrating the right technologies into the origination processes, allowing for all the necessary checks and validations to happen in the background, completely transparently for the customer. Using the information obtained from Credit Bureaus and other sources of information, the product offering can be perfectly tailored to each customer, giving a whole new level of personalization to the whole customer experience.

  1. Identify most used paths

Some user paths will be more popular than others, and you’ll inevitably find a few used by a vast number of your customers.

Once you identify those paths and features your users use most often, you can focus attention on prioritizing and optimizing them. This is a great way to improve user experience with your banking platform. Consider analyzing those paths for usability and intuitiveness. Ask yourself questions such as: should you merge two steps into one? Should you add visual clues and pop-ups? Should you find out how those user paths work in your mobile banking platform and optimize them? Those are all areas worth exploring to optimize user flows.

Conclusion 

Optimizing user flow through the digital banking platform can help increase conversions and, as one blogger put it, “it makes users happy”. That’s obvious. And yet, we still must remind ourselves about it, and we constantly find areas in dire need of improvement.

When it comes to the banking industry, the rapid evolution of the digital banking platforms demands equally rapid, and sometimes drastic changes in our approach to user flow and user experience. Changes which should start from the data collection process, as all the ideas listed above depend on whether you have complete data about your users. Without the ability to track the full customer journey, creating single customer profiles and eliminating data silos your efforts in optimizing user flow will be like trying to put out a huge fire using a leaky bucket. You might save one room, but the whole house will surely burn down.