Vox issued a report titled “Banking Mind Model Study: A Customer Experience Analysis of Consumer Banking Industry Websites.” According to the report:
“We compared the page elements and layouts of a carefully selected group of banking industry websites to create a composite website home page we call the Mind Model Representation.”
My take: Although this report falls far short of analyzing consumers’ online banking/financial services experience, and is seriously mislabeled (it’s hardly a “mind model” — it’s a model depicting the graphical layout of banks’ home pages), anybody involved with the design or management of their bank’s or credit union’s web site will find some interesting data in it.
Vox identified 15 different elements comprising banks’ home pages. A few things caught my attention regarding:
1) Blank space. On average,about one-third of site’s home page consists of unused or blank space. More interesting, however, is the range across banks. US Bank’s home page has the most unused space with almost half the page blank. Chase followed with about 45% of its home page consisting of blank space. At the other end of the spectrum, Wells Fargo had the least unused space on its home page, with just about one-quarter of the page blank.
2) Product/servce offers. Citibank and Wells Fargo allocated the most to product/service offers, with HSBC and National City allocating the least. Perhaps with so much of their home pages blank, it isn’t surprising that Chase and US Bank didn’t allocate very much space to product offers, either.
3) User tools. According to the report, when comparing the 2007 analysis to the 2006 analysis that Vox performed, allocation of space to user tools nearly doubled, which Vox attributes to an “increasing focus on customer experience.”
This should raise some questions for bank/CU eCommerce execs to ponder:
- How does the unused space on our home page impact the user’s experience and perception of us? Why do other banks (i.e. competitors) have more/less unused space on their home page?
- Does our current allocation of space to home page elements represent the user experience we’re trying to deliver or is more a function of home page politics?
- Do we allocate enough/too much space to product offers or some other element at the expense of other elements?
Personally, I think Vox is overreaching by claiming that its analytical approach analyzes the “customer experience” (a term I find inappropriate, anyway, since it should really be plural, not singular). Instead, it adresses the “first impression,” which is still important. But bank/CU online channel execs will find the information that Vox has compiled interesting to compare and contrast.
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It’s a very useful and necessary exercise to monitor what your competition is doing. To contrast and compare websites will help banks stay competitive with one another. However, financial institutions who want to pull ahead of the pack will also need to study best of breed e-commerce brands to learn how they utilize and frame their websites. Most banks came from traditional brick and mortar and their website design was secondary to their core business. If your very existence depends upon website excellence, it stands to reason that e-commerce websites have more to teach financial institutions than an insular comparison of the industry. Amazon recognizes the user’s computer and says “Hello (with the most likely user’s name)”, has specific recommendations for the user, makes other recommendations based upon what the user is viewing, and has a community blog available for me. Does my bank come close to this? Thinking outside the box will be critical for banks to maintain their positioning into the future.