Ideas & musings about consumer behaviour

The battle to attract and win customers online hots up

Google and international customer experience research partner Global Reviews have teamed up to deliver some important new data for banking executives and marketers.

The study into consumer online purchasing behaviour took place during June and July 2010. The work analysed the behaviour of 600 Australian customers, asking them to find a banking product that would suit their needs from a blank Internet browser screen. Customers were segmented equally into three product streams: credit cards, transaction accounts, savings accounts.

The results of the study along with key insights were presented at Google’s invitation-only Think:Banking event held in Sydney on 9 September.

The challenge for bankers is that customers looking for retailing banking products are open-minded when starting their research online. The study shows that 77% of customers didn’t know about the product they later chose before they started looking online.

“This insight has a profound effect for how banks will need to approach their digital marketing efforts and onsite experience design”, says Karen Grinter, Principal Client Advisor with Global Reviews. “Banks need to make sure that they expose their brand and offer early to customers as they start to build a consideration set.”

Customers will consider an average of 4.5 banks, but will only shortlist 3.4 products for more detailed evaluation. “31% of customers with a preferred brand ended up selecting a product from a different bank online”, says Grinter.

So how can bankers tap into their customers’ decision-making process and behaviour to win their business? How do you convince customers to choose your brand instead of another bank?

Google’s Finance Industry Analyst Maureen McGonegle says, “Understanding your customer’s online purchasing behaviour is key to setting your online strategy. Our research showed that 49% of customers who started their research with a brand in mind actually went directly to a search engine instead of the brand’s website. These same customers started their research on a search engine with generic keywords such as ‘savings account’ and ‘credit card’ instead of brand names. The lesson for bankers is that search engine marketing should be a key component for your online strategy.”

The challenge for banking executives and marketers is to make your search marketing and web experience the best it can be. “It’s about enticing a consumer to click on your search ad and ensuring they have great experience when they get to your website. Your customer’s transition from search result to product page should be as logical as possible and consistent with your marketing message”, says Grinter.

The study suggested that consumers want banks to get back to basics when it comes to the Web experience. The study identified the top three most useful elements for Australian consumers when researching and deciding on a product as:

1. Information that is easy to understand
2. A website that is easy to navigate
3. Detailed and complete information.

These fundamentals were rated as more useful than dynamic tools such as comparison tables, customer reviews and online calculators.

The study identified a similar preference for consumers seeking help and customer support online. The most popular course of action was to look for online FAQs to help solve a problem. Consumers rated basic online help higher than newer support techniques such as live chat and ‘call me back’ tools. When they can’t resolve their query, consumers are likely to abandon the website entirely.

“Even if a customer finds a suitable product on your website they are likely to still compare your offers with those from other banks,” comments Grinter. The study identified that 63% of consumers would compare a new offer with one from their current bank to see if they could match or beat the offer.

What can bankers learn from these consumer preferences?

  • Make your website compelling. Ensure that key product information such as interest rates, fees and benefits is highlighted on the product overview page. Some banks still place this information in separate areas of their site, which makes users work harder to understand their product.
  • Make it easy to compare offers. The study demonstrates that customers often compare multiple offers. Over 60% will compare a new offer with one from their current bank. That means you should make it as easy as possible for your current customers to understand your products and the benefits of opening multiple accounts at your bank.
  • Make it easy for customers to pick up where they left off. Since we know that customers visit multiple websites during their research process, you should make it as easy as possible for customers to return to you site and see recently reviewed products. Consider offering shortcuts to recently viewed products or links to specific product names so users can easily find the products they want. Ensure that your site search results links directly through to product information from product name search.

The results show that online customers are open-minded when it comes to exploring new products and brands but will not tolerate websites that fail to deliver basic content or help to choose a product. The lesson for banks is to focus on search marketing to attract customers and to offer a smooth transition to a quality web experience to increase the likelihood of winning Australians’ business.

For more about the study, please contact Maureen McGonegle from Google Australia, or Karen Grinter from Global Reviews.

Global Reviews’ next Customer Experience Index results for the Retail Banking sector will be available in February 2011.


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